Nigerian rights group loses appeal in Facebook case


A Nigerian civil rights group yesterday lost its appeal against the shut down of its chat forums on Facebook and Twitter that criticise the practice of Islamic law in northern states.

An Islamic appeals court upheld last week’s ruling for the Association of the Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria, which sought to censor debate on the social networking sites over an amputation case that occurred 10 years ago.
“The sharia (Islamic) court judge just finished judgment and upheld the ban of Facebook and Twitter,” said Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress.

The rights group began the debate on Facebook and Twitter two weeks ago, asking members for their opinions over the amputation of a peasant farmer’s hand in March 2000 after he was convicted by an Islamic court for stealing a cow.

Sani said he started the discussion to highlight what he believes is the unfair practice of sharia law by Nigeria’s northern states. The chat forums were shut down last week following the lower court’s ruling.

Africa’s most populous nation is roughly equally divided between a mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south.

More than 200 ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side but there have been regular outbreaks of violence, particularly in the “Middle Belt” separating the north and south, where sectarian clashes have killed hundreds this year.

Islamic jurisprudence in Nigeria is based on the moderate Maliki school of Sunni Islam.

The enforcement of sharia law in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states in 2000, alienated sizeable Christian minorities in the north and sparked clashes which killed thousands.