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Moderate Muslim's wisdom for Nigerian extremists


In recent weeks people around the world have reacted with horror to the kidnapping of teenage girls from their boarding school, and the killings perpetrated by the extremist Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria.

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 in the northern Islamic states of Nigeria. Its name in the local Hausa language means 'Western education is forbidden'. This summarises the hard-line aims of the group to oust Western influence and establish an Islamic state ruled by a narrow interpretation of Shariah or Islamic law.

But this is not the mainstream view of Nigerian Muslims, and most Nigerians of all religious backgrounds have also reacted with horror to the atrocities committed by Boko Haram.

The man featured in this interview exemplifies the moderate Muslim approach in Nigeria, and he explains what is wrong with a narrow extremist interpretation of Shariah, and how it might be countered.

Dr Luqman Zakariyah is Nigerian by birth, but now lectures in Islamic law at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. He got his first degree in Shariah in Saudi Arabia, gained his PhD in the UK, and prior to teaching in Malaysia was a fellow at the Harvard Law School in the USA. So he is eminently qualified to speak on this topic.

This interview was recorded for Eureka Street TV at the end of 2013 before Boko Haram gained global notoriety. It was conducted after Zakariyah delivered a public lecture in Sydney sponsored by the Broken Bay Institute. The lecture was entitled 'Shariah and Human Justice'.

He said punishment and retaliation are just a small part of Shariah, and should be tempered by a sense of compassion, forgiveness and fairness; that context and a knowledge of local circumstances and customs should be taken into account in any legal judgements; the dangers of ignorance; and the importance of Islamic legal practitioners having a broad experience of life and a thorough education in Shariah.


Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity, and the producer of Eureka Street TV.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Eureka Street TV, Sharia, Islam, Luqman Zakariyah



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Existing comments

As a teacher / lecturer in France and Oceania I found my Muslem students at secondary and college level always respectful to me their christian teacher. One class was pleased when I took several to a Maronite Mass, and others to an Anglican High Church Mass. A Aghan student said, "this is the first time I have been in a house of God". []

Gauvain Smith | 14 May 2014  

Any halfway decent expert on Sharia (Islamic Law) from Al Azhar University in Cairo down will tell you Boko Haram, in discouraging education, especially of women, are going against their own religion. Ditto the Taliban. The problems which caused the rise of both movements are the corruption and incompetence of the governments of Nigeria; Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact all radical Muslim movements such as Al Quaida have similar origins. What the vast majority in the Muslim World want is respect and a better life. The supposed full implementation of Sharia, as understood by these extremist movements, savagely interpreted, will not give them that. Sadly, the most urgent battle with Boko Haram may need to be with guns rather than ideas. The ideological battle may have to be simultaneous but carried on longer term. Nigeria may need to tap into the wealth of its Sufi and Maliki jurisprudence heritage in the north to ultimately negate Boko Haram. It is a daunting task.

Edward Fido | 14 May 2014