Tag Archive | "Sharia law"

March 14 attack in Nigeria

Critical Analysis: Religiously Motivated Violence Escalates in Nigeria

On Monday, April 7, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will welcome Nigerian human rights attorney Hauwa Ibrahim. Ibrahim has spent her career protecting woman from the harsh penalties meted out under Shariah law in Nigeria’s northern states such as death by stoning and amputations for stealing. Another area of grave concern in Nigeria is the lack of religious freedom, primarily due to attacks by the Boko Haram, a fundamentalist terrorist group that seeks to overthrow the secular Nigerian government and replace it with a theocracy based on Islamic law.

Nigeria is the largest country in Africa with a population of over 177 million people. The country is divided approximately equally between Muslims and Christians. Islam is the dominant religion in the northern states, including the twelve northern states that have adopted Sharia law, while Christianity is most prevalent in the southern states. Interreligious conflicts occur frequently along Nigeria’s central states, or the “Middle Belt” where Christians and Muslims live in approximately equal numbers.

March 14 attack in Nigeria

The March 14 attacks killed approximately 150 people and destroyed 240 homes (World Watch Monitor)

On Friday, March 14, the tragic trend of sectarian violence continued in three villages in the central northern state of Kaduna. At about 11 pm, Muslim Fulani herdsmen raided the mainly Christian villages with guns and machetes. The Fulani are one of Nigeria’s 250 ethnic groups, are predominately Muslim, and have a history of land grievances against Nigerian Christians. The herdsmen descended on the villages and burned 240 houses and three churches to the ground. More than 150 people were killed and the victims were buried in mass graves.

One survivor, Emmanuel Tonak, recounted the attack: “We were fast asleep when we heard gun shots and chanting of ‘Allahu akbar’ [God is great]. Suddenly we came out and saw them advancing and some houses in flames. They came around 11 pm. I escaped into the forest, when they came I started hearing cries and gun shots.” Because the villagers’ homes were destroyed, many other survivors slept in the local primary school and other areas nearby. Sadly, the attack in Kaduna is unlikely to be the last. Since 1999, religiously motivated violence has killed more than 14,000 Nigerians, both Christian and Muslim, displaced thousands, and destroyed churches, mosques, businesses, and private homes.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan commission that monitors global religious liberty and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress, has recommended that Nigeria be labeled a “Country of Particular Concern” for the past four years for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. As USCIRF explains, the United States can play a role in mitigating the sectarian violence in Nigeria including by prioritizing religious freedom in U.S.-Nigerian bilateral relations (which is significant as Nigeria is the eigth largest U.S. aid recipient) and officially designating Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern under Section 402(b)(1) of the International Religious Freedom Act.

 

Bryan Neihart is a third year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Survey Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 

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Armed Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border on May 21st. (Magharebia)

Critical Analysis: French President Visits Mali as French Troops Battle Islamist Militants

Armed Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border on May 21st. (Magharebia)

Armed Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border on May 21st. (Magharebia)

On February 2nd, French President Francois Hollande visited Mali, where French forces have been battling Islamist militants.  “We are serving a cause defined within the United Nations’ framework … to bring the entire Malian territory under the legitimate authority of the Malian president and then the leaders who will be elected by the Malians,” stated Hollande.  Mali, a former colony of France, requested French assistance as Islamist militants seized Konna on January 10.  After a military coup, Islamic extremists took over much of Northern Mali last year.  With France’s assistance, the key cities of Konna, Timbuktu, and Gao are now back under Malian control. 

Mali achieved independence from France in 1960, and after years of being ruled by military dictators, the country held democratic elections in 1992.  In 2012, however, Malian soldiers led a coup and overthrew the democratically elected leader, resulting in a power vacuum that allowed militant Islamist groups to seize control of northern Mali.  The Islamists had joined forces with the Tuaregs, a historically oppressed nomadic group from Northern Mali.  In 2012, as the Islamists pushed south, France responded to the pleas for assistance from the Malian Government, and has since reclaimed many seized cities.

The Islamists established strict Sharia law as they seized cities from the North and began pushing their way South, threatening Mali’s capital city, Bamako. Human rights groups claim that floggings, rapes, killings, and other torture are rampant in these areas.  Mali Minister of Justice Malick Coulibaly referred the situation to the International Criminal Court, and “the ICC Prosecutor has responded to the referral by announcing that her office will conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether an investigation should be opened.”

The militant Islamists in Northern Mali are allegedly the same group responsible for the recent hostage crisis in Algeria, which resulted in the deaths of twenty-three hostages and at least one American.  Mokhtar Belmokhtar , a militant who has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the crisis.  The Islamist group operating in Northern Mali, Ansar Dine, is backed by AQIM, and some believe that the hostage crisis in Algeria was fueled by France’s intervention in Mali.

Although the United States is increasing its involvement in Mali, U.S. policy prohibits direct financial assistance to the Malian Government because the current Government is in place as a result of a military coup.  However, the U.S. Air Force “has flown at least seven C-17 cargo missions into Mali, carrying 200 passengers, mainly French troops, and 168 tons of equipment,” according to Pentagon spokesman Major Robert Firman.  The United States’ increased assistance is considered legal because France notified the United Nations Security Council “that its mission in Mali is being offered at the request of the African country’s government, which is fighting ‘terrorist elements,’” claims Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory.

Lisa Browning is a 2LE at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the DJILP. 

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