In December 2015, Sheikh Dr. Yahya Jammeh, president of tiny Muslim-majority West African state of Gambia (pop. 1.9 million) changed country’s name to Islamic Republic of Gambia. The announcement hit the anti-Islam western groups where it hurts the most. Just by changing country’s name at United Nations, Gambia is feared to join world’s only three other Islamic States, Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic State of Pakistan, and Mauritania.
“Accepting Allah’s religion as your religion and as your way of life is not negotiable. Declaring Gambia an Islamic state was in line with the country’s religious identity and values,” said Yahya Jammeh.
On January 11, 2016, Jewish The Economist reacted to the announcement by saying: “ITS arrival was less bloody, its ambitions less grand. But as 2015 drew to a close, and the world’s attention was fixed firmly on Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Gambia announced that it, too, was henceforth an Islamic state.”
President Yahya Jammey assured country’s Christian and Jewish minorities that under Islamic Shari’ah they will enjoy more religious freedom than they can ever expect within a secular state. He also said that minorities wouldn’t be obliged to observe Islamic dress code.
On January 28, 2016, Jewish news website, African Arguments, published an article by UK-based journalist Adolphus Washington that explains what Jammey hope to gain by declaring Gambia an Islamic State. The list included; become all-powerful Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, and turning public attention away from poverty and unemployment created as result of Western countries’ sanctions. In order to counter the sanction Jammey is vowing oil-rich Arab states and China.
In 2014, a group of exiled ex-Gambian military officers formed an political group, the Gambian National Resistance Movement led by Lt. Col. Pa Modou Ann. Washington recognized the group as “official opposition” to bring a pro-West regime change in Gambia.
In January 2016, Israel’s new ambassador to Gambia, Paul Hirschson, paid a 3-day visit to Gambia. He was received at Banjul airport by country’s vice-president Isatou Njie-Saidy. Later Hirschson held an hour-long meeting with Yahya Jammey. Jammey, who took power in a 1994 military coup, sympathizes with the oppressed Palestinians but has maintained cordial relation with the Zionist regime. Hirschson is stationed in Dakar, Senegal, and acts as Israeli ambassador to several small African countries.
In September 2015 report the US-based Jewish Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Jammey government of severe human rights abuses committed against anti-government activists and members of LGBT community.
Gambia is home to a sizeable Qadiani (Ahmadiyya) Muslim minority. President Yahya Jammey declared the community non-Muslim in 2014. Qadianis have long been declared non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan.
Last year, Jammey gave away free residential plots to some Nollywood stars and award-winning Ghanaian actress Jackie Appiah for their services to African film industry.
Bronx Masjid Al-Aman, founded by Gambian Sheikh Moussa Drammeh, has a synagogue inside for Jews to pray.