Nigeria: Islamic Preaching Bill may breach peace?

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Nigeria has sought to tackle religious violence by implementing a bill that prevents extremists from preaching, and demands clerics to obtain a license to sermonize.

The Preaching Bill is currently under debate in the North-eastern part of Nigeria, and if passed violators would face at least 10 years imprisonment and a fine.

The Islamic Preaching 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.

Analysts have said Boko Haram is the reason this Bill is being considered. The extreme group wanted to oust the Nigerian state, accusing it of being corrupted by Western ideas, ban Western-style education, which according to its leader Mohammed Yusuf “is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam”.

Mohammed Yusuf called for the enforcement of an extreme version of the Islamic Sharia law and rejected “the theory of Darwinism” before he was killed while in police custody. The Boko Haram violence left hundreds of people dead.

Sharia code runs alongside secular law in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states, but 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, reports have stated.

According to the bill, recommendations for preaching licenses would be given by a new Islamic Religious Preaching Board consisting of clerics, public administrators and security personnel.

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

Some politicians believe that the Bill which would outlaw radical preaching is likely to cause a breach of the peace, despite the legislation having been proposed in the aftermath of the bloody Boko Haram instigated sectarian violence.

Christians and Muslim have fought each other in deadly riots in 2001, 2008 and 2010 in the northern city of Juos in Nigheria, but observers say the underlying causes are economic and political.

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