Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ATYAP (KATAF) PEOPLE THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE OF KADUNA


The Atyap (Kataf) people  are Tyap-speaking people belonging to the larger Katab ethnolinguistic group occupying part of Zango Kataf  Local Government Area of Kaduna State. They are one of the nationalities of Southern Kaduna in the former Zaria  Province. The Atyap people whose see themselves historically as the original people of Kaduna land and are part of Nok culture, before the arrival of the Hausa people derive their name from their language,Tyap, a descriptive name meaning “the people who speak  Tyap”.
Atyap man

The Atyap  people are referred to as "Katab" or "Kataf" by their neighbouring Hausa people due to the large amount of camwood (Katambari in Hausa and Gbandaad in Tyap) which the Atyap used as an important item of trade. Thus, the name Katab for the Atyap people, from Katambari, for their prominent role in this camwood trade.
The Atyap have 4 clans, namely! Agbaat, Aminyam, Aku and Shokwa. Each of these clans has sub-clans. The Agba’ad has 3 sub-clans: Akpaisa, Akwak and Nje. Aminyam has 2 sub-clans: Aswon and Fakan. Aku and Shokwa have no known sub-clans. There are no distinct settlements for specific clans or sub-clans today because clans are highly mixed today because of the mass movement of people occasioned by need for land, 19th century raids and British colonial policies aimed at effective exploitation of the Atyap.
Wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Nache Shekarri
(seated L-R) Dr. Martin Shinkut, HRH Agwatyap (King of Atyap people), Dr. Harrison Y. Bungon, bride & groom, Senator Isaiah Balat and some of the Southern Kaduna family at the wedding

The Atyap, unlike the Hausa people who are Muslims, are mostly Christians and Traditional African religious practitioners. As a result of the Hausa`s unwillingness to accept the aboriginal status of Atyap people as well as the dichotomy  in religious beliefs with them, there is always a constant violent religious and ethnic conflicts between them. In most cases, the Hausa`s have blamed the religious practices of the Atyap people, especially the selling of alcohol, pigs and other abominable things in Hausa communities in Kaduna (former Zaria province). Most of these conflicts has come as a result of siting of marketplaces in Kaduna which then takes religious and ethnic dimensions as it happened in 1992 and 1996.
Wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Nache Shekarri
Atyap man, Air Vice Marshall Ishaya Shekari (rtd) 


 Language
 The Atyap people speak the Tyap language which is one of the West Plateau languages belonging to the larger Niger-Congo language family.

The West Plateau language group comprises dialects of the same language which is understood by each other’s language or dialects. The group includes: the Atyap – tyap; the Agworok – Gworok; the Asholio – Sholio and the Atakad – Takad. They are referred to in Hausa as Kataf; Kagoro; Moroa and Attakar respectively.

                            Atyap women from Zangon Kataf, crying after Hausa attacks on Christianes
History
The Atyap history is a controversial subject and has always been a source of conflict between them and Hausa people. There are no written records, but there is evidence that the Atyap were early settlers in the Zangon-Kataf region, as were the Hausa. Both groups were in the area since at least the 1750s, possibly much longer, and both groups claim to have been the first settlers.
The Hausa people claim that Atyap people came from the northern centres like Kallah and Karge in Kauru area as well as Sokoto and Zaria. they claim  they migrated together with Atyap and a set of people called Chagwu. But "the Kataf people met us here. The real name of Zango-Kataf was Zango-Katabiri. They came, gradually surrounded us, and eventually changed the name.” The movement from these the northern Hausa areas is said to have been necessitated by slave raids and the burden of taxation imposed on them by the Hausa kings in the 19th Century.
 This theory is sharply debunked by Atyap people who call this "Hausa revisionist history" that continue to irritate Atyap people and “As long as the Hausa continue to deny the fact that they are settlers, trouble will not cease in this part of the state.” They insist that Atyap people are not culturally related to the Hausa of the northern area and the northern tradition is unknown to a majority of Atyap elders who are the supposed custodians of oral information.
Dr. Martin Shinkut, HRH Agwatyap (King of Atyap people), Dr. Harrison Y. Bungon,

A School of thought from Atyap oral history states that the Atyap were once living in the “East” from where they later moved to settle in Katsina and to their present area where they had to fight to drive away the Tsam and Attachirak before they occupied the area. The Atyap c maintained that they were already settling on the Kaduna land when the Hausa came to live on the land as settlers. Recounting their oral tradition dating back to 1767, Atyap people averr that "one Mele, an itinerant Hausa trader from Niger, was given a portion of land in the heart of the town to settle after many years of trade relations with them. Soon, Mele was joined by his kinsmen. Hence, the name Zango-Kataf (which means transit camp in Kataf).
From this two historical origins of who is an aborigine in Kaduna, the Atyap oral history is the most credible one as both archeological  and linguistic evidence prove. In fact, available archeological evidence shows that the land which Atyap claim to have first settle has been occupied by man and about 3,000 years back and not in the 19th century as the Hausa people claim. What also make the version of the Atyap oral tradition which claims that the Atyap migrated from the east in the high Jos Plateau and Bauchi area more convincing is that, it is not only the Atyap that lay claim to this area as their centre of origin. The Asholio, Attakad, Bajju’u and Agorok to whom the Atyap are related also claim this area as their centre of origin.
Linguistically, the close relationship in language and culture between the Atyap and their immediate neighbours and with those of the high Jos Plateau indicates that they must have had a common origin and must have come from the same geographical area. It is as a result of the intimate linguistic and cultural relationship between the Atyap and the Rukuba, Irigwe, Afizare and Berom of the Jos Plateau, and the Baju’u, Ham, Agorok, Angan (Kamantan) Kaninkon, Fantswam, Attakad, Attachirak, Gwong, Tsam, Bakulu, Ninzam and Adara, that all are classified as members of the “Katab group of people” by C.K. Meek. Language constitutes an important ingredient of a people culture and therefore not subject to choice that all these people speak dialects of a single language, Tyap, has immense implications for their origin. It means that all these groups have the same parent language which we may refer to as Tyap following the example of Greenberg who classified them as the “Katab” group. The origin of the Atyap cannot therefore, be studied in isolation from those of their neigbhours to whom they are related. This goes on to show that if the Atyap migrated at all, it could not have been far away from the area which they now occupy. This is corroborated by the version which asserts that the Atyap are aborigine to their present area and therefore are not immigrants. 
Atyap native and Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Andrew Yakubu, 

