Nigeria: Islam and the Sharia

One does not usually associate Nigeria with Islamic violence, or even just Islam. But in fact approximately 50% of the population is Muslim, 40% Christian, and various indigenous cults make up the remaining 10%.  Religious violence flared up when the Muslim dominated northern states such as Kaduna planned to introduce Islamic sharia law. More than 300 people are said to have died in just one week at the end of February, 2000, and as many as 1000 lives have been lost due to religious and ethnic unrest since last May ( 1999 ) when democracy was restored. "When it is a question of religion," declared a journalist from the Nigerian Tribune, "men very easily show their animal nature. It is in this context that we are witnessing the efforts of Governor Ahmed Sani to impose the Sharia on the inhabitants of the region of Zamfara [ N.W. Nigeria ].In playing with the problem of sharia, Governor Sani is in the process, directly or indirectly, of preparing the country for a war of religion."

Of course the non-Muslims, mostly Christians, are perfectly aware what this means for them, and many have already packed their meager belongings and have left for the south. According to the Nigerian Tribune, the government of Zamfara has already launched an aggressive campaign of the Islamisation of the state by destroying churches. The government of this state also envisages the separation of men and women in public especially on public transport, and the teaching and learning of Arabic will become obligatory. It was precisely to avoid religious conflict that the Nigerian Constitution originally envisaged a secular state with a total separation of state and religion, hence the attempts by the state of Zamfara to favour one religion over another, and even more, to Islamisize the law must be considered unconstitutional. But many Nigerian leaders in the past, such as Shagari (1979-1983), Babaginda (1985-1993), Sani Abacha (1993-1998), have tried to Islamisize the country surreptitiously especially by trying to induct Nigeria into the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It was only the courage and vigilance of the Christian Association of Nigeria that prevented their country descending into a war of religion. Democratic minded Nigerians have never forgotten that the Abacha regime when it was ostracized by the international community sought help among the Muslim states by trying to convince them that he was leading a war against the infidels, and seeking to Islamisize his country. It was at this time Colonel Kadhafi stepped in, only to insult the non-Muslims of Nigeria. Thus the present attempt to introduce the Sharia is nothing new.