Church in Nigeria Joins Suit Against Islamic Law

Unconstitutional, Says Archbishop

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DAKAR, Senegal, MAR. 29, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- The Catholic Church in Nigeria plans to join a lawsuit against the Islamic law, or Shariah, which has been introduced in several northern states.

The initiative was disclosed March 20 by Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, at the start of a six-day meeting of the Standing Committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

In an interview with Panafrican News Agency in Dakar, Archbishop Onaiyekan said: «Not only is it unconstitutional for the Shariah to be imposed on Nigeria as a federation, it is unconstitutional for it to be imposed on any particular state or states, even if a state were 100% Muslim.»

Several Muslim-dominated states in northern Nigeria have introduced the Shariah, amid strong protests from Christians. The issue has generated sectarian violence, resulting in hundreds of deaths and destruction of property.

Archbishop Onaiyekan said that the country´s politicians seem to shy away from the problems, and that unnamed individuals were hoping to make political gains from this potentially dangerous issue.

«The head of state has dragged his feet too long on the matter,» he said, «This might be because his hands are tied, or he has decided to tie his own hands.»

The archbishop recalled that President Olusegun Obasanjo said it was wrong when the issue first came up, but since then he has made no efforts to «call even a meeting of governors concerned.»

Christians in Nigeria are experiencing «a political maneuver by a small group to gain both on the political and economic fronts at the same time,» the archbishop lamented.

At a press conference in Lagos on March 19, President Obasanjo said that no religious code introduced for sheer political gains can destabilize Nigeria, and he left room for the possibility that the Shariah, introduced in nine of Nigeria´s 36 states, would die a natural death.

As specified in the Koran, the Shariah would forever remain part and parcel of practicing Muslims´ legal code. «Shariah is part of Islam, but, when you try to combine it with politics, it will generate reactions,» Obasanjo affirmed. «We are a diverse nation, and our strength lies in diversity.»

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