Five Anglicans—two priests and three laymen—will appear in court in northern Nigeria this month charged with abducting two teenage sisters who were going to be forced into arranged Muslim marriages in an area of the country which applies strict Islamic law.

The two priests, Canon Musa Harunat and Isiya Idi, and three laymen, who have been detained for various periods in police cells in connection with the charges, claim that the girls are practicing Christians who sought shelter in their church.

Abduction carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison under Nigerian civilian law.

Bishop Zakka Nyam of Kano said that the court case was proof that Shari'ah (Muslim) law—officially separate from civil law in northern Nigeria—was filtering into the legislature as a result of pressure from Muslim extremists. "Shari'ah is spreading everywhere," Bishop Nyam said. "Life here is increasingly like living under a jihad [a holy war by Muslims against unbelievers]."

Kano is one of nine northern Nigerian states that, since the advent of civilian rule in Nigeria in 1999, have invoked their constitutional right to put into practice the strict sacred law of Islam embracing all aspects of a Muslim's life. Prostitution, gambling and alcohol have been banned, and thieves can be taken before an Islamic court and sentenced to amputation.

In Shari'ah states, Muslim vigilante groups known as hisba operate alongside the national police force.

Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim. But populous states such as Kano—whose capital, also called Kano, is the third-biggest city in the country—have significant Christian communities. The city has about 20,000 Anglican residents who claim that Shari'ah is encroaching more and more on their lives.

Idi said that ...

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