Do atheists support Sharia law?

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Overall, Nigeria has an open and pluralistic society. Officially, almost 50 percent of the population is either Muslim or Christian. There are also a not inconsiderable number of animists. Nigeria sees itself as the largest mixed Christian-Muslim country in the world.
The right to freedom of religion and belief is formally protected and enshrined in the constitution. However, the country as a whole is characterized by strong interreligious tensions, which are repeatedly instrumentalized and fueled for political interests and in conflicts over resources. Thus, there is a repeated religious charge of primarily economic / social conflicts.

Freedom of religion and belief in Nigeria is primarily perceived as tolerance and equal treatment between people of Christian and Muslim faith, to which the government and civil society as a whole work hard. Minorities outside of these two groups are in a weaker position; their rights are sometimes severely disregarded: Shiites (making up around 5-10 percent of Muslims) are perceived by large parts of the population as an extremist group, while atheists are sometimes seen persecuted for religious reasons. The same is true for LGBTI people. The introduction of Sharia criminal law in northern Nigeria at the turn of the millennium further restricted freedom of religion and belief.

 

Demographic proportions of religious communities

According to estimates by the human rights organization "Minority Rights Group International", there are more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Nigeria has a population of around 200 million almost equally composed of people of Muslim and Christian faith, whereby the not inconsiderable number of animists is neglected in official surveys. The last census was carried out in 2006.

Most of the Islam in Nigeria is Sunni; only about 5-10 percent of Muslims are Shiites, who mainly live in northwestern Nigeria. The majority of Christianity is Protestant (Anglicans and Pentecostal churches), a quarter of Christians are Catholic. Evangelical churches have seen strong membership growth.

 

Legal situation

Nigeria acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Covenant) on July 29, 1993. The 1999 Constitution forbids making a certain religion the state religion (Article 10). According to Article 15, the state is obliged to promote interfaith marriages and the formation of associations that contribute to national integration. Article 38 guarantees the Freedom of religion, conscience and belief in the form of freedom to choose, practice, propagate and change religion and belief. The prerequisite is that these freedom rights are compatible with the interests of the state in defense, public security and order, morality, health and the rights of others (Article 45, Paragraph 1). Political parties that hinder membership on the basis of religious affiliation or whose names have a religious meaning are prohibited. The constitution guarantees the right to be taught one's religion. No person may be forced to attend religious instruction against their will if the instruction is not in accordance with their own belief system. Article 42 prohibits any kind of discrimination based on membership of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, gender, religion or political opinion. Article 260 et seq. Of the constitution enable Sharia courts of appeal to be set up, which only speak law for Muslims.

One applies to religious communities Registration requirement to the Corporate Affairs Commission. Without registration there is no legal status, i.e. no houses of worship can be built, bank accounts can be opened, contracts signed or tax matters can be dealt with. In some states Licenses for preachers, places of worship and religious schools required. Above all in the southern part of the country, however, there are a large number of Christian communities (often Pentecostal Christian communities) which, although not officially registered, are nonetheless active in public.

Sharia law is held in high regard by large parts of the Islamic population. Sharia was practiced before British colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2000/2001, the Sharia criminal law reintroduced. Until then, Sharia law was only used in civil law and Islamic civil status law. In the first few years after the reintroduction, Sharia courts imposed dozens of death sentences, amputation sentences and flogging sentences, most of which were not carried out after major waves of national and international protests. While Islamic civil status and family law is practiced for Muslims in the north, the controversial Sharia law, which contradicts the current constitutional law in relation to gender equality or the prohibition of inhumane punishments, is practiced.Criminal law practically hardly any application.

blasphemy is forbidden in both legal circles, secular law and Sharia law. The Nigerian Criminal Code in Section 204 punishes insulting religion with a prison sentence of up to two years. In isolated cases, this section of the penal code has been used against LGBTI people or atheists. In states with Sharia criminal law, even higher penalties can theoretically be imposed for blasphemy.

Despite constitutional equality, traditional and religious legal systems and norms limit women's rights, such as access to inheritance, education, land and other resources. Around 90 percent of home and landowners are male. In the northern states in particular, discriminatory traditional and Islamic laws ensure an unequal distribution of resources. Even if Child marriages According to the Nigerian Constitution, but without specifying a minimum age and the Childs's Right Act of 2003 (with a minimum age of 18 years) forbidden are, is the Marrying of children and adolescents by religious authorities is common practice. Out of 36 states, eleven of the northern states have not adopted the Children's Rights Act. Female Genital mutilation also remains an important issue in Nigeria.

 

Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

In the northern states, the religious freedom of non-Muslims is limited in practice in part by the fact that many Administrative regulations regardless of religious affiliation enacted and enforced. For example, Kano state invoked Sharia law in May 2007 Obligation to wear Islamic school clothes introduced for all pupils, including members of the Christian minority. There are always complaints that Applications for church and community buildings on bureaucratic difficulties bump, whereby these are sometimes made impossible or dragged off. Christians in the north also complain that they are at the Awarding state and public offices would be partially disadvantaged or excluded be.

The one through the Islamist Boko Haram terrorism The extremely sensitive Nigerian security apparatus often takes rigorous action against alleged terrorists. The Shiite minority, which a large part of society generally perceives as a dangerous extremist group, feels harassed. The Shiites experience support from Iran, including some Nigerian Muslims studying in Iran. Iran also supports educational institutions and hospitals in Nigeria.

