International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

Government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion during the period covered by this report, and the Government amicably resolved the dispute regarding the imam of the Brikama mosque.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total land area of 3,861 square miles, and its population is 1,367,124. Muslims constitute over 90 percent of the population. The main Muslim branches are Tijaniyah, Qadiriyah, Muridiyah, and Ahmadiyah. Except for the Ahmadiyah, all branches pray together at common mosques. An estimated 9 percent of the population practice Christianity and 1 percent practice traditional indigenous religions. The Christian community is predominantly Roman Catholic; there also are several Protestant denominations, including Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and various small Protestant evangelical denominations. There is no information available regarding the number of atheists in the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion.

The Government does not require religious groups to register. Religiously based nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) are subject to the same registration and licensing requirements as other NGO's.

In December 2000 and January 2001, after President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh reportedly mentioned the issue of Shari'a during a meeting with religious leaders, religious leaders, political figures, and the public engaged in a series of discussions and radio and newspaper editorials about the merits of Shari'a law. In response to these deliberations, the government announced that it had no intention of implementing Shari'a law.

The Government permits and does not limit religious instruction in schools. Bible and Koranic studies are provided in both public and private schools throughout the country without Government restriction or interference. Religious instruction in public schools is provided at government expense, but is not mandatory.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

The Government's dispute with the imam of Brikama mosque ended amicably. In May 1998, the imam of the largest mosque in Brikama was arrested together with a leading opposition party politician and eight others in a dispute over minor construction work at a mosque that reportedly was financed by supporters of the ruling party. In February 1999, the High Court acquitted all of the defendants of destruction of property and discharged the case. However, the Government filed an appeal in the High Court for the imam and three others to be retried. The imam's lawyer filed a writ of summons in the High Court, which ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the matter and referred the case to a district tribunal. Subsequently, the case was filed at the Court of Appeal, but the case was adjourned until April 2001. In April 2001, the Government dropped its appeal of the High Court's decision to let the imam resume leading prayers, and the imam was reinstated fully at that time.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

There are generally amicable relations between the various religious communities. Intermarriage between members of different religious groups is legal and socially acceptable.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting of human rights.

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