Nigeria: February 23, 2000

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The imposition of Sharia (Islamic religious law) in some northern provinces has caused violence between Moslems and minority Christians in those provinces (and danger of spreading to the majority Christian south.) Although the Moslem governors up north said Sharia would only apply to Moslems, the implementation hit Christians in visible ways. Beer halls were shut down (except in cases were Christian soldiers from local garrisons were customers, the troops would menace the provincial officials and the beer kept flowing.) Segregation between men and women on public transport was enforced, without regard to whether a woman was Moslem or Christian. There has always been a degree of animosity between Moslems and Christians, and this has been made worse because the Moslems in the north are a slight majority of the population and have long controlled the central government. But the oil wealth (and much commerce and industry) is in the Christian south. The Christians see "their" wealth being stolen by the Moslem northerners. The fact that the last few decades saw mostly Moslem generals looting the national (mainly oil) wealth has done little to keep bad feelings at bay. The new reform government has been cracking down on corrupt officials, many of whom are prominent Moslems. All this is a proven recipe for religious war. The Nigerian Supreme court has yet to rule if these provincial attempts to impose Sharia are legal. Three northern provinces have so far enacted laws imposing Sharia, only two of them (Zamara and Kaduna) have began applying it.

 

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