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Judicial CP - February 2000

Corpun file 5150


New York Times, 12 February 2000

Muslim Caning In Nigeria

Gusau, Nigeria, Feb. 11 (Reuters)

A Nigerian has been given 80 lashes with a cane for drinking alcohol in public in northern Zamfara State in the first punishment meted out since the introduction of strict Muslim law there last month.

Hundreds gathered in the state capital, Gusau, on Thursday to watch Dahiru Sule caned across his back as he lay on a bench.

"I will not commit such an offense any longer," he said after being beaten.

Full implementation of Muslim law, or Shariah, began in Zamfara last month to local jubilation but deep unease in other parts of the country of 108 million, which is divided roughly among Muslims and Christians and animists.

Several other northern states are also considering the introduction of Shariah.

Corpun file 5341

BBC logo

BBC News Online, London, 17 February 2000


Nigerian flogged for having sex

An 18-year-old youth in Zamfara State in northern Nigeria is reported to have been flogged for having sex before marriage.

Court officials are quoted by the AFP news agency as saying he received 100 lashes while his female partner watched.

Recent Sharia sentences
Motorbike taxi operator jailed for carrying women
Drinker lashed 80 times in public
Man fined $1,500 for knocking out wife's teeth

The girl, who is 16, has also been convicted of the same offence and officials say as soon as she recovers from an undisclosed illness, she will also be punished.

Pre-marital sex is forbidden under Sharia law which was recently adopted by the state.

The youth's flogging is just the latest in a number of sentences handed down since Sharia courts began operating in Zamfara last month.

Sharia controversy

Sharia law is also being considered in the northern states of Niger and Kano, but so far Zamfara is the only state to introduce it.

In Niger State hundreds of people have demonstrated in support of the adoption of Sharia.

On Monday, thousands of Muslims staged a rally in the northern city of Kaduna, calling for the introduction of Sharia in Kaduna State.

The governor of Zamfara, Ahmed Sani, has provoked nationwide controversy with his decision to introduce Sharia, even though he has promised that it will not be imposed on Christians.

He said the law is intended to check prostitution, drunkenness, stealing, robbery and gambling.

But Christians have expressed concern that it will undermine the country's stability.

Corpun file 5469

Post Express, Lagos, 26 February 2000

Sharia and the Lessons from Iran

By Chris Onuorah
Foreign/Defence Editor

NIGERIANS fretting over the spread and danger of Islamic law in the country must look to Iran for some hard lessons. Things boiled over in Kaduna, capital of the northern Nigeria Kaduna State when Christians began a march in protest of the introduction of the Islamic legal system called Sharia there. By Thursday, the death toll in clashes with Moslems in Kaduna had exceeded the 400 mark.

A week earlier, Iranians had gone to the polls in what observers said had one central theme: change. An Islamic Republic, Iran is run by the reformist government of President Mohammed Khatami. But Khatami's government is hampered by the peculiar system under which extreme Islamists led by Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei have the final say in almost everything.

Yet, Iranians, determined to break from a past which often puts a lid on their freedom voted with glee for politicians they hope would free them from the perceived bondage.

Ironically, a majority of the people of Iran had celebrated the demise of the liberal Shah in 1979 in preference of an Islamic revolution in their country. The revolution brought with it harsh Islamic doctrines, violence, death as well as war which has claimed millions of lives. Western isolation of Iran has led to economic decay, hunger and rising doubts, the gains of religious extremism. Last week's vote for change and freedom was only the writing on the wall for the Ayatollahs and the Mullahs who make the suppressive rules.

The Nigerian government on Tuesday drafted troops to Kaduna in the attempt to calm the riotous city. Curfew imposed in addition to the presence of the armed troops did not end the carnage immediately. The raging violence gave indications that there may have been deep-rooted anger that waited for an opportunity to explode.

Nigeria has been exploding in different areas with ethnic and religious-based conflicts for years running. It has been even more so since democracy returned here after 16 years of military rule on May 29 last year.

The greater opinion has, however, been that the Obasanjo administration has not been fair to the aggrieved militants outside his native South-west Zone. When conflict broke out in Odi, small town in the South-south State of Bayelsa, Obasanjo drafted troops there who more or less levelled the town and sent the natives packing. When violent militiamen in his South-west region rioted, killing non-natives, many of them northern Moslems, Obasanjo took to an "exchange of letters" with the Lagos State governor where the killings were worst. He did not call in troops.

Events like this might have amplified the argument that Moslems in the North are pushing for Sharia in the states they control to voice their anger over perceived neglect by the Obasanjo administration. Obasanjo had drawn the majority of his votes from the North, East but not from his native Western states. But he has been increasingly criticised for treating his people better than those who voted for him.

If this is the case, then those who insist that Sharia would not last might have a point. They suggest that a fair-minded government at the centre would negate any need for the clamour for Islamic law in the country.

Speaking recently to Africa Today magazine, Sheik Ibraheem el-Zakzaky declared that the present drive to Islamise Nigeria, or parts of it would not succeed. He said: "This is not the Sharia we know," signifying that the nation was not ripe for it, that the package was faulty and that Nigerians may not accept it.

"We don't push it by force," Zakzaky, himself the leader of the extremist and once violent Shi'ite sect disclosed. "The first step would have been to call the people. If they don't answer your call, you don't move to the next stage."

Several states in the North have adopted the Sharia system since it was launched in Zamfara State. Many more are about to do so. But unlike Iran where 95 per cent are Moslems, the same cannot be said about Nigeria where Christians and Moslems are almost at par. The implication, as Zakzaky warned, is that the law cannot be applied on those who do not believe in it, this time Christians.

He hopes, however, that the call for Sharia "will just be a sort of noise for a few months," and then fizzle out. Others believe that, as in Iran where people yearned for an Islamic revolution, the harsh realities of the extremism would see them clamouring for change and freedom.

Already, citizens are reeling under the Sharia in Zamfara State. People trek long distances because they are forbidden to share buses and motorcycles among the sexes. A teenage boy and a girl were sentenced to 100 strokes of the cane for premarital sex in Tsafe, a small town in the state.

This came barely a week after a man was given 80 lashes for drinking alcohol in public.

When the message sinks in, it would be difficult to see Moslems obeying the call for Sharia anywhere in Nigeria.

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