Although Christians in southern Nigeria have welcomed German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke with open arms, Muslim militants in the north have threatened to murder him. It is no idle threat. Ten years ago, the northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) invited Bonnke to preach in Kano, a northern state. Before he could step off his plane, however, Muslim crowds began to riot. Hundreds of people died, and Bonnke could not return to the nation until Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, became president in 1999.

Coming with a rise of Muslim fundamentalism is the introduction of Shari'ah, or Islamic law, which is stoking new tensions in the volatile region. Used in varying degrees in Muslim-majority countries including Saudi Arabia and Iran, Shari'ah has been adopted by 12 states in northern Nigeria during the last two years. Under the code, apostates may be beheaded and thieves may have their hands chopped off. Women must cover their heads, and no one may sell alcoholic beverages.

Many Nigerian Muslims support Shari'ah, believing it will bring order to their corrupt society. "Armed robbery, gambling, and prostitution would stop if Shari'ah came to Lagos," said Mohammed Babangida, a moneychanger in this southern city.

Others, however, disagree. Musibaw Aremu is a Christian convert from Islam who also lives in Lagos. "[Speaking] as a Christian, we don't want it," he said of Shari'ah. "[Even] educated Muslims say they don't want it, because one's arm could get chopped off."

Non-Muslims doubt state government assurances that Shari'ah will only be imposed on Muslims. One is John Onaiyekan, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. "Our problem is not with Shari'ah law but with Shari'ah law as a state legislation," ...

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