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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 10:04 GMT
Sharia Law: What do you think?
Nigeria's federal government has declared that the strict implementation of Sharia law is illegal under the country's constitution.

Justice Minister Godwin Agabi wrote to northern states saying that Muslim citizens should not be subjected to a punishment more severe than would be imposed on other Nigerians for the same offence.

It comes as the country is gripped by the trial of a woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning by an Islamic court. She is due to hear the outcome of her appeal on Monday.

Criminal punishments such as stoning and amputation of limbs for theft have been introduced into the legal code in many of Nigeria's majority Muslim northern states over the past two years.

But although amputations have been carried out, no one has yet been stoned to death.

What do you think of this law? Do you agree with the Nigerian justice minister's actions?

A selection of your e-mails will be broadcast on BBC World Service's Focus on Africa programme during the 1705 edition on Saturday.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

It is unfortunate that this could be happening in the twentieth century despite the level of education in Nigeria. Is the hand of our clock moving forward or backward? If this woman is killed, the Nigerian Federal Government should be held responsible.
Gbenga Oyeyemi, USA

I find it hard to believe that any court of law anywhere on this planet would allow for such a brutal punishment for ANY crime, let alone adultery. To compare this with the death penalty in the US is ridiculous. The death penalty is reserved for mass murderers and the like. And even those people are not stoned to death. Where are all of the human rights advocates? And what about the man involved? Why is it only the woman is to be punished? And by stoning?
Kate, USA

The Shari'ah law is the supreme law and it should prevail in an Islamic land. It's quite disgusting when other countries try to impose their standards and laws on a particular country. Those who commit adultery, have themselves brought this punishment upon them and should be prepared to suffer the consequences. Besides, I don't understand this rhetoric of women not being treated equally in Nigeria. The law applies equally to both men and women.
Ali Mukhtar, US

What is happening in Nigeria now goes beyond Sharia. But one thing is sure, those who are experimenting with the lives and exploiting their fellow citizens just to achieve their political goals should know that they will one day reap what they are presently sowing. Echoing the voice of Safiya, those who are highly placed have done worse things than this! Can they still be tried under the same sharia?. No. Why?. They are the same people who started this gimmick just to destabilize Nigeria. But why, you may ask? They lost power in 1999 and the only way to claim it back is through destabilization.

What has Sharia got to do with mass illiteracy and poverty that has devastated and is still devastating the whole of Northern Nigeria. Nigeria has been ruled for over 30 years by folks of the Northern extraction. Can Sharia make their lives better?. The answer is, no. Those political "thieves" just want to maintain the status quo. Can anybody help those poor Northern fellows?
Dr. Okey Egwim, Austria

Whoever is WITHOUT SIN should cast the first stone.
Elizabeth Shepherd, United States of America

Sharia law stand for justice and at the end justice will prevail

Mohammed Mukhtar, Nigeria
Am not really surprised about the heated debate this issue has generated in the west and indeed around the globe, this is due to the fact that the matter has been presented by the western media in their own opinion, but one thing for sure is that Sharia law stand for justice and at the end justice will prevail. I am very optimistic that our judicial process will not be hijacked by media warlords.
Mohammed Mukhtar, Nigeria

Stoning to death should never be happening anywhere in this modern world and as an African living in Europe I am very ashamed and embarrassed. The Nigerian Government should act immediately to make such punishment unconstitutional.
Nii-Aponsa Mante, United Kingdom

This type of cruelty is getting support from somewhere and the international community is obviously not doing anything to counter it either. Maybe more developed countries should stop doing business with these countries until they reform their medieval laws. Further more, it is amazing how one can convicted of war crimes for killing so many people but there are no international laws that protect people from torture and this type of mayhem.
Eric, USA

Why is it normal for businessmen to have endless affairs, while a woman is convicted to be stoned to death for having sex outside marriage

Natasha, Germany
Why is it normal for businessmen to have endless affairs, while a woman is convicted to be stoned to death for having sex outside marriage. And the father of the child where is he? Shouldn't he be convicted under barbaric law too. I can hardly believe that the new century will be a lot less sexist than the last, when it starts off with something ridiculously inhumane like this.
Natasha, Germany

I'm only 15 years old but in a world that has already suffered greatly in two world wars and daily faces the possible threat of a nuclear war, I do not see why we cannot treat people equally. I think this woman had every right to do what she did - after all Our Lord made the people of Jerusalem think about what they had done before they stoned the woman.
Samantha Wilson-Parker, United Kingdom

Pray tell, how can anyone equate the death sentence of this woman to the death penalty in the United States? This woman was raped - forced to have intercourse against her will. She is the victim. Those individuals on death row in America have mercilessly taken the life of somebody's son or daughter, nephew or niece, brother or sister, father or mother, Grandparent or cousin, or somebody's best friend. They murdered their victims in cold blood. Sometimes these victims were tortured before they were murdered, sometimes not. Nevertheless, the accused person receives a legal defence team, a trial, judgement by 12 jurors who were hand pick from a pool of jurors and the opportunity to appeal the verdict. Further more, these individuals are provided with room and board, 3 meals a day, central heating and air conditioning, regular recreational activities, counselling, pastoral care just to mention a few. If you sincerely feel these individuals on death row are receiving barbaric treatment, I ask you this¿who would you want as your neighbour - the rape victim in Nigeria or a an individual in the US who has been convicted of murder awaiting his sentence on death row? I know what my answer is.
Mary, USA