Atyap Nationalism
In dealing with the Atyap culture is revealed: a nationality with a democratic and efficient administrative structure with a well-defined policy-making body; a justice system with a policing outfit and a means for maintaining law and order as well as an organised fighting force for territorial defence.  This description applies to all the other groups within the area, the reason they are referred to as nationalities.
The Fulani Conqueror Dan Fadio  with his Jihad established an emirate system in the 19th century and spread it to Central Nigeria. The Islamists controlled the these conquered states including the Atyap who were African Traditional religious practitioners. The Islamist Hausa cum Fulani people forced their religion and political administration on them.
When the British conquered the Northern Nigeria in 1903, the British adopted the policy of Indirect Rule to administer the vast Northern Region through the Native Authority System. In effect, the British adopted the Emirate structure of administration through rulers in the Emir-District Head – Village Head chain. The Northern Region was carved into twelve (12) provinces including Zaria Province.  Nationalities within these provinces, who had hitherto been independent, suddenly found themselves carved into Emirates and became subjects within the Emirates.  This is how the nationalities in Southern Zaria lost their independent status.  The British Indirect rule gave the emir of Zaria increased powers over the Atyab through the village heads that he appointed, and causing increasing resentment.
Zaria Province was made up of two groups of districts:  Northern Districts and Southern Districts of Zaria Province thereafter simply referred to as Southern Zaria into which the nationalities fell. The British served to enforce this arrangement.  However, the drive for tax and slave raids helped to stock the fire of resistance.  Three districts; Jaba (Ham), Kagoro (Agworok) and Moroa (Asholio) eventually gained independent status when they were ruled by indigenous persons and thus served as a reference point for other nationalities; the Atyap, Bajju, Adara, Gbagyi, Gwong, Ninkop, Tsam to mention just a few.
 The effect of Indirect Rule on nationalities in other provinces was similar to that of those in Zaria Province.  In many, Hausa settlements became flash points of conflict as Zango was. In many also, place names, which were also demeaning, reflected an apartheid arrangement. In Plateau Province for instance, there was Mangun Hausawa and Mangun Arna just as in Zangon Kataf there was Kachechere Hausawa and Kachechere Arna.  It is in this context  that the Middle Belt movement can be understood as attempting to provide a platform for all nationalities spread all over the North in similar circumstances resulting from Indirect Rule and their sense of oppression by the Emirate system.  This common concern was exhibited quite early in regional politics with the formation of a Middle Belt political party; the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC).
Conflicts
Christian missionaries found fertile ground with the Atyap, who had rejected the Moslem religion. This served to increase tensions between the Atyap and the Hausa. The Atyap also resented loss of land, considering that they had originally owned all of the Zangon-Kataf territory and had been illegally dispossessed by Hausa intruders. After independence in 1960, General Yakubu Gowon (1966–1975) introduced reforms, letting the Atyap appoint their own village district heads, but the appointees were subject to approval by the emir, and were therefore often seen as puppets
In 1922 the emir acquired a stretch of land in Zango town, the capital, with no compensation. In 1966 the emir gave the land, now used as a market, to the Hausa community. The Atyap complained that the Hausa traders treated them as slaves in this market. Tensions steadily increased, flaring up in February 1992 over a proposal to move the market to a new site, away from land that had been transferred to the Hausas. The proposal by the first Atyap head of the LGA was favored by the Atyap who could trade beer and pork on the neutral site and opposed by the Hausa, who feared loss of trading privileges. Over 60 people were killed in the February clashes. Further violence broke out in Zango on May 15/16, with 400 people killed and most buildings destroyed. When the news reached Kaduna, rampaging Hausa youths killed many Christians of all ethnic groups in retaliation.
Major-General Zamani Lekwot
                                                     
In the aftermath, many Hausa fled the area, although some returned later, having no other home. A tribunal set up by the Babangida military government sentenced 17 people to death for alleged complicity in the killings, including a former military governor of Rivers State, Major-General Zamani Lekwot, an Atyap. The sentences were eventually reduced to jail terms. It was said that Lekwot's arrest was due to his feud with Ibrahim Babangida, then Head of State. No Hausa were charged.Continued tension and outbreaks of violence were reported as late as 2006.

An Atyap chiefdom was created in 1996 following the recommendation of a committee headed by Air Vice Marshal Usman Mu'azu that investigated the cause of the uprising. The chiefdom was upgraded to first class in 2007. In 2010 the president of Atyap Community Development Association said that since the chiefdom was established there had been only a few occasions when it was necessary to intervene to resolve misunderstandings.

                     Culture and Religion
The exogamous belief within the clans that members of a clan had a common descent through one ancestor, prevented inter-marriages between members of the clan. Inter-clan and inter-state marriage was encouraged.
There was inter-dependence between the Atyap which was demonstrated in the complimentary functions performed by each state and by each of the Atyap clans. The Shokwa for example, were in charge of rites associated with rain making and control of floods. During dry spells in the rainy season, the Shokwa clan leader, the chief priest and Rainmaker had to perform rites for rain making. When rainfall was too high resulting in floods and destruction of houses and crops, the same officers of the clan were called up to perform rites related to control rain. The Agba’ad clan, especially the Jei sub-clan, was considered the best warriors both in Cavalry and archery warfare. Agba’ad clan leader therefore became the commander-in-chief of the Atyap army. The post of Atu-Taliyen, a military public relations officer who announced the commencement and termination of each war, was held by a member of the Agba’ad clan. The Aku clans were the custodians of the paraphernalia of the Abwoi and led in the rites and ceremonies. They performed initiation rites for all new initiates. To prepare adherents for initiations, their bodies were smeared with mahogany oil (Amia’akoh) and were forced to take exhaustive exercise before they were ushered into the shrine. They had to swear to keep all secretes related to the Abwoi. Abwoi communicated to the people using a dry shell of bamboo having two open ends. One end was covered with spiders web while t he other end was blown. It produced a mysterious sound interpreted to the people as the voice of a deceased ancestor. This human manipulation enabled the male elders of the society to control the behaviour and conscience of society. Abwoi leaves (Nansham) a species of shea butter, were placed on farms and housetops to scare away thieves since the Abwoi were believed to be omnipresent and omniscient. Abwoi was thus, a unifying religious belief among the Atyap that wedded immense powers in a society whose secrets were kept through a web of spies and informants who reports the activities of saboteurs. Any revelation of Abwoi secrets could be meted with capital punishment. Women were also implored to keep society secrets, particularly, those related to way. To ensure that war secrets did not leak to the opponents, women were made to wear tswa ayuan (woven raffia ropes) for 6 months in a year. During this period, they were to refrain from gossips, “foreign” travel and late cooking. At the end of the period, it was marked by song-Ayet, celebrated in April, when women were free to wear fashionable dresses. These fashionable dresses included the Atayep made of strips of leader and decorated with cowry shells. The Ayiyep, another version of this, had dyed ropes of raffia sewn together into loin cloth. Women also wore the Gyep yuan (lumber ornament) for the song-Ayet ceremony. It was woven from palm fibre into a thick mad in the shape of a truncated cone or mushroom. It was tied round the waist using a projection from a cord. For men, the muzurwa was the major dress, which was made of tanned leather and properly oiled. The rich in society had the edges of this dress adorned with beads and cowries. They dress was tied round the waist with the aid of gindi (leather strap). By the late 18th century, a short knicker called Dinari, made of cloth, became part of the men’s attire. Men also had their hair plaited and at times decorated with cowrie’s shells. They wore raffia caps (Katah) decorated with dyed wool and ostrich feathers. Their bodies were painted with white chalk (Abwan) and red ochre (tsuo).
source:http://www.atyap.net/atyap/AtyabHistory.aspx

