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Cablegate: Religious Conflict in Jigawa State

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
SUBJECT: Religious Conflict in Jigawa State


1. Summary: After a blasphemous remark by a Christian
student in the preceding month, local youths in Jigawa
State started a protest that led to the burning of
several religious structures. Only the quick
involvement of local leaders prevented the situation
from getting completely out of control. End Summary.

2. In Kazaure Local Government Area in Jigawa State
sometime in early October, a female Christian student
allegedly insulted the prophet Mohammed during an
argument with classmates. Tensions slowly simmered
over the following month as some Muslims publicly
called for punishment of the student. School officials
and the local Emir attempted to maintain peace in the
area, making public comments that mob rule would not be

3. On November 18, in the early evening, a group (we
still do not know how large) of youths went en masse to
the school to demand they be allowed to punish the
student themselves. As the protesters arrived at the
school, the Emir and anti-riot police came to prevent
any kind of mob justice. Unfortunately, one of the
policemen discharged his weapon. No one was injured by
the shot, but the crowd immediately dispersed and fled
the school.

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4. Some of the youths involved in the protest attempted
to keep the protest going by setting fire to the
neighborhood. Several houses, and possibly as many as
13 structures used as churches, were burned. The
religious buildings were mainly additions to houses
that could accommodate up to 20 persons for small
church services. Police quickly restored order and the
fire was prevented from spreading to other Christian
and Muslim areas of the town.

5. By the following morning police had restored calm
and the state government stepped in to assist by
assigning more police to the area. The local police
chief held a formal press conference to address the
issue, and there has been no recurrence of any
disruption of the peace in Kazaure since.

6. COMMENT: This cycle of minor incident leading to
communal conflict is typical of what is often termed
ethno-religious violence in Nigeria. Economic
depression, unemployment and dissatisfaction with the
government are issues that many Nigerians cannot
address directly, and this lack of control over one's
life is a wellspring of pent-up rage that can come
bubbling to the surface over the smallest slight. Many
Nigerians who have nothing else in their life turn to
religion for comfort and guidance, and when they
perceive their beliefs to be threatened they can
quickly lash out as a method for trying to have control
over one small aspect of their daily lives. In this
instance, at least, local leaders, both religious and
secular, tried to maintain the peace from the very
beginning. Their involvement is what kept the
situation from getting further out of hand.


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