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Judicial CP - May 2004

Corpun file 13354, 8 May 2004

Nigerian state considers punishment for drinking

Bill calls for Muslims to be whipped, Christians to be fined

KANO, Nigeria (AP) -- Lawmakers in a mostly Islamic Nigerian state have approved a law calling for Muslims to be whipped and Christians to be jailed if they are caught drinking alcohol, officials said Saturday.

With tensions between Christians and Muslims running high in the wake of deadly clashes last week, some expressed fear that attempts to enforce Islamic legal punishments could fuel further conflict.

The bill, which was passed Thursday, must be signed by the governor of Kano state before becoming law.

Lawmakers called for Muslims to be whipped with "eighty strokes of the cane" if caught drinking alcohol, the speaker of Kano's legislature, Saidu Balarabe Gani, said in broadcasts on local radio stations.

The penalty for Christians would be a $380 fine, a one-year jail term or both, Gani said.

Groups of men -- both Muslim and Christian -- huddled around radios on the streets of Kano, the state's main city, and debated the proposed antidrinking law.

"This is an attempt to cause bloodshed," shouted Adams Yakubu, who said he was Christian. If authorities try to enforce the alcohol ban on Christians and animists, "only God knows what will follow," he warned.

Most of Kano's 8 million people are Muslim. Kano state officials could not be reached for comment.

Several other northern states have officially banned alcohol and instituted punishments for Muslims, but they are rarely enforced. Christian civilians are permitted to drink in establishments on federal military and police installations.

In the five years since the end of military rule in Nigeria, the implementation of Islamic Shariah laws in northern Nigeria -- including stonings and amputations -- has sparked repeated religious clashes that have killed thousands.

Muslim clerics earlier expressed anger over what a Red Cross official said were the killings of 500 to 600 people in attacks last Sunday and Tuesday by Christian militants on the Muslim town of Yelwa in the majority-Christian central state of Plateau.

Christian church leaders have distanced themselves from the killings, blaming them on rogue criminal elements.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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