Genesis of the bloodbath in South Kaduna
The Southern Kaduna enclave persistently embodies the absurdities and schisms of the indigene-settler divide in Northern Nigeria. Zangon- Kataf consists of a modest and principally Hausa town called Zango ringed by ethnic Atyap farming communities. The Atyap are also referred to as the Kataf. The Atyap are predominantly Christians, while Zango town’s Hausa are for the most part Muslims.

Under British rule, Zangon-Kataf was placed under the control of the Zaria Emirate, whose Hausa administrators allegedly treated the ethnic Atyap population with contempt throughout much of the colonial period. The Atyap have struggled successfully for a greater degree of local autonomy since independence but have never forgotten the historical wrongs their community suffered under Emirate rule. As is increasingly rampant throughout Nigeria, having been able to secure recognition as the true aborigenes of their community, many Atyap consider it only appropriate that all the benefits accruable to their local government should be enjoyed by them alone.

Atyap’s rejection of their Hausa neighbours’ claims to aborigene status is also fuelled by a belief that the Hausa have an inherent predilection for the domination of others and seek indigene status only in order to subjugate and marginalise the Atyap. That belief, common in political discourse throughout Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt, is fuelled by the intemperate rhetoric of political and community leaders throughout Southern Kaduna.

The Atyap claimed that the land on which the Hausa live was theirs and that the Hausa were only settlers. Easily, they recount their oral tradition dating back to 1767 when one Mele, an itinerant Hausa trader from Niger, was given a portion of land in the heart of the town to settle after many years of trade relations with them. Soon, according to them, Mele was joined by his kinsmen. Hence, the name Zango-Kataf (which means transit camp in Kataf).

But the Hausa community argued that the claim by the Atyap is humbug. According to a leader of the Hausa, “Their claim is false. We all came together with a set of people called Chagwu. The Kataf people met us here. The real name of Zango-Kataf was Zango-Katabiri. They came, gradually surrounded us, and eventually changed the name.”

In response, a district head of the Kataf said that it is this conflicting story recounted by the Hausa that has continued to irritate the Kataf people. “As long as the Hausa continue to deny the fact that they are settlers, trouble will not cease in this part of the state,” he said.

The first major outbreak of violence in 1992, indeed, arose over a conflict regarding the market in the town. Erstwhile, marketing had been an exclusive preserve of the Hausa population of the town. The elected local government, composed largely of Atyap people, made a decision to move the market. This was done partly in order to allow for the expansion of the market, partly to break the traditional monopoly of trade in the hands of Hausa, and partly for cultural and religious reasons. The market stalls in the old market were allegedly monopolised by Hausa traders. “Goods coming into the market from the neighbouring villages were also said to be hoarded by Hausa traders to be resold later. Hausa domination of the market also prevented Kataf people from selling traditional beer (burukutu), pork, and other haram (forbidden) items,” disclosed a former council staff in the area.

Consequently, a councillor representing the Zangon-Kataf district in Kachia local government was asked to consult with the local government council to clear a market site. This was approved by the council in 1988. The Kachia local government council chose a location for the proposed market and compensation was paid to the owners. Five of those land owners, however, refused to accept the compensation allegedly because pressure was put on them not to accept in order to prevent the building of a new market.

Hausa people in the area were said to have wanted to use the same area for housing, since their settlement in the town was already becoming overcrowded. They also objected to relocation since the new market had no stalls or other facilities that would guarantee the safety of their wares. As other local governments in the area prepared to build new markets, things began to get difficult in Zangon-Kataf. The file containing the estimate for the construction disappeared, and at least one person involved in the dispute died mysteriously in Kaduna.

In the meantime, the Zangon-Kataf area broke off from Kachia to form a separate local government area. The new council took over the market project and made it a priority for local government development. A prominent Hausa in the town, however, took the matter to court and got an injunction to stop the relocation. The council either ignored the injunction or did not receive a copy of it in time. In either case, the market opened in defiance of the court. An obvious conflict with the rule of law was brewing, in which both sides felt that they were legally justified.

Subsequently, a site was cleared for the new market. When hotheads attacked the construction site, the Magajin Gari (Mayor) of Zangon-Kataf accompanied the workers, and, through their ward heads, warned those who objected to the market not to use violence. February 6, 1992 was declared opening day and a monitoring team was set up to supervise attendance at the market and project its revenue generating capacity. Also on the same day, policemen were detailed to mount guard at strategic points to direct in-coming traders who, through ignorance or disregard of the council’s decision, might be heading for the old site.

According to a former local government chieftain, two persons walked into the market after midday with a policeman who proceeded to speak to the other police officer on duty. The police officers then walked away from the market, at which point the two men and others announced that the market was closed and proceeded to use violence on those who resisted or were not quick enough in leaving.

