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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Nigeria's Jigawa state adopts Sharia

Jigawa is the sixth state to adopt Sharia
The people of the northern Nigerian state of Jigawa have been celebrating the introduction of Sharia or Islamic law.

It is the sixth state in northern Nigeria to adopt Sharia during the course of the year.

But the state authorities, aware of the political sensitivities have kept events low key.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria this year over the introduction of Sharia.

Bus loads of supporters of Sharia turned up in the tiny state capital, Dutse, but crowds milled around with little sense of purpose.

It has been a public holiday, and thousands of people have benefited from the traditional Islamic distribution of grain to the poor and disabled, a process known as zakkhe.

But people were urged to stay at home and pray.

Many bars have closed down, hotels stopped selling alcohol and prostitutes have left.

Panacea

Muslims in northern Nigeria feel strongly that Sharia has been misunderstood by Christians, who have tended to concentrate on the fact that it introduces punishments such as amputation for theft and flogging for people caught drinking alcohol.

thousands turned up in Kano to celebrate Sharia
Muslims say Sharia is part of their pre-colonial tradition
But in Jigawa, a rural and a poor state, the fiercely conservative peasant farmers appear overwhelmingly in favour of a return to Sharia.

After 40 years of misrule and corruption, Sharia has come to be seen in the north as a panacea to political and social problems.

There is a widespread belief that a return to Sharia will also herald a return to a more orderly and caring society.

The Christian minority there has little choice but to accept the new situation.

On Tuesday, another northern state, Katsina formally adopted Sharia but without the fanfare that has characterised the introduction of the code in other states.

The states of Kebbi, Bauchi and Borno have also signalled they are moving towards adopting Sharia.

The Federal Government has urged state authorities in the mainly Muslim north not to take any action that could endanger national unity.

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25 May 00 | Africa
Kaduna settles down
21 Jun 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sharia takes hold
27 Jan 00 | Africa
The many faces of Sharia
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