Borno becomes seventh Nigerian state to adopt Sharia

23 August 2000 (Newsroom) -- Borno has become the seventh state in Nigeria's
mostly Muslim north to formally adopt Islamic law, or Sharia.

Police in the state capital of Maiduguri stood guard as the move became
official Saturday, fearing a possible backlash from non-Muslims. Earlier
this year more than 1,000 people died in clashes between Christians and
Muslims after Kaduna state announced it would adopt Sharia.

Many Nigerian leaders fear the moves by northern states to implement Sharia,
which began last October, could lead to the disintegration of the country.

Seeking to reassure Christians who say that their freedoms are threatened,
Borno state governor Mala Kachalla has stated that Sharia applies only to
Muslims. The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council warned last month that the
implementation of Sharia should not violate the freedom of non-Muslims
guaranteed by the Constitution. Nigeria is about evenly divided between
Christians, who live predominantly in the south, and Muslims who form the
majority in the north.

Borno's decision, however, defies an agreement to suspend implementation of
Sharia. The National Council of States, which includes President Olusegun
Obasanjo and the state governors, made the pact following the Kaduna riots
in February. Obasanjo is a Protestant Christian.

Nigeria's Constitution limits application of Islamic law to domestic matters
such as marriage and inheritance. The northern states have sought to fully
implement Sharia to include criminal law, however. Thieves, for example,
have been punished by having a hand amputated. Islamic law also permits
public flogging and beheading for certain crimes.

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