According to other reports, one of the Hausa in the town mobilised a band of youths in the community and set them against the police and those who heeded the traffic signals of the police and went to the new site. Traders who disobeyed his orders were reportedly beaten up. It was at this point that one Shan Anwai, an Atyap man, was said to have met his death in the hands of angry Hausa youths. Rumours spread in the surrounding towns that the Hausa community had declared war on the Atyap people.

Responding to these rumours, many Atyap villagers, armed with bows and arrows, traditional guns, clubs and cutlasses came out in large numbers and attacked Hausa settlements for eight hours. The armed villagers burned houses and motor vehicles owned by the Hausa. Many Hausa in turn burned down houses belonging to the Atyap who lived in Zango town. At a petrol station, 10 motor vehicles were allegedly set ablaze.

Thus, from May 15 to 17, 1992, an intense riot broke out in the small towns of Zangon-Kataf, a nondescript community comprising two sister communities, the Zango (Hausa) and the Kataf (Atyap) in the southern part of Kaduna State. As rioters rampaged through the streets, looting and burning at will, the general hospital overflowed with the wounded.

“People sustained grave injuries inflicted by stones, clubs, machetes and knives, poisoned arrows and spears,” said Mariam Tukur, a retired nurse. The two communities exploded into violence and they both bore the brunt of the fighting, as hundreds of them were killed and the town was almost entirely destroyed.

The riot divided the city along religious lines, as neighborhoods which had been predominantly Christians or Muslims became exclusively one or the other. As the riot subsided, a new residential pattern emerged in which there were no longer mixed neighbourhoods but only Christian or Muslim neighbourhoods. Friends from different religions might visit one another but no one spent the night in a neighborhood of a different religion.

This series of conflicts was typical of many in Nigeria, especially in the Nigerian ‘middle belt,’ the southern fringe of the former Northern Region of Nigeria. The typical pattern begins with a dispute over land. It escalates using modern methods of military recruitment and modern military weaponry. Although it may start as a local dispute between two small ethnic groups, it quickly escalates to include other neighbouring groups.

Finally, it acquires the character of a religious war, especially where religion and ethnicity largely coincide. A manipulative role played by the political class, economic inequality, or at least differentiation between the ethnic groups and the perceived ‘warrior’ traditions of certain groups also often come into play, as some of them did in this particular instance.

Most of Zangon-Kataf’s surviving Hausa residents fled in the wake of the violence, but a minority eventually returned and built new homes amidst the weed-choked ruins of the town they lost in 1992. Many returned in part because of the state government’s promise of compensation and protection—and also because many simply had nowhere else to go.

Members of the community also complained that despite repeated government promises, much of the land that had been seized from them by their Atyap neighbours after the 1992 violence are yet to be returned. Several residents complained that they had been chased off their land by Atyap youths, a situation that had caused them to abandon their land. One man claimed that in 2004, just before harvest time, “I went to the farm and was trying to harvest locust beans. When I was at the top of a tree, some Kataf (Atyap) men came and used a slingshot to shoot me down.” The man consequently shattered his cheek, as the left side of his face appeared to have been badly mangled without having properly healed.

Hausa community leaders said they had reported more than two dozen incidents of violence and harassment to the police since 2003 but in no case had the police made any arrests. The victim of one attack said that when he went to the police station, the officer who took his report asked thus: “Where do you come from? Are you a stranger?” and then began questioning his right to file a report. That policeman was reprimanded by a superior officer who overheard the exchange, but in the end no action was taken on the complaint.

Several members of the Hausa community said they saw these attacks as evidence that their Atyap neighbours did not think that the Hausa had any right to remain in Zangon- Kataf. Many community members also complained of routine verbal harassment when they moved through the Atyap parts of the town. “Any time they see us, they call us ‘bako’ (stranger),” complained one farmer. “Even if you sit next to them on a bus and ask them to shift over they say, ‘Bah, bako!”

A never-ending bloodbath
Religious polarisation and Kaduna’s north-south ethnic divide fed upon one another to spark bloody clashes in Kaduna city in 2000 and 2002. Eleven years ago, an estimated 2, 000 people were killed in communal clashes sparked by the proposed introduction of Shari’ a (Islamic law) in Kaduna State. Two years later, violence triggered in part by controversy surrounding plans to hold the Miss World beauty contest in Nigeria claimed around 250 more lives.

In addition to providing a new set of triggers for violent conflict, the increasing tendency for Kaduna’s communal tensions to be expressed in religious terms has drawn groups into violent conflicts that have no interest in the deeper underlying causes of north-south tension in the state.

Many settlers have fought, died or had their property destroyed in Kaduna’s 2000 and 2002 clashes for example. Some have reacted by packing up and moving back to their home states and many of those who remain in Kaduna are increasingly likely to be drawn into future conflicts with sectarian overtones; like the 2011 post-election violence for instance.

Despite the massive loss of lives and property in past conflicts, the acts of violence are still carried out in the troubled zone. On April 18, 2011, for instance, hell was let loose in Southern Kaduna, particularly in Zonkwa, following the post-election crisis that erupted in many states in the North.

Residents were forced to flee from Zonkwa, Kafanchan and other trouble spots during the post-election violence. During the fracas, fleeing youths hid in pit latrines and wells but the unlucky ones were gunned down, slaughtered, burnt alive or dumped in wells. Although most women and children were spared, they were subjected to humiliation.

Out of the 38, 976 displaced persons, over 90 percent are women and children, according to the statistics obtained from the Nigerian Red Cross. However, the figure has since reduced to below 15,000 across the 15 refugee camps in the state as some refugees have been reunited with their families.

Angels of hope
The history of peace efforts in the region would never be complete without mentioning the contributions of Rev. James Movel Wuye, a Pentecostal Christian, and his counterpart, Imam Muhammad Nurayn Ashafa, a Muslim. In 1992, Rev. Wuye lost his right arm, and Imam Ashafa lost two of his brothers and his teacher in the violence in Zangon-Kataf.

Both fought on opposing sides as militant youth leaders in the violent clash. In the clash, Muslim Hausa youths killed Rev. Wuye’s bodyguard and cut off his right arm. Likewise, Christian fighters murdered Imam Ashafa’s mentor and spiritual leader.

