- The reintroduction of Muslim Shari'a laws in wide parts of Northern Nigeria after the return of democracy in 1999 has created a new framework for the coexistence between Christians and Muslims in the country, in particular for women. An international group of researchers are now studying the consequences.
The institute of religious sciences at the German University of Bayreuth recently organised an international scientific conference surrounding the issue of "Islamic law and identity creation among Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria." Young scientists of the Nigerian University of Jos had also been invited to participate.
The conference was organised as part of on ongoing scientific programme at the Bayreuth University, which is focusing on the background for and the consequences of the reintroduction of several aspects of the Shari'a in most of the federal states in the north of Nigeria, where Islam is the dominant but far from the only religion.
After a transition from a long-lasting military dictatorship to democratic structures in 1999, also the federal states of Nigeria saw their autonomy rights amplified. In the following years, several of the northern governors "decided to enlarge the influence area of Islamic law in their dominions," the conference had found.
According to observations by the Bayreuth institute, this development principally had been "noted in the West through spectacular processes against women, which have been sentenced to death by stoning by Islamic tribunal after having had sex outside of marriage."
Nonetheless, "so far" none of these spectacular cases had led to an execution of the sentences given according to Shari'a law, the scientist team reminded. These well-known cases against women had been thoroughly studied by participants of the conference.
Apart from these "spectacular law cases", the conference had dedicated profound studies to the ongoing developments regarding law versus politics, the coexistence between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority and the position of women in society in the affected Northern Nigerian states.
For the Bayreuth University, placed in the Catholic heartlands of Southern Germany, an important aspect of promoting these studies had been to support Nigerian scientific efforts on the same field. The Germans were cautious to act "according to the change from researching Africa onto researching with Africa."
- Although the project coordination is seated at the institute for religious sciences at the University of Bayreuth, the main research work is carried out by Nigerian scientists, the institute holds.
A new generation of Nigerian scientists from the University of Jos had been "given the opportunity to present the first results of their research to international experts" at the conference. Further, the institute holds, the follow-up session of the conference was to be held in Nigeria in December this year.
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