Thursday 29 April 2010

Nigeria: Senator's defiance makes Sharia Law untenable

Ambiguity of the situation

The debate and recriminations about the marriage of a Nigerian Senator to a presumed 13-year old Egyptian girl as a fourth wife has been going apace with great difficulty in bringing the discussion to some objective and clear-headed assessments of the facts, the laws, the sentiments and the consequences.

Reviewing the matter, I had decided that under civil law, the Nigerian Constitution in its explicit guidelines appeared strict but ambiguous, to a legal miscreant it had enough loopholes and to a wily defendant it was provable that no laws had been broken.

Notwithstanding the moral outrage, there was enough mileage of interpretation between the provisions of the Age of Consent (13 in Nigeria), the Marriage Act, the Child’s Rights Act and the Criminal Code – if anything, this issue would hopefully lead to the harmonisation of laws to grant adequate protections to children being co-opted under duress into adulthood without acknowledgement of their individual rights, once we have moved on from the witch-hunt and persecution.

The refuge of Islam

Now, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima who is 49 has spoken up [1] on this matter and this calls for some serious contemplation before our society falls into a chaotic morass of lawlessness predicated on each man’s conscience and personal justification for acts that derive validation from beliefs we might find ourselves unable to question let alone defy.

Speaking from Egypt by phone to the BBC Hausa Service – They seem to have the scoop on anything that pertain to Nigerian leaders of Northern origin, the same service broadcast the allegedly hoax interview with President Umaru Yar’Adua in January when it was believe he had no capacity to do so.

The Senator believes he broke no laws but rather than seek refuge in civil laws he has said he would not respect any law that contradicted his religious beliefs – I suppose that is fair enough on face value but one should examine in detail what he had to say which I take liberty to post verbatim from the BBC News site.

Copying Prophet Mohammad

I don't care about the issue of age since I have not violated any rule as far as Islam is concerned, history tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore I have not contravened any law. Even if she is 13, as it is being falsely peddled around. If I state the age, they will still use it to smear Islam.

As a Muslim, as I always say, I consider God's law and that of his prophet above any other law, I will not respect any law that contradicts that and whoever wants to sanction me for that is free to do that.

This raises a number of questions and issues that lie at the matter of separation of State and Religion – in this case, the religious force is being dictated by the weight of Sharia Law.

An absence of accountability

At first, the Senator asserts that the age of the girl he married is not 13 but does not offer to tell the real age by citing privacy even though there is now a public interest and moral standing to be satisfied to clear up this issue if the girl is indeed above 13 and of sensibly marriageable age.

The preponderance of Islam is brought to bear on a civil issue for which we cannot find a recognised authority to adjudicate which by default almost makes this man unaccountable to anyone but God’s law and the prophet. One then wonders if Nigeria is a democracy, a theocracy or a non-descript quagmire of conflicts between laws derived from a seeming Judeo-Christian perspectives with its origins in British Law and indigenised Sharia Law.

With defiance he goes on to contend that even if the child is 13, he is answerable to no one and plugs equality with Prophet Mohammad by taking the example of the Prophet having married a young girl too.

Bringing Islam into disrepute

But the truth can be found in this statement, “If I state the age, they will still use it to smear Islam.” In other words, despite the precedents and force of Islamic law he can proffer, this singular act of marrying the young girl is at risk of bringing Islam into disrepute and dragging the holy names of the prophets and deities down with it.

For that alone, if there be any authorities within Islam with the power to pronounce judgement or the dreaded Fatwa on this matter, this is the time to save the face of Islam, Sharia and all that makes it a belief system from the embarrassment of a man whose main objective is to satisfy his propensity for young girls rather than be an example of pious Islamic living.

Should Islam suffer a battering because one man had to satisfy his lust for young flesh or shall other Islamic leaders turn a blind eye to this just as they are resisting the adoption of the Child’s Rights Act in Northern Nigeria because they also have a secret craving for the same?

Presaging the repeal of Sharia

It would be a shame if the Senator having extricated himself from the grasp of civil law there is no sanction based on commonsense and principle within the religion he strongly adheres to apart from one outside the realms of human capability and pronouncement.

If that be the case, then Islamic Law cannot and should be allowed to have precedence over civil laws if practitioners are not answerable to some humanly constituted legal authority and sanction for acts that would be termed morally reprehensible when examined under the plain like of sound reasoning without the taint of belief, creed, dogma or tenet.

For this alone, the repeal of Sharia law should gather pace immediately.


[1] BBC News - Nigerian senator Sani denies marrying girl of 13

Relevant material Nigeria: Senator's teenage marriage is lawful though reprehensible

Nigerian Criminal Code Act Part III-IV The Relevant part is Chapter 19

Age of consent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Age_of_Consent.png (PNG Image, 1393x628 pixels)

Age of consent

Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 - Marriage Act

Child's Rights Act of 2003

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