Both men’s initial reaction at the time, however, wasn’t so different from that of other fighters – they sought vengeance. In particular, they wanted to kill each other. “For three years, I nursed the ambition of killing Imam Ashafa,” revealed Rev. Wuye, “But then, I attended a programme aimed at preaching the gospel to non-Christians, and there I was told by the moderator, who said you cannot preach Jesus Christ with hate. Then, it reawakened my conscience. I realised that as a Christian, I need to love even when I feel pain.”

Imam Ashafa learnt a similar lesson on forgiveness in his mosque as well. He then went to visit Rev. Wuye’s sick mother in the hospital. The two men finally met in 1995 at the urging of a civil leader. They agreed to work out some sort of dialogue promoting mutual understanding and respect.

Imam Ashafa proposed a public debate, which evolved into a forum on the concepts of salvation and forgiveness in Christianity and Islam. It took a year to arrange the event and find a venue willing to host two militant youth groups from different religions. “People came with daggers in their pockets that day. Both parties came prepared for the worst,” revealed Rev. Wuye.
But there was no violence – the forum was a success, and since then, the two men have anchored a series of interventions and workshops through their pet project, the Inter- Faith Mediation Centre (IFMC).

According to Rev. Wuye, the effort is focused on enlightening the public – in particular, militant youth, vigilantes and the Hizbah, or religious police who enforce Islamic law, or Sharia, in some northern states. To prevent religious crises, they have developed a multi-pronged approach that is both preventive and curative. They use an early warning mechanism that alerts the community to trouble signs and ways to control a contentious situation before it spreads. The mechanism includes improved connections between government security officers, community leaders and others involved in calming a violent situation.

Roadmap to lasting peace?
To forestall subsequent crises, a peace treaty tagged “Road Map to Lasting Peace”, was recently held at the Unguwar Mu’azu district, in Tudun Wada. The event which was attended by representatives of various communities featured very colourful joint parades of the Muslims’ First Aid Group and the Hisbah, and the Christians’ Boys and Girls Brigades and Catholic Cadets; traditional dancers of Ham (Jaba), Bajju, Eggon, Hausa Kombe dancers. There was also a novelty football match played and enjoyed by teams and happy crowd of both faiths.

The District Head of Unguwar Mu’azu, Ahmed Aliyu Idris, who is also the Chikasoron Zazzau, could not hide his joy as he commended the participating communities. “We are grateful to Almighty Allah and the good people of our communities through whom God destined this accord and resolutions to happen, and we believe that God has a purpose for this our coming together. I am begging you in the name of God to ensure that these our resolutions work. Blessed are the peace makers. We are proud of our imams, pastors, youths, mothers, fathers, all and sundry who made it possible for today. At our own level we are deeply committed to this resolution.”

Rev Joseph Hayab, Special Adviser on Religious Affairs (Christian Matters) to  Governor Patrick Yakowa, remarked that the event signalled the beginning of a new dawn. The occasion climaxed with the cutting of a cake and release of five doves into the sky, signifying the beginning of peace among the communities.

The latest peace accord, no doubt, represents another milestone in achieving lasting harmony between the two faiths shared by ethnic groups in Kaduna. However, it remains to be seen if it would restore the lasting peace that has eluded the state for so long. (http://www.thenationonlineng.net)


FIGHTING MUHAMMAD'S WAR: REVISITING SANI YERIMA'S FATWA
Yusuf Yariyok, Ph.D.

