Cablegate: Nigeria: Post Response to Irf Executive Summary

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Mission strongly disagrees with some of the statements
made in the draft IRF Executive Summary on Nigeria emailed to
Post. In the interest of accuracy, we suggest replacing the
text on pages 12 and 13 with the following:

"While the violence of early 2000 was not repeated during the
reporting period, relations between Christians and Muslims
remained uneasy and even tense in some parts of Nigeria.
While most of the conflict during the reporting period was
inter-ethnic rather than inter-religious in origin, the
return of criminal Shari'a law exacerbated tensions in some
areas. Nine Northern states followed Zamfara State's lead
and re-introduced most elements of criminal Shari'a. Shari'a
law by definition only applies to Muslims, but some Northern
Christians are concerned that their religious freedoms may be
infringed by this return to Islamic criminal law. In some
states Shari'a criminal jurisdiction over Muslims is
mandatory, while in others Muslims may elect to have their
cases tried in common-law courts. This represents a change
from past practice. Previously, Shari'a courts only heard
Muslims' cases involving family and civil law matters.
During the reporting period, there were episodic minor
conflicts between Christians and Muslims in several States
considering the re-introduction of criminal Shari'a.

2. COMMENT: It is materially inaccurate to assert that
there "was a deterioration of respect for religious freedom
during the period covered by this report." Such a sentence
detracts from the important information contained in the
report. Many Nigerians who could benefit from reading and
absorbing that information will be so put off by the first
sentence that they might dismiss the entire report. That
would be unfortunate. The Mission understands that many
Christians fear and resent the implementation of criminal
Shari'a law, just as many Muslims resent the fact that
British authorities significantly diluted it during the
colonial period. For them, the return of criminal Shari'a
law restores their lost religious freedom. One person's
freedom can be another person's shackles in a society that
takes a zero-sum approach to politics. We would further the
cause of religious freedom far more effectively by
acknowledging that these issues are difficult in any
multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, most particularly in
one grappling with political transition. Appearing to take
sides with Nigeria's Christians creates a significant risk of
harder lines on both sides.

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