Spread of Sharia Law Does Not Threaten Nigeria, Says President

Article excerpt

OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, Nigeria's President, has said he does not see the adoption of Sharia law by a dozen states in Nigeria as a threat, amid international pressure on him to amend laws calling for execution by stoning for Islamic crimes such as adultery.

Religious and ethnic clashes have cost thousands of lives in Nigeria in the past two years and the restoration of strict Islamic law in 12 of Nigeria's 36 states has sparked bloody riots between Christians and Muslims.

Now with more harsh Sharia punishments pending, including stoning, whipping, amputation and execution, and the prospect of Sharia being extended to at least one state in the predominantly Christian south, the issue might tear the country apart.

"To say Sharia must be removed from Islam is like saying that the 10 commandments must be removed from Christianity," President Obasanjo, a devout Christian, told The Independent. "Sharia is not a new thing and it's not a thing to be afraid of. What we need is justice."

Sharia law had been the experience in parts of the country "since time immemorial", he said, adding that the federal government would not dispute the rights of states to use it.

On 25 March, an Islamic appeal court dismissed Safiya Husaini's sentence of stoning to death for adultery on technical grounds, after it provoked global outrage.

But last month Amina Lawal, 30, became the second woman to be sentenced to death for adultery when an Islamic court in northern Katsina convicted her. The mother of three has appealed.

The Sharia issue was under the spotlight again last week when an Islamic court in Jigawa sentenced Sarimu Mohammed, 50, to death by stoning for raping a nine-year-old girl - the first death sentence imposed on a man for rape or adultery under re-introduced Sharia law. Mohammed, who was caught by neighbours, also got 100 strokes of the cane and a fine.

In Bauchi, Adama Yunusa, who is 19 and pregnant, was sentenced to 100 lashes for having sex with her fiance. …