Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nigeria - Borno debates law 'to stop Islamic extremism'


Politicians in Borno State in north-eastern Nigeria are debating a bill aimed at curbing religious extremism.

The Islamic Preaching Bill would outlaw preaching likely to cause a breach of the peace as well as requiring most clerics to obtain a preaching licence.

The legislation was proposed after an Islamic sect was blamed for sectarian violence in northern Nigeria last year in which hundreds of people died.

Sharia code runs alongside secular law in 12 of Nigeria's 36 states.

Under the new bill, there would be stiff penalties for clerics found guilty of insulting or inciting contempt of any religious belief which causes a breach of the peace, says the BBC's Bilkisu Babangida in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

The penalties include at least 10 years imprisonment and a fine.

Nigeria's 'Taliban'

Our correspondent says recommendations for preaching licences would be given by a new Islamic Religious Preaching Board consisting of clerics, public administrators and security personnel.

Imams of Friday mosque congregations and those who have led congregational prayers at religious festivals would be exempt from having to obtain a licence.

The bill is an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the violence which spread across Nigeria's northern states in July 2009 when supporters of an Islamic sect called Boko Haram - known locally as the "Taliban" - attacked police and government offices.

The group wanted to overthrow the Nigerian state, accusing it of being corrupted by Western ideas, ban Western-style education and impose an extreme interpretation of Islamic law.

Boko Haram means "Western education is a sin".

The sect's leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed while in police custody after the violence.

Before he died he told the BBC: "There are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam.

"Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism."

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