igeria is fast becoming the Afghanistan of Africa. However the Talabalinazation of the country is not a recent development. Since the Iranian Revolution and the emergence of Wahabi extremist doctrines of Islam, some Nigerian Muslims have wasted no time in embracing such viscous, uncivilized brutality toward those who do not believe in their brand of Islam. The last twenty four years starting from 1976 have witnessed the most brutal and unprecedented attacks on nonMuslims, especially Christians, their worship and business places. These are the years in which we have witnessed the most violent religious crises in our nation's history. Muslims have reacted rather violently to issues ranging from the quoting and interpretation of the Quran (as in the case of Abubakar Bako, 1987) leading to the Kafanchan religious crises, the attempted shariatization of Kaduna State leading to the February 2000 crises where over 2000 people perished in Kaduna town.
The state was just recovering from the 2000 crises when another senseless massacre of innocent Christians was unleashed citing the publication of an article purportedly blaspheming Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Ms. Isioma Daniel in ThisDay Newspaper. Muslims went wild over this article claiming it blasphemed Islam and that the Miss World Pageant offended Islam. To the dismay of all rational beings, it was difficult to link the killings and destructions in Kaduna to something that happened in far away Lagos. Why would Muslims unleash violence against Christians in Kaduna when it had no connection to the so-called article or even the author? As I watched the mayhem on TV and read from the pages of newspapers, the questions that kept nagging my mind were, was it the publication that provoked Muslims or was it just another stage in the grand design of Muslims to killed Christians and loot their property in the name of Allah? Why was Kaduna their best choice and how could a mere publication have led to such monstrous murder of Christians and destruction of churches in Kaduna? It is this barbaric behavior and wanton destruction of lives and property that aroused the interest of the writer on the topic.
To appreciate the writer's point of view it is necessary to give a brief history of religious crisis particularly in Northern Nigeria. The first of such confrontation started with the burning down of the Sabon Gari Baptist Church in Kano in 1976. From thence on Nigeria started witnessing religious crises of an unprecedented magnitude. Once Muslims discovered that they could destroy Christian worship places without any consequences it became a pattern. In 1977 Muslim students of Bayero University College, now Bayero University, Kano declared the university an ipso facto Islamic university, threatening Christian students to leave or face the wrath of Islam. This later led to major crisis that engulfed the whole town.
The worst of Muslim lawlessness was yet to be witnessed when Ibrahim El-Zakzaky then a student of Ahmadu Bello Univeristy led an assault on Christians in Zaria in 1978 under the slogan "Islam Only." During this mayhem, innocent motorist were stopped and their cars, buses and trucks painted with the words "Islam Only." Where there was resistance, they were smashed and the drivers dragged out and slaughtetred like animals. Many people were maimed, killed and women raped all in the name of Islam. Businesses and buildings, property, etc belonging to Christians were looted, destroyed and set on fire. Zaria town was held hostage by the jihadists for almost one week while every building on the roadway was painted with the words, "Islam Only." It was only when the Emir of Zaria was asked by the government to call the Muslims to order or should I say pacify them that order was restored.
It might interest the reader to note that all these happened under the watch of General Olusegun Obasanjo's military junta from February 1976- September 1978. The fact that we are witnessing all these crises under Obasanjo's civilian government once more comes as no surprise to any body familiar with the history of Nigeria. Muslims have discovered they could advance their Islamic agenda only under weak governments controlled by Christians. They got their way to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) under then Col Yakubu Gowon military regime from 1966-75. They smuggled the Shari'a into the Constitution in 1978 under Obasanajo's watch. There was no clamor for Sharia under the Shehu Shagari government between 1979-1984, in fact the topic did not even come up for discussion not minding the fact that Shehu Shagari himself was among the group of Muslims that staged a walkout during the Shari'a debate in the 1978 Constituent Assembly. Once he became the President the matter was buried. Never in the whole of Shagari's four years as president did the issue of Sharia come up; he now champions the Sharia cause because he knows when and how to play the game.
When Shagari was overthrown, Buhari came with a grand design to Islamize the country but was cut short by Ibrahim Babangida. Before Buhari was overthrown the havoc had already be done. He had upgraded the Sharia from Muslim personal law to Muslim law by amending the 1979 Constitution, a phrase that was responsible for the fireworks in the 1989 Constituent Assembly. Buhari quickly began the process to register Nigeria as a full member of the OIC. Buhari's dictatorship was however truncated by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who, fearing the arrest of his wife, Mariam involved in the infamous Gloria Okon drug trafficking saga took over the government in a palace coup in August 1985.
Babangida, who in the eyes of the Muslim world was viewed as a carnal Muslim moved swiftly to prove his critics wrong. To perfect the Islamization process started by Buhari, he surreptitiously and secretly completed the registration process began by Buhari, thus registering Nigeria as a full member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in January 1986. Babangida did this not necessarily because he was a devoted Muslim or even committed to the Muslim cause but simply to please Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries that had doubted his commitment to Islam which was a condition for their support for his government. He also figured out that a polarized Nigeria along religious lines would help him perpetuate his stay in power. This dirty trick worked in his favor as it soon polarized the country along religious lines leading to the bloody Kafanchan Religious Riots of 1987 in which over 250 churches were destroyed in one singly day, Sunday March 6, 1987.
Babangida himself was so overwhelmed by the amount of destruction that he described the riots as a "Civilian Coup d'etat." To clear the smoking gun, Babangida then set up the Justice Karibye-White tribunal to try those identified as the main culprits. Only a few perpetrators where later jailed for terms ranging between one year and five years. The Kaduna State Government White Paper indicted only Christians from the southern part of the state accusing them of masterminding the riots. The paper vindicated the Muslim students who attacked and held Christian students of the College of Education, Kafanchan hostage for over five hours while declaring Rev. Abubakar Bako the main speaker at the Christian program a wanted person. Abubakar Bako, who himself was an ex-Muslim was accused of quoting and misinterpreting the Qur'an. To date, Abubakar Bako remains a fugitive and is on the wanted list of the federal government while Aisha Mohammed, the main culprit who jumped into the pulpit, seized the microphone from the speaker and started beating him was vindicated and remains a free Nigerian.
Without any sort of condemnation or punishment to the Muslims, this single act by the federal government and especially the Kaduna State government gave Muslims a clear indication that they could kill Christians at will any where and at any time without any repercussions. It didn't come as a surprise to any one when Muslims attacked the peace-loving Kataf people in Zango Kafaf Town in 1992. This attack led to the complete destruction of the town. To prove their case that the riots were sponsored by the Babangida government, the Kataf people piled up the weapons used by the Hausa-Fulani Muslims in the town's Central Mosque. These sophisticated weapons had labels such as "NA/FGN" indicating the weapons were supplied to the Muslims by the federal government since they had the Nigerian Army labels on them. On his visit to Zangon Kataf, Babangida was so stunned by the amount of destruction feigning ignorance of the weapons and promised to bring the perpetrators to book. Once more the Babangida government set up a mock tribunal which was ordered to indict only the Kataf people.
To settle his long-term feud with General Zamani Lekwot, a prominent Kataf son, the tribunal sentenced General Lekwot to death while his younger brother was sentenced to ten years in prison. General Lekwot and other prominent Kataf sons and daughters were accused of planning the riots. The main brain behind the crisis, one Alhaji Mato, uncle to the then Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Dabo Lere and cousin to Babangida's Secretaty to the Federal Government Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu was shielded and accommodated in the Kaduna State Government Guest House by the governor. Many prominent Kataf people were fired from the Kaduna State civil service while others languished in jail for nearly one year without trial.
