Column | Do drivers of the ‘veil’ fracas pass the sniff test?

| The veiled ploy, masked behind the school ‘veil’ civil suit |


By Pa Louis Sambou

Poverty, crime, corruption, unemployment, worse than poor healthcare facilities and outcomes but to name a few of those issues which confronts The Gambia and which has serious societal consequences for ordinary people. In the face of such crises, apparently, in the unconventional wisdom of some, pupils’ ‘right’ to rebel against reasonable school regulations, is top priority – a ‘fundamental right’ which merits ‘special’ legal protection some fancifully argue (with a straight face no doubt), and hence the targeted civil suit against the respective Christian mission schools all of which indicate a very strong determination to vigorously resist the insidious invitation to permit the boundaries of school discipline to be the domain of external forces whose views and values are so antithetical to their own, among other things, they’re fatally hostile to the interests and principle of education as we understand it today.

It is of paramount importance to bust the myth that this dangerous fringe ‘concerning citizens’ fold represents or acts in the interest of all Muslims in The Gambia; whilst they may obliviously convince themselves that such is the case, any sensible observer would easily conclude that such could not be further from the truth; it is a fringe fold, with views so extreme and corrosive, they verge on genocidal – abhorrent views which are completely alien to, and incompatible with our values as a diverse society with a long history of peaceful coexistence. Now, let’s examine the relevant verifiable facts and the colourful records of this ‘concerning citizens’ fold who now self-servingly and ironically moonlight as ‘equity campaigners’ shall we? Among other things, these concerning actors:

v   Constitute individuals who willingly allied with former President Jammeh in his wayward persecution of respected Imams, including but not limited to 90 year old Sheikh Sheriff Muhideen Hydara, in breach of their section 25 rights among others; 

v  - Constitute individuals known to have been behind former President Jammeh’s unlawful declaration of The Gambia as an ‘Islamic state’, in breach of the Constitution, and the section 25 rights of Christians among others;

v  - Successfully lobbied to have the failed draft Constitution to remove the Constitutional prohibition preventing non Muslim parties from being subjected to the jurisdiction of the Sharia in total disregard for the religious rights of Christians;

v  - Successfully lobbied to have the failed draft Constitution to allow an opportunity for the jurisdiction of the Sharia to at a later date be easily expanded beyond family law, into Criminal and Civil law, (in total disregard for the religious rights of Gambians) hence the refusal to entrench clause 10;

v  - Consistently made not once and, not twice  but numerous public pronouncements, provocatively emphasising that The Gambia “is a Muslim country, whether people like it or not”, completely delegitimising the Christians’ right to exist in the Gambia as citizens of equal civic status or at all (in total disregard for the constitutional and religious rights of Christians); and 

v - Constitutes individuals who espouse dangerous conspiratorial antisemitic and deeply offensive tropes suggesting that ‘Jews and Christians are insidious and aren’t to be trusted’.

So, it is highly questionable whether the claim that these hold the ‘religious rights’ of anyone in high regard could be taken any more seriously than the espousing of animal rights credentials by a poacher seeking custody over a game park.

Suffice it to say, the weight of evidence which isn’t an exhaustive list, strongly details a catalogue of very hostile militant conduct of serious concern on the part of those actors behind the civil suit, which conduct is consistent with a dedicated determination to systematically eliminate Christianity in The Gambia – this is by no means an opinion, but rather an evidence - based fact which lays bare, the motivation for the suit in the first place. So, I venture to opine that, by the afore stated empirical token, the targeted civil suit is one brought against the Christian Church and its congregation in The Gambia (but conveniently pursued in disguise through its Mission schools). Effectively, the suit has all the hallmarks of an intimidation tactic, designed to pursue a course or outcome whose permissibility in law (whether domestic or otherwise) is highly questionable. This suit must therefore be understood and construed through this prism, and upon which basis any objective analysis of the subject matter worthy of any credibility ought to be premised. On the facts, it would be difficult, if not constitute a self-deception for one to attribute any credible degree of seriousness to any literature which leans towards anything else to the contrary.

