(CNSNews.com) - A Nigerian Muslim has asked an Islamic court to sentence him to death because he said he had blasphemous thoughts about the prophet Muhammad.
"I want to be sentenced to death, because my blasphemy still irritates me, and if I died without prosecution under Islamic law, I will die as an infidel," the News Agency of Nigeria quoted 20-year-old Aliyu Ibrahim as saying this week.
The Islamic (shari'a) court in the state of Sokoto has ordered that Ibrahim undergo a psychological examination before the case proceeds.
Sokoto is one of 12 Nigerian states (of a total of 36) where Muslim governments have introduced shari'a law with its controversial hudud corporal and capital punishments.
Islamic law is not enforced in Ibrahim's home state, Adamawa, so he traveled to Sokoto to present himself to the religious tribunal there and demand his punishment.
The introduction of shari'a has heightened tensions and sparked bloodshed between Muslims, who make up around 50 percent of Nigeria's population, and Christians, comprising 40 percent.
In another shari'a state, Katsina, a divorced woman named Amina Lawal appealed this week against a sentence of being stoned to death for adultery, after having a child out of wedlock.
As in other parts of the world where shari'a punishments are enforced, a man accused of the same offense can only be convicted on his own admission of guilt or the evidence of four men.
In Lawal's case, the existence of her daughter, now eight months old, is proof enough.
Her appeal is being funded by human rights groups. Four judges hearing the case Tuesday postponed it until next month, according to the Abuja newspaper, the Daily Trust.
Last March, the Washington-based Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom published a report warning that the spread of shari'a in Nigeria, if left unchecked, could transform Africa's most populous nation into a hotbed of radical Islam, like Afghanistan under the Taliban.
"The enforcement of extreme shari'a violates all human rights, especially religious freedom, and destabilizes this already fragile country," said the Center's Dr. Paul Marshall.
One of the most controversial aspects of the penal code relates to any Muslim who changes his or her religion. The punishment for renouncing Islam is death, coupled with a confiscation of property.
Apart from Nigeria, shari'a is in force in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as parts of Indonesia. A Malaysian state this week voted to introduce the penal code there.
See earlier story:
Nigerian State Gov't Implements New Anti-Christian Measures (Jan. 29, 2002)
E-mail a news tip to Patrick Goodenough.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.