As required by the U.S. Congress, the United States Department of State released the 2017 International Religious Freedom Report in May, acknowledging the commitment of the government of The Gambia towards religious freedom and tolerance.
In January 2017, President Adama Barrow announced the country’s return to a secular republic as prescribed in the constitution, overturning a decree by former President Yahya Jammeh that proclaimed the country an Islamic state. On several occasions, President Barrow stressed the need for continued religious freedom and tolerance, and in February 2017, he appointed a special advisor to the president for religious and traditional affairs.
The President called for continued religious tolerance between Christians and Muslims in the region on various occasions, such as during a meeting with Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Dakar in August 2017.
President Barrow also linked religious freedom and tolerance to investor confidence.
In May 2017, Minister of Agriculture Omar Jallow promised the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at community full government protection.
The Gambian constitution provides for the freedom of religious choice, as long as doing so does not impinge on the rights of others or the national interest. It prohibits religious discrimination, establishment of a state religion, and formation of political parties based on religious affiliation.
Interfaith marriage remained common and accepted. There were continued tensions between the majority Sunni Muslim community and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The Supreme Islamic Council, a religious council tasked with providing Islamic religious guidance, continued to state that the Ahmadiyya community did not belong to Islam, and it did not include members of the community in its events and activities. Ahmadi Muslims stated they were part of Islam and thus should be fully integrated within the Muslim community. The government largely did not become involved in the disagreement between the two communities.
At the four iftars held by the embassy during Ramadan this year, U.S. Ambassador Patricia Alsup reminded officials and religious and community leaders of their roles in promoting religious freedom. She underscored that countries that effectively safeguard this human right are more stable, economically vibrant, and peaceful.