The facts and circumstances of this case are such that the case relies heavily on the principle of equity. As the cardinal maxim has it: “he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands”. So, as far as equity goes, and considering the competing nature of the right in question, the worrisome pattern of concerning behaviour of the party seeking favour in equity in bringing the suit, has to be juxtaposed with the conduct and corresponding religious rights of the opposing party: Christian pupils who attend Muslim schools whose uniform code includes the veil, are compelled by those schools, to wear the veil, and school rules to which such Christian pupils oblige and abide by, and which disciplined conduct the Christian Clergy subject to the suit in question has not disapproved. So, in view of these, could bad faith actors of the ilk unmasked above really benefit from equity? Is a benefit in equity even merited in view of the facts and surrounding circumstances? Well, these are fundamental questions upon which the civil suit rests, and it is one for the Courts. It is nonetheless a considerable uphill challenge for the ‘concerning citizens’ fold, and for which my heart goes out to the advocate tasked with the misfortune of pushing this water up such steep hill. Until then, I suspect the ‘court’ of public opinion of all manner, light and shade will in the meantime continue to delightfully take its view on the subject matter – which is fair enough, after-all, we live in a free democratic society.

The oversubscribed use of the terminology ‘discrimination’ in this context does also merit some attention. This is a key legal terminology, which the Constitution helpfully avails a readymade legal definition to, and as follows (section 33 subsection (4)):

affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject, or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another such description.”

The relevant detail in this definition being: affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by…religion”. The publicly known and verifiable fact is that all the respective schools enforce a uniform code across the board, consistently requiring all pupils without any exception, to abide by such uniform code. So on the basis of the readymade Constitutional definition and the facts, the challenge on the part of the ‘concerning citizens’ fold to establish the existence of “discrimination” even in a remote sense, is by no means any less insurmountable than the uphill challenge to overcome, in order to substantiate a merited favourable consideration in equity.

As a demographic which constitutes less than 10% of the population, the Christian community, as a collective, has over many decades been subjected to conditions, treatment and restrictions which are unmatched by any adversity faced by any other demographic of any description in the Gambia. For context, let’s explore a few of these:

v   - The Ministry of Education recruits and avails at public expense, Islamic studies teachers for all schools including Christian Mission and private schools, but does not avail Bible Knowledge teachers for the benefit of Christian pupils and students at all – as a Christian pupil or student, unless you are lucky to be in a Christian Mission school, the Gambian State, through such discriminatory policy, denies you the right to the religious education it accords your Muslim counterparts at public expense. 

v   - For decades and to date, the Gambian State uses public funds to build places of worship exclusively for Muslims, both on and off publicly owned (central and local government) premises. This incentive is denied Christians by the Gambian State.

v    - The last time I checked, Islamic law was compulsory for all University of The Gambia Law School students including Christians.

v -  The Gambian State makes contributions towards religious endeavours such as Hajj to Mecca, but the same incentive is denied Christian pilgrimages to Rome etc.

v   - During the draft Constitution process, between 2018 and 2020, despite there being numerous suitable competent and eligible Christians in the legal fraternity in The Gambia, not a single Christian lawyer formed part of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). The only Christian admitted into the Commission, was a retired dentist with absolutely no experience or knowledge on the subject matter. As if this was not bad enough, the CRC chairman, Supreme Court Justice Cherno Jallow for reasons best known to him and whether under duress or otherwise, he subjected the process to the whim of the same ‘concerning Citizens’ fold, completely disregarding the statutory instructions directed under the CRC Act, excluding from the draft the religious rights protections which are guaranteed under the existing Constitution, and unreasonably resisted reasonable calls to entrench clause 10, and which omission created a back-door for Sharia to be extended beyond family law to criminal and civil law through a simple amendment. Rather conveniently, the dangerous ‘concerning citizens’ fold with whom he (Justice Jallow) admittedly collaborated well in advance, on “topical issues regarding the Constitution” who wanted Sharia to be extended to criminal and civil law, were the witting beneficiaries to such a back-door. You have to wonder at whose expense, if not Christians. I’m certainly not alleging anything here, but merely pointing out the extraordinarily special privilege and access which was accorded to such a dangerous entity, at the expense of Christians, and a corresponding coincidence of particular interest which still remains a cause for grave concern to most no doubt.

v   - During the draft Constitution consultation process etc., with the exception of very few, Gambian private, public and independent media organisations, for reasons best known to them, excluded Christians from the debates and discussions on the issue – this significantly limited Christian participation in such an important democratic process and suppressed the publicity of their concerns. This exclusion did not go unnoticed, and it was articulately highlighted by Professor Saine in one of such events. This exclusion was that bad, even a major press conference on the issue, by the Gambia Christian Council was noticeably snubbed by large parts of the Gambian media fraternity.

