Sunday, November 24, 2002

From the WaPo: The imposition of sharia in Nigeria:



In Nigeria, a nominal democracy of 130 million people, they don't just steal sheep. Some people also drink alcohol, engage in prostitution, commit adultery and go outside after midnight.People dress in short sleeves, too, and ride in taxis that aren't segregated by sex.And double up on motorbikes, even though that may involve a woman sitting with, touching, holding onto, a man who is not her husband.For Nigeria's 50 million Christians, there are no criminal penalties for such behavior. But there are penalties for many of its 65 million Muslims, particularly those who live in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim northern states.

This is because of sharia, which, to Muslims, is a God-given code for how a life ought to be lived. Used in varying degrees, for most Muslims it is a guide to such individual activities as prayer, fasting and donating to the poor. Beyond that, many Muslim countries have adopted sharia as their civil law, governing such things as marriage and inheritance. And then there are the countries that use sharia as their criminal law, applying its judgments and penalties to such offenses as theft and adultery, which are known in sharia as Hadd offenses.

But Nigeria is also home to Christians such as the Rev. Linus Awuhe, a Catholic priest who says, "I, as a Christian, cannot accept sharia" -- and in that divide between Awuhe and Tambuwal is why the introduction of sharia hasn't been without problems.....

..."Sharia is a religious law, an Islamic law, but it is not a Christian law," says Linus Awuhe, explaining one reason he opposes sharia's implementation. In addition to being a priest, Awuhe is the Zamfara chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria. "I am not saying they're not entitled to their beliefs. What I am saying is they should not force their beliefs on me."

"Secondly," he continues, "the manner in which the sharia law is implemented goes against my own fundamental human rights. When you talk of the issue of sin and punishment, you don't amputate a sinner, you don't stone a person to death, you bring a person about by grace."

And third, he says, "Let me tell you that sharia will not achieve justice, not in Nigeria, because the Nigerian is still the Nigerian. Nigeria needs to be renovated from within. In the past, sharia was used in the north to harass political opponents, to oppress them. Today, too, sharia is being used by the elite to oppress the masses. It is the masses who will suffer, not the elite.

"Tell me, how many hands of officials have been amputated?" he goes on. "These people are looting the economy. How many of their hands have been amputated? They are amputating the hands of petty thieves, who do what they do because of social disorder. There are no good roads. The educational system is collapsing. Health care is zero. There is a great poverty in this land. The people are made to live miserable lives. So how can someone bring in a system of justice when that justice doesn't apply to him, who sends his children to school out of country? Who drives the road in a heavy jeep? Who lives in air conditioning? Who doesn't queue up for fuel? Who goes to Germany for health care? And above all uses his pen to rob the country? And who is amputating his hand?"



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