Wednesday 3 May 2023

Islam in Gabon

Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, is one of the smallest countries of the continent located in Western Africa. Its population is estimated at 2.3 million people. The High Council of Islamic Affairs estimates approximately 12 percent of the population is Muslim, including many noncitizen residents with origins in West Africa as of Jun 2020 estimates. The presence of non-Gabonese Muslims is due to the fact that Gabon attracted a large foreign labor force and investors, especially after the 1970s when oil was discovered in the area.

Despite being an overwhelming Christian country, Gabon has been a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since 1974. This is mainly due to desired economic relations with rich Arabic countries on the one hand, and the then president Omar Bongo’s adoption of Islam in 1973 on the other. Following Omar Bongo's death, the office of the presidency is held by his son Ali Bongo Ondimba, also a Muslim. These relations developed along economic lines have borne fruit in the political arena as well, and Gabon has sided with Islamic countries in numerous matters, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The High Council of Islamic Affairs of Gabon, which represents the country’s Muslims, helps to bring different groups together, as well as engender relations between the state and the Muslim minority community. There is also a general secretariat which acts under the remit of the president as an adviser regarding policies relating to the Muslims. This general secretariat has direct power over the council. 

The socioeconomic situation of Muslims in the country presents a very inconsistent case. Muslims who belong to the civil and military elite have a high economic status along with their social status. However, Muslims living in the slums as unskilled workers or in rural areas live in very poor conditions.
The Hassan II Mosque in the city of Libreville, located behind the presidential palace of the Republic of Gabon (when viewed from the sea). This Moroccan-style mosque was indeed built by the Kingdom of Morocco in 1983. It is the largest mosque in Gabon with a capacity of up to 5000 worshipers at once. King of Morocco Muhammad VI once stopped to perform prayers at this mosque during his official visit to the Republic of Gabon, Burkina Faso and Senegal in 2005. [3] (Photo from panorama)

The state does not interfere in religious matters, rather it helps the minorities to live as per their faith and celebrate religious festivals. In fact, religious life in Gabon is quite good. The government gives freedom to its people to embrace their respective religions and beliefs. The first days of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are official holidays in the country. 
Muslims of Gabon offering prayer [Photo]

The Muslim minority has the right to make religious broadcasts once a week on state television. This usually happens in the form of broadcasting the Friday khutbah (public preaching) from a mosque. There are no obstacles in the country to Muslims establishing their own educational institutions. One of the most important conditions that applies to Islamic schools is that the education they offer must not be below the standard of a public school. [2]

You may like to watch a short video clip in which Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is seen attending the prayer of the Muslim feast of Tabaski (Eid) at the Hassan II Mosque in Libreville:

Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references given below. If anyone differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non-Muslim countries, please visit our Reference Page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim CountriesYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Resource References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 
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