What then is the relevance of this long history? It is meant to establish the fact that the Nigerian government has done practically nothing to stem the tide of Muslim assault on other religions, particularly Christians in Nigeria. It is an established fact that most Muslim-led Federal governments come with an agenda not to move the country forward but with a religious agenda that allows them to loot the treasury. When hither to individuals such as Yerima Sani in Zamfara State who rigged elections to become the governor of the poorest state in country declare fatwa on a non-Muslim it comes as no surprise to any body. What is actually surprising is the fact that President Obasanjo could not call him to order for inciting and disrupting public peace. In civilized countries Governor Sani should have been asked to resign his position and be brought under the full wrath of the laws of the federation for inciting public disorder leading to the murder of over 300 people. Sani goes about his business and is on his way to being reelected for a second term. Voila, this is Nigeria where law and other don't work.
Sani and his cohorts act on historical evidence that if you are Muslim and are in power you can say and do anything and get away with it. Sani knows historically that Christians in power are incapable of calling such fanatics to order neither can they tackle the religious question. Obasanjo could not do it during his first time as a military head of state neither does he have the political will to do so now. Since his second coming, Obasanjo has failed to boldly tackle the problem of the application of the criminal aspects of the Shari`a. Rather, he has been issuing conflicting statements on the issue. He speaks boldly while abroad and swallows his words once he gets back to Nigeria. He even prides himself in introducing the Shari`a in 1978 and claims it as an inalienable right of Muslims to be governed by the Shari`a law.
The reader might question the relevance of this long history to the topic under discussion. It is important to give the history to justify the fact that the practice of Islam especially among the Nigerian elite is untoward, unorthodox and a display of stack ignorance of the faith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). How could a governor declare fatwa without regards to the teachings of Islam? Thanks to the real Muslims in Saudi Arabia and the leadership of the Supreme Council for Islam Affairs (SCIA) in Nigeria that quickly reacted to the statement and issued a sharp rebuke on Governor Sani for his ignorance. The one thing that is clear from the November 22 riots in Kaduna is that Muslims have a right to blaspheme Christianity and get away with it while no one has the right to talk about Muhammad or the Qur'an.
It is an open secret that Nigerian Muslims hawk provocative audio and video tapes on every nook and corner of our major cities blaspheming the Person of Christ. There are such tapes played from loud speakers either on the streets or mounted on trucks and buses describing the Bible as fake or abridged. Others say that Jesus is not the son of God and that the Bible is not the word of God. Besides hawking provocative video and audio tapes, there are provocative sermons and lectures on radio and television as well as vehicles with mounted speakers plying streets and villages all preaching provocative messages against Christianity, yet Christians have not taken arms against Muslims. The late Abukabar Mahmoud Gumi once described Christianity as nothing, but a faith of paper. Specifically, Gumi said Christians go to church on Sundays only to look at beautiful ladies, sing, dance, and have pleasure. Gumi also said Christians don't pray while Muslims pray five times a day. All such blasphemies would have been enough to provoke Christians into violence but Christians have restrained themselves not as an act of cowardice but because the Bible does not encourage such violence.
How would Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have reacted to Ms. Daniel's comment and what does the Qur'an say? It is a laughable matter that Nigerian Muslims will go about killing people unconnected with an event all in the name of defending the cause of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). How did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) respond to his critics and blasphemers? Let's take a look at the Qur'an for answers.
Fatimah T. Sakr, a prominent Muslim scholar and wife of a prominent and famous Muslim scholar in the United States wrote: Fighting in the cause of God is one of the most misunderstood issues in Islam (Submission), even by those who consider themselves Muslims. Many of the so called "Muslim" scholars have confused the issue by their personal opinion that has NO support in the Quran. Most of these deviant opinions originate from false teachings found in the books of Hadiths and sunna. Hadiths and sunna books are a collection of fabricated stories about prophet Muhammed that have all kinds of cruel inhumane and corrupted opinions that contradict the Quran, contradict itself, and contradict as well any common sense. Most of the corruption we see in the "Muslim" world today comes from these man made books that were collected over 200 years after the death of Prophet Muhammed. Prophet Muhammed himself never advocated any books but the Quran and even instructed his followers NOT to write or collect such books. Please see our Hadiths and Sunna section for details. Prophet Muhammed himself NEVER waged any war except for self defense and never lived except by the peaceful words of God in the Quran.
She goes on to state that the Qur'an clearly defines for the believer what is expected of him or her in response to aggression. The Qur'an speaks against violence in 2:190-191. Even though Allah would sanction war in certain circumstances but he does so only in self defense. The Qur'an states: Once the Sacred Months are past, (and they refuse to make peace) you may kill the idol worshipers when you encounter them, punish them, and resist every move they make. If they repent and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), you shall let them go. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful (9:5). In this verse God sanctions war only as a means to defend Islam and it should not be done in the month of Ramadan. If the Muslim (believers) must have been attacked and their enemy has broken the truce he has made with them they are admonished to fight to defend themselves.
The Qur'an teaches that the Muslim should resort to peace rather than violence. If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient (8:61). [9:4] If the idol worshipers sign a peace treaty with you, and do not violate it, nor band together with others against you, you shall fulfill your treaty with them until the expiration date. GOD loves the righteous (9:4). …if they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then GOD gives you no excuse to fight them (4:90). If one of the idol worshipers sought safe passage with you, you shall grant him safe passage, so that he can hear the word of GOD, then send him back to his place of security. That is because they are people who do not know (9:6).
This verse teaches that even the non-Muslim must be granted safe passage by the Muslim if he seeks it even during war. Muslims are urged to defend themselves just as any nation of the world as in the case of the US fighting against terrorism. God gives the Muslim believer the right to fight in self-defense if every peaceful means has failed.
We can see from the above verses that the Qur'an specifically addresses the issue of war and how the Muslim should respond. In all the assault of Muslims against Christians in Nigerian, none of the conditions prescribed in the Qur'an had been followed.
In regards to blasphemy, let's again turn to the Qur'an for answers. Pakistan happens to be the only country in the world that has a blasphemy law. Apparently the Nigerian Shari`a law was fashioned after that of Pakistan. It is defined in section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the following words: "Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of the holy Prophet (PBUH) by word, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by importation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to find . . ." (Brigadier (Rtd.) Nazir Ahmad).
According to Ahmad, this concept of blasphemy and the prescribed punishment are both contradictory to the Qur'an and the Prophet's conduct. The Qur'an prescribes restraint, and distancing from the blasphemous persons or situations. The emphasis is on restraint and forgiveness. The Qur'an points out in the following verses what the Muslim should do in regards to blasphemy.
"When ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme." [Qur'an 4:140]
"And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: "to us our deeds and to you yours; peace be to you." [Qur'an 28: 55]
"Hold to forgiveness, command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant." [Qur'an 7:199]
