Gambia Bans Music During Ramadan, Violators Will Be Arrested

Written by Dana Sanchez

Citizens in the small West African country The Gambia are urged to report anyone heard playing music, which has been banned during the holy month of Ramadan, AlJazeera reported. Violators are threatened with arrest.

Ramadan began June 5 around the world. Observant Muslims fast during daylight hours and avoid sin on Ramadan. Gambia went one step further by prohibiting music throughout the holy period, according to MusicInAfrica.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, 50, announced in December that the Gambia had become an Islamic state. He promised to respect the rights of the Christian minority and said he would not enforce a dress code. Shortly after, female civil servants were ordered to wear head scarves in public, but that was later scrapped.

Critics say Jammeh has made controversial statements about immigration and minorities including homosexuals.

The former British colony, population 2 million, consists of about 90 percent Muslim, 8 percent Christian and 2 percent who identify as having indigenous beliefs.

All ceremonies and festivities involving singing, music and dancing are banned day and night, said a statement released last week by the police.

“People are complying with the police order banning drumming and dancing during the month of Ramadan and so far no one has been arrested by the police for violating it,” police spokesman Lamin Njie told the AFP news agency.

In power since 1994, Jammeh is a military officer and former wrestler said to lead the country with an iron fist. The next presidential election in the Gambia is scheduled for December. Jammeh is a candidate.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation announced in April that its next summit will be held in the Gambia. A date has not been set.

Ramadan is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline — of deep contemplation of one’s relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and intense study of the Quran, said Muslim convert Jennifer Williams in a VoxMedia report:

But if that makes it sound super serious and boring, it’s really not. It’s a time of celebration and joy, to be spent with loved ones. At the end of Ramadan there is a big three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, or “the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.”

Despite the hardship of fasting for a whole month, most Muslims (myself included) actually look forward to Ramadan and are a little sad when it’s over. There’s just something really special about knowing that tens of millions of your fellow Muslims around the world are experiencing the same hunger pangs, dry mouth, and dizzy spells that you are, and that we’re all in it together.

Gambia bans music during Ramada

Around the time Gambia banned music on Ramadan, other African countries imposed other limits on music, although it is not clear whether this was because of  Ramadan or not.

The Musicians Union of Ghana issued a statement against the use of profane lyrics by Ghanaian artists, MusicInAfrica reported. Nigeria banned songs deemed indecent from public broadcast on some stations. Kenya banned a gay music video.