There are repeated violent clashes between state security forces and members of the largest Shiite group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, (IMN). In December 2015, Shiites blocked the army chief's convoy during a religious procession. The military responded with extreme violence. He is accused of being responsible for the deaths of 347 Shiites, and one soldier was also killed. Since then, Shiite leader Zakzaky and his wife have been imprisoned without a trial (and despite court orders to the contrary). In the meantime, proceedings are pending against them, which is making slow progress. At the end of July 2019, a solidarity demonstration by members of the IMN led to violent clashes with the police, in which up to ten people were killed. The Nigerian government banned the IMN shortly afterwards. The states of Kaduna (from which Zakzaky comes from) and Plateau had already banned the IMN in 2016.

Religious minorities outside the two major religious groups of Christians and Muslims are in their Some rights are severely restricted. Likewise be Discriminates against groups that are commonly regarded as "un-African" or godless, such as atheists and LGBTI people. In the rejection of these groups there was and is one overwhelming consensus between Muslim religious leaders and the various Christian groups. There are isolated cases in which professing Atheists stigmatized for their "doubts about divine authority" in society and partly also by security forces based on the Blasphemy Act to be tracked. In the Muslim north of Nigeria there are also reports that alleged converts were beaten and in some cases killed by members of their respective communities.

 

Social conflicts with a religious component

In Nigeria there are different lines of conflict where Violence in the Name of Religions is perpetrated. But that's what it is primarily about conflicts over resources and political participationwho are instrumentalized religiously. The founders and leaders of Boko Haram emerged from a movement around the Muslim Brotherhood and have been terrorizing the northeastern population in the name of Islam for about ten years. Due to the lack of alternatives, young men in particular join the militias, many are also forced to become members and after a while they can no longer return to their communities. Great distrust in state structures, especially the security apparatus (there are allegations of serious human rights violations against the military in connection with the fight against Boko Haram) and a feeling of neglect by the Nigerian federal government increase the willingness to join terrorist groups.

The Terror and the atrocities of the Sunni Islamists around Boko Haram have de facto considerably restricted the practice of religion, especially in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Many Christian and Muslim places of worship were destroyed, around 1,000 churches are said to have been destroyed in 2014 alone. Children are forced into conversion or forced marriages by Boko Haram, sexually abused or used as human shields. At the end of 2019 / beginning of 2020, there were several cases of targeted murder of Christians.

Also the Shepherd and peasant conflict in the so-called "middle belt"410 the country has a religious component. In the violent clashes between nomadic Muslim shepherds (Fulani) and mainly Christian farmers, however, the main focus is on the use of land and living space. In search of pastureland, the shepherds move further and further south, where their cattle destroy the arable land of the traditionally resident farmers. Both sides are guilty of violent crimes and hate speech. At the same time, gang and criminal crime has spread without political motives in the conflict area and can hardly be distinguished from the original conflict. The conflict is extremely bloody. In view of the advancing drought and rapid population growth (expected to be 400 million in 2050), there is a risk that the conflict will heat up rather than relax in the future.

Many observers describe a clear competitive relationship between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian south, in which the north tries to defend its own traditions against western (especially colonial) influences. But this alone would not necessarily lead to violent clashes - these are causally related to political marginalization and the lack of economic prospects.

Together with the attempted reintroduction of Sharia criminal law, almost all northern states established the so-called Hisba, a Sharia police force to ensure compliance with Sharia law. Here, too, there were numerous disputes and restrictions on freedom of religion and belief, especially in the first few years of the new millennium, when Hisba carried out vigilante justice or harassed Christians. In the meantime, clashes rarely occur and Hisba mainly performs indisputable tasks, such as informal dispute settlement, family counseling or teaching Islamic worldview.

The Islamic institutions, Sharia courts, Hisba and welfare institutions are held in high regard by the Muslim population, who often perceive the state structures as immoral and corrupt. The current situation - Sharia criminal law exists theoretically, but in fact it is only applied very selectively, Hisba continues to exist, but is primarily devoted to undisputed tasks - represents a compromise that has probably contributed to the fact that, contrary to fears, it has not yet become a large-scale one Conflict has arisen between people of Muslim and Christian faith.

 

Interreligious cooperation structures

In order to prevent religiously charged tensions, which threaten to tear the country apart again and again, the Nigerian government has to ensure that the two main religions are treated equally: roughly proportionate occupation of political posts at federal level, prayers of both faiths before important events, even building of mosques and Churches, equal subsidies for state-supported religious pilgrimages (to Mecca or Israel). The choice of Abuja as the capital of Nigeria (since 1991), located in the center of the country, was intended to underline the neutrality between ethnic groups and religions. Its landmarks are therefore a golden mosque and a church with a golden roof.

Both the state and some non-governmental organizations have Established institutions dedicated to interreligious dialogue and conflict resolution. In 1999 the Interreligious council of Nigeria ("Nigerian Inter-Religious-Council / NIRC") founded, which has equal representation, meets twice a year and is supposed to advise the government on religious matters. Similar facilities have also been introduced in several states. In recent years the influence of this body has decreased and meetings have not taken place any more. On March 22, 2018, the NIREC met again for the first time since 2013. NIREC is part of the worldwide organization "Religions for Peace", whose world assembly took place in 2019 in Lindau on Lake Constance and which was funded by the Federal Foreign Office.

Next to it wear a Variety of interfaith platforms and dialogues (partly financed from abroad), contributes to a constant exchange between the two major religions. Many religious representatives are very aware of their responsibility in society and take a prudent approach to dealing with other religious communities.



410 A region in central Nigeria with numerous ethnic, religious and linguistically different population groups, in which violent clashes have occurred again and again in recent years.