I find it odd how the execution of someone guilty of adultery in Nigeria is put on the same level as the execution of a convicted murderer in Texas. I am personally against the death penalty, but I see a difference between the two.
Bucky Montano, USA

I am not a supporter of death penalty but to equate the two is outrageous and compares apples and oranges. Death penalty has been imposed on those who after a due judicial process have been found guilty of taking another human's life. It applies to all irrespective of race, religion, gender or ethnicity. On the other hand stoning to death for adultery concerns the actions of two consenting adults who have not violated a third person. It also discriminates against women. Instead of being apologetic about it, the supporters of this practice should wonder why this medieval practice exists in the 21st century.
Kedar Bhandary, Santa Clara, CA, USA

Things like this shouldn't happen in a country like Nigeria that is filled with educated and enlightened people

Anonymous Nigerian, England
I feel it's disgusting that in this day and age when developing countries are making progress, the judicial system in Nigeria appears to be going backwards. Why on earth should a poor woman be killed for such a crime when others, who have committed worse atrocities, are still walking free in Nigeria. I would like to appeal to the Western World to get involved in this case and put pressure on the Government to overrule any decision to kill this lady especially as we know from the facts of this case she was impregnated by her ex husband. Things like this shouldn't happen in a country like Nigeria that is filled with educated and enlightened people. We should not be going back to the dark ages but should continue progressing towards a civilised community. I'm sure I speak for loads of Nigerians in the UK and all over the world.
Anonymous Nigerian, England

If you stone her you must also stone the person who made it possible for her to commit adultery. Islamic law may call for the man to accept responsibility but he is equally guilty.
Frank Burdorf, USA

This babarism in Sharia thing gives Islam a bad name. If Muslims will remove stoning, amputation and flogging from the Sharia code, Sharia will be one of the best tenets on which people should live by. As it stands now in Nigeria, it is taking the country back to the dark ages and the earlier the President Obasanjo does something about it the better.
Kwaku Obeng, US

To Nick, Oman: When a woman in a society that practices Sharia law is raped, she can be stoned to death. If she is spared, her family will likely reject her which leaves her with no place in society. Is this the kind of "stable family structure" you want in your society? I'll pass, thank you. And those who compare Sharia law with the death penalty in some US states are really pushing it. Death for adultery and death for those convicted of murder is not the same thing.
Franklin, Maryland, USA

I teach African history in a small business college. This sort of news is not only horrible in and of itself, it does untold damage to the image of Africa and of Nigeria in particular. No religion condones this brutality, including Islam. Let the imams of Nigeria learn from those of Senegal.
Marylee Crofts, USA

If we must be one Nigeria, then we must also be one in defending human dignity

Nnamdi Nwankwo, Nigeria
The whole idea of a regional law over taking the federal interest in Nigeria is appalling. If Nigeria is a federation and the primary interest of the federal government is to protect the rights and dignity of its citizens, then it will be incongruous for any state or region to enact a law that will derail the federal intentions. The crude idea of amputating and stoning people for petty crimes is outrageous and should be stopped by the federal government through executive powers. I have nothing against Sharia as such. But I have something against inappropriate inculturation of Sharia principles into Nigerian politics. No religion and no people should introduce a law that is inimical to human dignity. It is wrong and should be condemned. If we must be one Nigeria, then we must also be one in defending human dignity.
Nnamdi Nwankwo, Nigeria

To Thomas: I'm confused. You said these strict punishments are always a "last resort." But stoning someone to death is probably one of cruellest ways you could go about it. How could that possibly be the last resort? I can understand an attempt to justify the religion practices, even if I vehemently disagree. What I can't understand is attempting to make it sound reasonable by modern standards.
Amy Sage, USA

The hated Taleban used stoning. It occurs in Iran. It is sad though, that this state of affairs must come to be in what was once British sovereign territory. Afghanistan and Iran have never come fully to western standards of justice, but for a nation, treated as an equal within the Commonwealth, to condone this sort of behaviour is sad beyond belief. It is another piece of the carpet of civilization being rolled up by barbarians. Zimbabwe is another example and we are to deal with the President of Nigeria as an equal in Zimbabwe question. Sitting in such a group reflects nothing positive on Canada or any other country proud enough to call itself civilized. I would advocate my country's pulling out of the Commonwealth for this reason.
Ray Martinson, Canada

The ruling on stoning to death is similar to any other judgement. The punishment in the hereafter is worse than being stoned. Adultery involves married people and the punishment would deter the break ups and suffering experienced by the children and spouses involved in such scandals which are a norm and accepted in today's society.
R. Jamaal, Canada

