Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Thousands cheer as Islamic law proclaimed in northern Nigerian state

Thousands cheer as Islamic law proclaimed in northern Nigerian state

Author: Gilbert Da Costa,
Publication: www.boston.com
Date: June 21, 2000

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) Muslims in Nigeria's north cheered the formal declaration of Islamic law Wednesday, despite an upsurge in religious violence that has already killed thousands of people and forced many of the region's minority Christians to flee.

The proclamation made by Kano state Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso was met with deafening chants of ''Allah Akbar,'' or ''God is great,'' from the crowd gathered in the state capital's main prayer grounds to celebrate the announcement, according to residents and local journalists contacted by telephone.

''It is the fulfillment of our dreams,'' said Hassan Dambaba, a school teacher in Kano city. ''Now we can practice our religion as we should.''

Armed soldiers and anti-riot police patrolled Kano city Wednesday and guarded key intersections.

Kano, the fourth and largest Nigerian state to adopt Islamic law, or sharia, has a history of ethnic and religious clashes. Despite government assurances, hundreds of Christians have been fleeing the predominantly Muslim state since last week fearing more violence.

Islamic courts created under the new legal system have the power to try criminal cases involving Muslims and mete out punishments. Sharia supporters have said the laws would only apply to Muslims, but the change has angered and frightened many Christians.

The new courts have already handed down sentences such as floggings, and a convicted cow thief had his hand amputated.

Plans to implement Islamic law in the northern state of Kaduna triggered bitter religious bloodletting in February and March that killed up to 2,000 people.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines. Thousands have been killed since President Olusegun Obasanjo took office last year, ending 15 years of military rule.

Southern Nigeria is predominantly Christian, and northern Nigeria is overwhelmingly Muslim. Northerners dominate Nigeria's military, and wielded immense power during army rule.

Wednesday was declared a public holiday in Kano. But sharia does not come into full effect until Nov. 26, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, to give the government time to enact the necessary laws and to train judges in the Islamic code.

Others states also plan to follow suit. The northern state of Jigawa announced Wednesday that it would introduce sharia in August.

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