President Yahya Jamme of Gambia has declared the country “an Islamic state”,
However, he stressed that the rights of the Christian minority in the small west African country would be respected and that women would not be held to a dress code.
The announcement came as the president addressed supporters in the coastal town of Brufut on Thursday, and the comments were later broadcast on state television and repeated on his website.
“Gambia’s destiny is in the hands of the Almighty Allah.
As from today, Gambia is an Islamic state. We will be an Islamic state that will respect the rights of the citizens,” he was quoted as saying on the presidential website.
But he reassured Christians and followers of other faiths they would be able to worship freely.
“Christians will be given their due respect. The way of celebrating Christmas will continue,” he said, adding that no one had the right to interfere with others’ “way of life”.
He also warned against trying to impose a dress code on women.
“I have not appointed anyone as an Islamic policeman. The way women dress is not your business,” he said.
An impoverished former British colony nestled within Senegal, and famed for its white-sand beaches, The Gambia has a population of nearly two million, 90 per cent of whom are Muslim.
The remaining eight per cent are Christian and two per cent are defined as having indigenous beliefs.