I have seen the benefits that Sharia law provides

Nick, Oman
I have spent the past six months living in the Middle East and have seen the benefits that Sharia law provides. A stable family structure and a low crime rate are two of these benefits. Nothing, however, in my view can justify the type of medieval barbarism that is sometimes meted out in the name of the law. Oman uses the Sharia law as the basic law of the land, and yet does not inflict these inhuman punishments. It's high time that other countries that still practise these methods woke up to the brave new world in which we all live.
Nick, Oman

There is more than a whiff of racism in posing this question. As a Muslim, I don't agree with what I see as extreme punishments in Nigeria and I would rather have them withdrawn but I don't live there and I don't have any right to patronise Nigerians and Africans in general. Executions (mainly of African Americans) happen in so-called 'civilised' countries like the United States, and that country is also responsible for thousands of deaths of poor (and non-white) people around the world with it's bombing campaigns in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet we hardly hear a whimper about these evil acts, which are sanctioned by our so-called rulers in the name of the law and justice.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

Sharia is no more barbaric than the lethal injections of Texas

Elliot C, UK
Western perception suggests that adultery is a crime not worthy of this punishment. Sharia is no more barbaric than the lethal injections and gas chambers of Texas, Florida et al. All legalised murder is abhorrent - no matter what culture is involved. Many would say Sharia is worse because it is stacked against women but the death penalty in the US is stacked against blacks. One form of bigotry is not worse than another.
Elliot C, UK

This sort of barbarism has no place in a modern civilised society. Quite apart from the one-sided nature of the punishment (presumably the father of the child emerges scot-free) there should be no pandering to "religious considerations" in this matter. The original verdict was pure evil: nothing short of that.
Peter Sykes, UK

I think these people, and their system of justice are so barbaric, they would feel at home in the dark ages, or for that matter, even in Texas.
James Sullivan, US

What are international human rights doing now in this case? Sleeping. They were the ones raising the issue of Camp X-Ray prisoners not being treated fairly. Here is the case of a poor woman being treated inhumanly in this 21st century. Wake up human rights groups and save her from this treacherous treatment on her.
Dino, UK

This century appears to have more in common with 1002 rather than 2002

Steve, UK
When I was a child I used to think that the 21st century would be an idealistic and futuristic paradise. Alas this century appears to have more in common with 1002 rather than 2002.
Steve, UK

Although I believe cultural sensitivity is important, there are times when conscientious people must take a stand against evil. The Nazis believed it was right to kill Jews, but reasonable people don't claim that cultural differences make the holocaust acceptable. Similarly, imposing the death penalty for adultery is simply wrong. There can be no justification for it, religious or otherwise, under any circumstances. Let's not forget, as well, that this sentence only applies to women.

These punishments simply cannot be tolerated in the 21st century. Seen from the perspective of liberals around the world, Sharia law punishment is barbaric madness. To take a literal approach to crime and punishment from the Koran, or Bible, cannot be relevant in a modern age. Islam will need to adapt to the world around it if the religion is going to play a more constructive role in the development of humanity in the future.
Reuben Fevrier, United Kingdom

I am fully against the atrocious Sharia laws. I can't comprehend that such a law exists even in the 21st century! Women are and should be treated equally as men and rather then all this nonsense, Nigerians should come together and strive to rebuild a once "giant" nation.
Precious Uzor, Nigeria

Who are these people and what right have they got to cast death upon this poor woman? These people are nothing more than tyrants, who hide behind a religion to get away with their murder.
Ant, UK

It is truly horrifying that after so many advances in human rights and living conditions over the past couple of centuries we still see barbarism as the norm in several countries of the world. Sometimes I fear that humans are the only creatures on the planet who will devolve. I pray that the crimes against humanity committed in the name of religions will end during my lifetime. (I am presently 30 years old.)

A member of the Commonwealth? Alleged civilisation?
Lenny Aronsten, Australia

This is barbaric. I wonder what happened to the man in this case? I would bet money that nothing happened to him.
Paul. USA

Sharia law protects the whole of society

Thomas, UK
Sharia law is generally a just law in that it protects the whole of society based upon a shared religious and political ideology, which all who live under it, choose of their own free will. It appears to be incompatible with universal human rights, based upon the individual, but it would be a mistake to suggest that Western concepts of justice are any better or worse than those embraced by Islam. In fact it is where we try to impose or judge by our own values that difficulties begin to arise. Having said that, it is difficult to judge the real will of the people in Muslim lands because very few have democracy and long standing dictatorships or puppet Kingdoms supported by the US, ensure their voices are never heard.

It is generally the strict punishments under Sharia law which attract the headlines, but these are always a last resort after a detailed trial with at least four independent witnesses none of whom has an axe to grind. That is the theory which is fine where Islam is fully adhered to, but so often Islam is distorted, for example by the Taleban who regularly changed the laws in Afghanistan to suit themselves.
Thomas, UK

While other countries make harsh comments against America because some of our states have the death penalty, I do not hear their voices over this case. Shame on those countries. By the way, where is the second half of this pair. Why is the man not being convicted?
Julia LaRosa, US

Miss World row



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18 Mar 02 | Africa
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