FaithWorld

Violent Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram rejects amnesty offer

(Members of an local Islamic group lie on the ground at a police station after their arrest in the northeastern city of Bauchi, July 25, 2009/Ardo Hazzad)

A radical Islamist sect in remote northeastern Nigeria, blamed for almost daily killings and attacks, has rejected an offer of an amnesty. Kashim Shettima, governor-elect of Borno state, made the amnesty offer to the Boko Haram sect shortly after winning April elections to try to end months of attacks on symbols of authority including politicians and police officers.

“We reject any offer of dialogue or so-called amnesty from Kashim Shettima for two reasons,” a spokesman for the group said in a statement broadcast on the BBC Hausa service, a local language radio station in northern Nigeria, on Monday. “First we do not believe in the Nigerian constitution and secondly we do not believe in democracy but only in the laws of Allah,” the spokesman said, speaking in Hausa.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, wants sharia (Islamic law) to be more widely applied across Nigeria but its views are not widely espoused by the country’s Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sect members launched an uprising in 2009, attacking government buildings and triggering days of gun battles with the security forces in which up to 800 people were killed. Its attacks became increasingly political in the run-up to last month’s presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections but there has been no let-up in the violence since then.

Nigerian elections seal major power shift to largely Christian south


(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his home village of Otuoke, Bayelsa state April 16, 2011/Joseph Penney)

A decisive election victory by President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria has shifted power firmly to the largely Christian south from the Muslim north and could reopen political fissures in Africa’s top energy supplier.

Violence swept northern cities, leaving hundreds of people dead and many homeless after Jonathan’s crushing victory over his northern opponent Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.

“Jonathan’s landslide, though on the surface it appears like a resounding pan-Nigeria mandate, has brought back with a vengeance all the religious and sectional cleavage, not to mention ethnic bitterness,” Olakunle Abimbola of The Nation newspaper wrote in a column.

Nigerian president appeals to Muslim leaders before vote

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(Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at a campaign rally in Kano, northern Nigeria, March 16, 2011S/Joe Penney)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to Muslim leaders to help ensure that elections next month, which risk stoking regional rivalries, pass off peacefully. Africa’s most populous nation holds presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections spread over three weeks in April, all of which are set to be fiercely contested.

Jonathan met on Sunday with the Sultan of Sokoto, one of Nigeria’s most influential Islamic leaders, and other senior figures from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Muslim umbrella organisation Jamatul Nasir Islam in the northern city of Kaduna. Nigeria is home to the largest Muslim community in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for roughly half of the country’s 150 million people, as well as to more than 200 ethnicities, most of whom generally live peacefully side by side.

Nigeria’s Muslim north risks growing sense of alienation

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(A motor rickshaw transporting Muslim women drives past a signboard promoting Islamic faith in Nigeria's northern city of Kano March 15, 2011/Joe Penny)

Standing on the dancefloor among shards of glass and splintered wood, Tony Baisie rues the day he agreed to help set up a nightclub in one of West Africa’s oldest Islamic cities. For more than 15 years this converted office on an industrial back street in Kano, northern Nigeria, was a thriving business. Customers — Christian and Muslim — would dance among its mirrored walls or shoot pool in the courtyard outside.

But three weeks ago, members of Hisbah — a uniformed Islamic squad set up by Kano’s state governor in 2003 to enforce sharia (Islamic law) — raided the club, smashing tables and chairs, and seizing its drinks stocks and sound systems. “They took me away and detained me overnight,” Baisie said. “Before they released me they made me sign an undertaking I would not sell alcohol or play music ever again in Kano.”

Nigeria’s Jonathan takes election campaign to Muslim north

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(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan speaks at the launch of his presidential campaign in the central city of Lafia, Nassarawa state February 7, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

From Islamic police enforcing a ban on beer and prostitution to its centuries-old market and mosques, Nigeria’s northern city of Kano feels like a different country to the pulsating southern sprawl of Lagos. Its low-rise buildings and dusty tree-lined streets have more in common with the sleepy Sahelian cities of Niger or Chad than with Nigeria’s commercial hub, a city built on hustle and home to some of Africa’s largest companies and richest tycoons.

Securing support in this ancient city — the second most populous after Lagos — and other parts of Nigeria’s Muslim north will be key if President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, is to clinch victory in the first round of elections next month.

Muslim-Christian sectarian divisions haunt central Nigerian city

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(A police check point in Nigeria's central city of Jos February 15, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

An outsider crossing the dried-up gulley between two neighbourhoods in this central Nigerian city might not notice he had stepped over one of its increasingly tense sectarian dividing lines. On both sides, stallholders sell freshly slaughtered meat and tropical fruit under umbrellas. Motorcycle taxis weave in and out of the traffic. Soldiers with AK-47s on the street corners are the only outward sign all is not well.

“No Christians come here because they are scared. We used to have Christians running stalls here but now there is no trust,” said Umar, a Muslim, from behind a pile of mangoes and pineapples.

Snooker row sparks deadly Christian-Muslim clashes in Nigeria

snookerClashes between Christian and Muslim youths in central Nigeria triggered by a game of snooker have killed four people and led to the burning of houses, churches and mosques, police said on Friday.

Residents said the dispute in Tafawa Balewa, in Bauchi state, started when a man from the Muslim Hausa ethnic group refused to pay for a snooker game on Wednesday evening.

The snooker club owners, from the mostly Christian Sayawa ethnic group, threw him out but he returned with a gang of friends and tried to set the building ablaze, witnesses said.

Christian-Muslim clashes flare in Nigeria after Christmas Eve bombings

jos (Photo: After an explosion in Nigeria’s central city of Jos on December 25, 2010 picture/Afolabi Sotunde)

Clashes broke out between armed Christian and Muslim groups near the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, a Reuters witness said, after Christmas Eve bombings in the region killed more than 30 people.

Buildings were set ablaze and people were seen running for cover as the police and military arrived on the scene in an effort to disperse crowds. This correspondent saw dozens of buildings on fire and injured people covered in blood being dragged by friends and family to hospital.

The unrest was triggered by explosions on Christmas Eve in villages near Jos, capital of Plateau state, that killed at least 32 people and left 74 critically injured. Pope Benedict condemned the attacks, which killed six people in two churches.

Nigerian air force joins bid to contain Islamist sect

nigeria 1Nigeria’s security services are beefing up efforts to contain the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in the remote north, launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters to help with patrols.

Army Chief of Staff Azubuike Ihejirika, appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan just over a month ago, said on Tuesday he had instructed the security forces to be at the ready after a string of attacks blamed on the  sect. (Photo: Bodies lay on the streets in Maiduguri after uprising by Boko Haram in Nothern Nigeria, July 31, 2009/Aminuo Abubacar)

The group, which wants sharia (Islamic law) more widely applied across Africa’s most populous nation, launched an uprising in the city of Maiduguri last year which led to days of gun battles with the security forces in which hundreds died.

Christian-Muslim identity tags in Nigerian struggle for land

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A funeral of victims in Dogo Nahawa village near Jos in central Nigeria, March 8, 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Bloody clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs in Nigeria have led to media headlines about “religious violence” that leave readers wondering just what role faith plays in this conflict. As our copy from Nigeria points out, the terms Christian, Muslim and animist are often used to identify the groups in this conflict, but they are not fighting over the divine nature of Jesus, prophethood of Mohammad or sacredness of a tree or rock. They are mostly struggling for land in the fertile central region of the country.

Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups and several different languages, but its population is divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.