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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Nigeria's Katsina state adopts Sharia
Muslims in Kano
Thousands celebrated the adoption of Sharia in Kano
The Nigerian state of Katsina has become the fifth northern state to formally adopt Islamic law or Sharia this year.

I assure adherents of other faiths that government will guarantee the security of their lives and property

Katsina Governor Umar Musa Yar'Adua
The expansion of Sharia has been broadly welcomed by the Muslim majority in the north of Nigeria but opposed by the Christian minority.

Its introduction has led to major unrest in other states, and more than 1,000 people have died in clashes over the issue.

Katsina Governor Umar Musa Yar'Adua has spent the day opening Sharia courts.

He had already signed into law the bills bringing Sharia courts into effect and empowering them to start hearing cases, but decided not to mark the occasion with fanfare.

Another northern state, Jigawa, is expected to introduce the code on Wednesday.

No celebrations

The spokesman said that the people of Katsina had lived with Sharia for hundreds of years.

Therefore, the expansion of the Islamic code into areas of criminal law did not warrant a celebration.

But he also said that the state authorities did not want to intimidate the Christian minority, who have tended to see the spread of Sharia as an attack on their way of life.

Sharia provisions
Based on the Koran
Provides an overall ethical framework for Muslims
Includes prayers, fasting, charity - as well as a legal code
Women should veil themselves
Physical punishment for crimes - including amputation, flogging, stoning
"I assure adherents of other faiths that government will guarantee the security of their lives and property. I assure them that none of their rights will be trampled on," the governor was quoted as saying.

The forces driving this expansion are complex.

Some northern Nigerian politicians, dissatisfied with the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a Christian southerner, have used Sharia as a political tool.

But there is also a genuine popular enthusiasm for it, and some politicians have been swept along by this tide.

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