Islamic banking stirs up controversy in religiously-divided Nigeria
The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is fielding criticism for exacerbating the country's sectarian problems by allowing Islamic banking to make its debut in Nigeria.
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“No right thinking Nigerian would ordinarily venture into such a sensitive matter at any time in such a nation like Nigeria without an evil motive to create more tension in the nation or worse still to start another religious fighting such as had never been before in this nation.“Somebody, please, help tell Sanusi to let the sleeping dog lie, and not put the nation into another avoidable distraction and dangerous crisis. We call on President Goodluck Jonathan not to wait until trouble begins before acting.”Skip to next paragraph
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Similarly, the powerful Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) calls the introduction of Islamic banking a move to “Islamize Nigeria.”
Sanusi has responded to criticisms by saying that the attention to Islamic banking at CBN predates his tenure and that what is called “non-interest banking” attracts the involvement of non-Muslims as well, including backers of the JAIZ Bank. Sanusi has also highlighted the presence of Islamic banking systems in other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom.
The controversy has relevance for at least three reasons. First, it affects Muslim-Christian relations, and shows how interreligious tensions appear not only “on the ground” in terms of physical conflict, but also in debates among elites over questions of national policy. Second, it forms part of ongoing changes in Nigeria’s financial system. Finally, this controversy will be another challenge – and opportunity – for Governor Sanusi, who is one of the most important figures now in Nigerian politics. Judging from the wide press coverage the controversy is receiving, many Nigerian elites will be watching closely to see how the controversy unfolds.
I was not able to find the most recent guidelines from CBN on Islamic banking, but here are the guidelines issued in December (.pdf).
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