Nigeria declares Shari'ah law illegal
Nigieran Justice Minister Kanu Agabi yesterday sent a letter to the country's 12 northern states, telling them that Shari'ah, or strict Islamic law, is unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

Agabi is particularly concerned that Muslims face Shari'ah law while non-Muslims do not. "A Muslim should not be subjected to a punishment more severe than would be imposed on other Nigerians for the same offence," he wrote. "As an elected governor, I am certain that you would not tolerate such disparity in the allocation of punishment. It is not only against the constitution but also against equity and good conscience. … Unless we abide by the constitution, we shall have on our hands an arbitrary society based on the discretion of our rulers. That is totally unacceptable."

Zamfara State Governor Ahmed Sani says Shari'ah will stay, and that no non-Muslim had the right to dictate what laws Muslims would follow He dismissed the letter as the result of pressure by the West. "What he wrote in his letter was because of the outcry by the international community, and if you look very well, these countries are not Muslim countries," he said.

The federal government and the Shari'ah states have clashed before over this issue, and the government has stated that Shari'ah is unconstitutional. But both Nigerian and international newspapers say this is a major escalation of government tensions—and fear that this might lead to more violence in the country.

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