"Have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity)." [Qur'an 73:10]
"And the servants of Allah . . . are those who walked on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say 'Peace'" [Qur'an 25:63]
"Allah is with those who restrain themselves." [Qur'an 16: 128]
". . . But they uttered blasphemy . . . if they repent, it will be best for them, but if they turn back, Allah will punish them." [Qur'an 9:47]
Depending on your understanding of the Qur'an, there are at least fifty-seven verses that have a direct bearing on the subject and more than 250 others which emphasize the need for forgiveness, forbearance and compassion in the Muslim community. In his lifetime, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was subjected to all kinds of verbal and physical humiliation. He narrowly escaped assassination and had to migrate to Medina (hijra). He was accused of forgery " . . . nay, he forged it." [Qur'an 21:5], was stigmatized as a man 'possessed' with evil spirits [Qur'an 23:70] and 'mad' [Qur'an 68:2]. How did Muhammad react to these? His personal reaction, as well as those of all his devoted Companions was a strict adherence to the teaching and letter of the Qur'an. Nasir Ahmad reports, "One of his regular tormentors, a woman (wife of Abu Lahab) once had to break the daily ritual on account of ill health. In obedience to the Quranic injunctions, he called on her to offer his services in her household chores."
The Qur'an sets strict limits on punishment for any and every crime as noted in the following verses.
"And if you punished, let your punishment be proportionate to the wrong that has been done to you; but if you show patience, that is indeed the best course. [Qur'an 16:126]
"The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto: but if a person forgets and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah." [Qur'an 62:40]
"Twice will they be given their reward, for that they have persevered, (and) they avert evil with good." [Qur'an 28:54]
All the above verses emphasize forgiveness and reform even in murder cases. If the Qur'an emphasizes forgiveness, forbearance and compassion, where does Sani Yerima and others that have a twisted notion of Islam derive their authority from? Does the blasphemy charge against Isioma Daniel touch even the outer fringes of the letter and the spirit of the Quranic position on the subject? I doubt it very much. Sani Yerima was quoted a few months ago after his shoes were stolen from the Government House Mosque in Gusau as saying that if and when the thief was caught he should have both his two hands and legs cut off. Could the outburst by Sani Yerima and his cronies simply be termed ignorance or blasphemy against the very religion they claim to be protecting? Why is it that the Council of Ulama and the Shari`a Council did not declare the utterances of Sani Yerima blasphemous? Could it be possibly said that the learned cabals of Islam are hiding the truth from the public? I challenge them and the learned Qadis to rise to the defense of the religion of Allah and his Apostle from being blasphemed by those who use it as a tool to rise to political power.
Unfortunate, the Secretary of the Council of Ulama, Dr. Dandatti Ahmed was the first to fire up Muslims to rise and defend their religion in his press release on Ms. Daniel's article. He came short of declaring a jihad on Christians if the government failed to act. But how could a democratic government have reacted to the expression of free speech protected by the very constitution they swore to protect? If any thing, the Council of Ulama bears responsible for the Kaduna Mayhem since they called on all Muslims to rise and defend their religion. It was expected that the Council of Ulama (the learned mallams or mullahs) could have shown more responsible, knowledge and wisdom of the religion of Allah and educated all Muslims on the stand of the Qur'an on the issue by urging Muslims not to take the law into their hands. Instead they chose the ignoble path of being led by emotions rather than seeking the advice of the Holy Qur'an and igniting the riots. It is little wonder therefore that they could not call such ignorant and blasphemous Muslims as Sani Yerima and his cronies to order.
The Qur'an states, "My Lord has indeed forbidden trespasses against truth and reason" [Qur'an 7:33]. It does seem that Yerima Sani and his cronies blatantly transgressed against the Qur'an and should be brought before the Shari`a council to account for their sins. Failure to do so brings disrepute the religion they claim to protect and the world would like to know if they are not deliberately distorting the religion of Islam for their own selfish ends. The world will also like to know who is actually blaspheming Islam, is it Abubakar Bako, Isioma Daniel who was exercising her rights to free speech or the Shari`a apostles andtheir cronies? Under Islamic laws Sani Yerima and all the Muslims who participated in the November 22 killing of Christians transgressed against the Hadood Allah- the limits set by Allah and the Prophet's conduct. It is highly abominable for such Nigerian Muslims especially Shari`a advocates to insinuate that Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in any way are deficient or inadequate in dealing with blasphemy or to take it upon themselves to try to outdo them. This approach is not only uncalled for, but is in itself blasphemous.
It is coincidental that the jihadists of November 22, 2002 and other Muslim-sponsored murderous crisis for the last twenty years in Nigeria have often quoted the Fatwa pronounced on Salman Rushdie to justify their acts of violence against Christians.What a shame that the good name of Islam has been darkened by the murderous directive issued by certain Muslim leaders and endorsed by their supporters that Salman Rushdie must be assassinated as a result of his making blasphemous remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)) in his book, "Satanic Verses." The same ignorance is extended by some Muslims in Nigeria who justify their murderous acts against Christians, Abubakar Bako (1987) and Isioma Daniel (2002). According to Nazir Ahmad, no one doubts the fact that Salman Rushdie is guilty of blasphemy but this is not an offence for which the death penalty is prescribed by the Allah or Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as already noted above. There is no such instruction contained in the Holy Qur'an and I challenge the protagonists of the death sentence to come out with supporting evidence from the Holy Qur'an to justify their claims. It is an anomaly that none of them calling for Salma Rusdie's, Abubakar Bako and now Isioma Daniel's heads, has quoted a single verse from the Holy Qur'an as a basis of authority.
It is pertinent to state that those calling for the murder of Rushdie describing him as an apostate from Islam are doing so of their own accord without any authority from the Qur'an. The Qur'an actually gives the apostate the opportunity to repent and rejoin the flock. If the apostate person chooses not to rejoin the religion of Allah, it is only Allah that has the authority to punish and will do so in the world to come. Allah gives no such authority to humans. The Qur'an states: Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the right way ( Qur'an 4:138). This verse clearly expresses that those who renounce Islam have opportunity to re-enter if they chose to. The verse gives no human being the power to execute or put to death, if this was the case or if death were an automatic punishment, there would have been no offer for an opportunity to return to Islam. In fact, there is no such mention of punishment by death in Qur'an. If anything else, the Qur'an clearly states that God offers humankind the freedom of choice. There is no mention in the Holy Qur'an or anywhere else of any punishment for an apostate to be meted by humans. The consequences of his/her apostasy in this world and in the next life lie solely in the hands of Allah. One is free to accept or reject whatever beliefs one chooses. Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: There is no compulsion in religion (2:257). It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve (18:30).
Islam recognizes the right of freedom of conscience and freedom of belief. As far as one's religious beliefs are concerned, one is answerable to God alone. No man has the right to punish another for his/her choice of belief. There is absolutely no compulsion whatsoever in Islam and no punishment of any kind permitted in the Holy Qur'an for apostasy. The Qur'an indeed guarantees human rights, freedom of faith and conscience to all people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. In matters that bring disagreement between Muslims and non-Muslims, God is the judge and not man. My prayer is that our Muslim brothers and sisters in Northern Nigeria would take to heart and more seriously the prayer of the Prophet: Guide us on the Right Path (Qur'an 1:6) - Amen. (http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2003/feb/042.html)
References
Nazir Ahmad (Brig. Rtd): The Blasphemy Law of Pakistan
Reprinted from Vol. XXII, No. 1 Hamdard Islamicus, Karachi, Pakistan © 1998
Fatimah Sakar: Fighting Muslim Wars.
Muhammad Ali: The Holy Qur'an

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