Nigeria: Sharia law takes precedence over freedom of speech

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Issues of civility, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press is splitting the Nigerian public as Nigerian Islamic court bans the debate on the implementation of Sharia Law on social utility sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Nigerian Muslims say debating the use of amputation as means of punishment for petty crimes mock the Sharia system.

Civil Rights Congress, a human rights group in Nigeria reportedly started a Twitter feed, a blog and a Facebook profile so Nigerians could air their opinions on Sharia law as a whole. The case study for debate was Malam Buba Bello Jangebe who in 2000 became the first Nigeria to have an amputation carried out under Islamic law after he was found guilty of stealing a cow.

A Sharia Court judge in Kaduna, northern Nigeria has ordered social networking sites – Facebook and Twitter – to stop discussions on the amputation of Buba Bello Jangebe until the determination of the suit instituted by the Association of Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria.

With social change and evolution coming from civil debates, thoughtful analysis and critical criticism, the Association of Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria, a northern Nigeria-based pro-Sharia group, would not tamper with their religious laws in favour of freedom of speech or freedom of the press- the fundamental rights of humans, and society in a backdrop of a market place of ideas. The group insists to be left unquestioned about their approach of remitting justice.

ThisDay a local newspaper quoted the Sharia judge’s as saying: “An order is hereby given restraining the respondents either by themselves or their agents from opening a chat forum on Facebook, Twitter, or any blog for the purpose of the debate on the amputation of Malam Buba Bello Jangebe.”

While the rest of the developing world are plotting economic, social, and technological reforms to advance the quality of life for their citizens the Association of Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria are demanding an undebatable right to chop off body parts as punishment for social and matrimonial misdemeanors.

Although this practice is contrary to the Nigerian constitution, and the United Nations human rights laws, Sharia judges can order amputations of limbs for minor crimes including domestic issues such as marriage and divorce in some states.

The Sharia system runs alongside the secular state system in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states, but Civil Rights Congress has vowed to appeal against the ruling that restrains the freedom of interaction and activities of people online.

“We opened the blog on Facebook and Twitter chats 10 days ago to serve as a platform for which Nigerians could air their opinions on Sharia law as a whole and the justification or otherwise of the amputation of the hand of Malam Buba Bello Jangebe,” President of the CRC, Shehu Sani Sani was quoted as saying.

In 2008, a Shraia court banned a satirical play “Phantom Crescent” after it ruled that the content violates Sharia law.

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