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Date Submitted: 01/29/2011 04:36 AM

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Nigeria Christian / Muslim Conflict

Nigeria’s two major religions, Islam and Christianity, are sometimes depicted as monolithic entities that confront each other in pitched battles, with formal implementation of the criminal aspects of the Muslim shari’a legal code (or the likelihood of implementation) providing the spark that touches off violence. Riots based (at least ostensibly) on religious affiliation and religious policies have indeed occurred, the worst such being the two confrontations that took place in Kaduna between February and May 2000. Such descriptions, however, can be misleading. Within the Christian community one finds a broad range of churches spanning the gamut from the mainstream Roman Catholic and Anglican to many smaller Protestant organizations. These latter include many Pentecostal denominations that tend to be quite aggressive in their proselytizing. Usman Dan Fodio’s jihad, or religious war, 1804–1810, ended with the establishment of the Sokoto sultanate. This Islamic theocratic empire extended from what is now extreme northwest Nigeria in a broad swath southeast into contemporary northwest Cameroon. Armed forces of the emirate of Zazzau, based in present-day Zaria in north-central Kaduna State, continued intermittent warfare and slave raiding in the southern half of contemporary Kaduna State, an area populated by some 15 Middle Belt minority ethnic groups. The emir claimed suzerainty over this area. After colonization, a number of the minorities, including the Gbagyi, who are the indigenes (first occupants) of the area where Kaduna city developed, converted to Catholicism and various Protestant sects. The emir of Zazzau, however, continued to assert his jurisdiction over Middle Belt minorities. In the Northwest, core of the old North, some emirates—for example, Sokoto, Katsina, and Kano—retain much of their old authority. Others, such as Zazzau, have recently lost control over areas they formerly claimed, and their authority may be...