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Islam and the Political Arena in Nigeria: The Ulama and the 2007 Elections

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This essay discusses the role of the ulama (Islamic scholars) in the 2007 Nigerian elections. Based on interviews and the political activities and statements of the twelve members of the ulama, most of whom are from Kano, the author observes four areas of consensus among these scholars: 1) The compatiblity of Islam and democratic politics; 2) The imperative of ulama's participation in politics; 3) The importance of Muslims' participation in the electoral process, especially in resisting attempts at fraud or intimidation at the polls; and 4) The urgency to vote for the most credible candidate regardless of political affiliation and perhaps even religious disposition. Political and religious affiliations, and even the implementation of sharia, were secondary, while the emphasis was placed on the candidates' character and personality. In believing that their active participation could help "sanitize" the public space, Islamic scholars indicate a shift from the period prior to 1999, when a population view was that they should reject--and overthrow if possible--the secular state. The author concludes that an interesting dialogue between Islam and democracy is taking place in Nigeria's public sphere, and Nigerians must face the challenge of determining how to accommodate religion and religious actors in the country's democratic space. Download working paper PDF

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  • 01/01/2019
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