In an effort to protect the rights of non-Muslims, Nigerian officials met Monday with the governors of northern states where Islamic criminal law has been implemented despite a constitutional ban.

In a meeting in Abuja, the federal capital, Vice President Atiku Abubakar expressed the government's concerns about the states' inability to keep a promise not to extend Islamic law, or Shari'ah, to non-Muslims, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Monday's meeting, the second of its kind in about a month, was attended by governors of core Shari'ah states, including Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, and Katsina. Nigerian national security adviser Lieutenant General Aliyu Mohammed also attended.

States are permitted to establish Shari'ah courts for Muslims to handle domestic matters but cannot implement Islamic criminal law, which prescribes punishments such as beheading and public flogging. Nearly a dozen states, however, have implemented Islamic criminal law, prompting protests by Christians.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella organization of churches, has complained that its members are regularly harassed by Islamic youths purporting to enforce Shari'ah. According to NAN, the federal government raised this issue at the Monday meeting, noting that such situations could lead to a breakdown of law and order.

A leader in the anti-Shari'ah movement, CAN is comprised of the Catholic Church, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the Evangelical Church of West Africa, the Organization of African Indigenous Churches, and the Christian Council of Churches, which includes the Anglican, Methodist, and Baptist churches.

Recently, Umar Gauduje, the deputy governor of Kano State, supervised a team of Islamic youths that destroyed alcohol and burned hotels in some parts of the state, according to news reports. Due to threats by Islamic groups, hotels in Kano have stopped allowing Christian groups to rent their halls for meetings.

The outcome of Monday's meeting was not made public, but NAN reported that some agreements aimed at improving relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were reached.

Related Elsewhere

According to The Day in Lagos, the meetings were to find a "middle of the road course."

The government has reservations about religious youth groups taking the law into their own hands, reported The Guardian.

Christians in the northern Nigeria state of Borno vow to disobey Shari'ah law, according to the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network. The Guardian reported the Christian Association of Nigeria also threatened to sue.

As Shari'ah is adopted in Nigeria, hotels and brothels close up shop, according to The Guardian.

The Post Express reports The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria plans legal action against states operating by Shari'ah law.

Compass Direct looks at how challenging Nigerian law has become urgent and necessary.

Previous Christianity Today coverage of religious tensions in Nigeria includes:

The Shari'ah Threat | Muslim Fundamentalist law troubles Christians and some Muslims.(Feb. 2, 2001)

'Focused, Determined, Deliberate' Destruction | Ecumenical leader calls on Nigeria to deal with religious violence between Muslims and Christians. (Oct. 30, 2000)

Nigerian Muslims and Christians Form a Religious Council | Gombe, a north Nigerian state, creates a council of faiths to deal with fears over Islamic law.

Churches Challenge Islamic Law | Christians plan to take Shari'ah to court. (Aug. 15, 2000)

Is Nigeria Moving Toward War? | Deadly riots lead to suspension of Islamic law. (March 31, 2000)

Nigeria On the Brink of Religious War | Northern states adopt Islamic law, increasing Christian-Muslim tensions. (Dec. 16, 1999)

Nigeria's Churches Considering Legal Challenge to Islamic Laws | Third state moving toward implementing Koranic laws (Dec. 17, 1999)

Can Christianity and Islam Coexist and Prosper? | Is peace with Islam possible? (Oct. 25, 1999)