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Vol 43 No 14

Published 12th July 2002


Beware false profits

Booming Christian fundamentalist sects make good business but not good politics

Religion is moving fast up the political agenda, as elections loom next year. From antagonistic theological positions, Christian and Muslim fundamentalists explain Nigeria's growing poverty, corruption and crime; as disillusion with mainstream politicians grows, the opposing fundamentalisms grow stronger and the room for dialogue narrows. Islamists demand 'Allah's law not man's law'. They reject a national government headed by a Christian, especially a proselytising Christian like President Olusegun Obasanjo, who delayed the announcement of his presidential ambitions for 2003 while waiting for a message from God. Fundamentalist Christians are just as exclusivist: leaders of the burgeoning Pentecostal movement argue that supporters of the Sharia (Islamic law) criminal code should support it in a separate state. Since civilian rule was restored in 1999, thousands of people have been killed in fighting sparked by the imposition of Sharia in northern states such as Kaduna and Kano. The issue of Sharia has split the North between the Muslim majority, many of whom backed it to fight rising crime, and the Christian minority for whom it represents an attack on civil rights.

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