If not already obvious, dare I say, that all of the above which the Christian community has endured for decades and up to date, all either fall within prohibited conduct which qualifies as “discrimination” under the Constitutional definition set by section 33(4) or in a broader sense.

As you would have already noticed, the objective of this article is to enlighten and educate rather than emphasise or reinforce any differences between Muslims and Christians, so the above is by no means an exhaustive list, but a polite nudge to highlight the point that actually, there is quite a lot which our Muslim brothers and sisters take for granted, but which incentives, advantages or facilities are, through the operation of government policy or Executive discretion, denied Christians. Evidently, with the enormous level of unequal treatment Christians are subjected both socially and by the Gambian State, we ought to be very careful not to bring about a chain of events which may set an adverse precedent. Otherwise, should Christians be forced into adopting a litigious approach to things, our Court system would be so overwhelmed, it would most probably simply grind to a halt.

In my view, this ‘veil’ case is a blessing in disguise, because it creates perfect opportunity for a national conversation and enlightenment around the subject of the unequal treatment the Christian minority has endured for as long as I can recall, an enlightenment to which I hope this humble piece offers some contribution. So, to those participants to this important debate, whose arguments hinge upon ‘support for religious rights’, you do have a responsibility if not a special duty to yourselves and to the public, to have a handle and grasp of the brief first and foremost, so as to accurately project an objective factual perspective rather than hide behind a benign body of texts in order to assist (whether intentional or otherwise) what is by all definitions, a veiled ploy by the dangerous fringe fold in question, to systematically ‘cancel’ Christian existence and Christianity in The Gambia among other obnoxious objectives which these bad faith actors have in mind including the reversal of the rights of women, children and amending domestic laws so as to permit men to lawfully enter into sexual relationships with “12 and 13 year old children” as publicly professed by one of their leading personalities.

Since matters which necessitated this article emerged from the surface, the public framing of the subject matter as a ‘tension between Christians and Muslims’ is something which I personally find particularly disturbing especially as someone who hails from a multi-faith background (or Chris-Mus as street slang refers to it). Such mischaracterisation is not just a distorted reflection of reality, it is a very dangerous exaggeration. There is absolutely no tension between Christians and Muslims, what we have before us in The Gambia, is a fringe reactionary fold with a very dangerous majoritarian mindset as to how civilised society is to be re-oriented, falsely claiming to represent all Muslims in The Gambia in its pursuit to systematically ‘cancel’ the Christian minority under the guise of ‘defending the rights of the Muslims’. With over 90% of the population Muslims, this is clearly euphemism for a sinister strategic endeavour to cull the 6%. This is unacceptable, legally questionable, and not in keeping with the norms of a democratic society. Under such unique circumstances, the Christian community, having passively endured decades of unprovoked abuse, it is now left with no alternative but to take an unprecedented stance to push back, as a self-defence mechanism to defend its right to exist – because unfortunately, law enforcement and the State appear to be abdicating their responsibility in failing to hold accountable mob attacks on Churches, intimidation of Christian worshippers, and multiple genocidal incitements from individuals hiding in plain sight of the authorities.

I must concede that there are very limited situations for which nuance does not apply; this, right here is one such situation. So, having had the benefit of the facts, and supporting hard evidence in the form of video clips embedded within the respective hyperlinks, here are two questions, which I would invite my fellow citizens to give very serious thoughts to:

v   - Do you desire a Gambia where your “12 and 13 year old daughters” are going to be queuing up at maternity units up and down the country in order to deliver, instead of being at school?

v  - Do you personally fancy the prospects of being subjected to the “Sharia criminal code”?

Unless your desired response to both these is ‘YES’, you have absolutely no interest whatsoever in supporting the dangerous fringe fold in question to prosecute its cause, whether in its persecution of Christians or otherwise. This is because, the above forms part of their ultimate objective. The alternative to citizens standing up to stop these corrosive forces in their tracks, does not even bear envisaging. 

About the Author

The author is regular columnist contributor to this medium. 

Twitter handle: @That_Pragmatist 

Publisher’s Note

Views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. Want to be a contributing author? Please email


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