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Islamic banking stirs up controversy in religiously-divided Nigeria

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The Islamic banking controversy concerns last Monday’s announcement that the CBN has given the go-ahead for JAIZ Bank, which the press calls “the first Islamic bank in the country,” and Tuesday’s issuance of final guidelines pertaining to Islamic banking in Nigeria. Although, as Next points out, “a draft framework for non-interest banking was issued in March 2009 by the [CBN], its position on Islamic banking did not become much of an issue until a few months ago when the final guidelines were released.” Sanusi ordered the guidelines to be rewritten in order to address and/or incorporate criticisms, but some Christian groups continue to denounce the changes.

For example, Bishop David Bakare of the Kaduna State chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) accuses Sanusi of harboring sectarian loyalties and of exacerbating interreligious tensions at a delicate moment:

“Honestly, if Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had done this advocacy for Islamic banking as a religious leader, it would have made a better sense than as a government official. Therefore, Sanusi should come out and tell the nation whose errand he is running and for who he speaks; is it for himself, Islam, or government of Nigeria?

“The PFN, Kaduna State, strongly condemns the Central Bank governor’s Islamic banking agenda at a time like this in Nigeria when we are still battling to douse the tension created by the last ‘political’ crisis with all the evident religious manifestations.This obviously is an insensitive and reckless act of the highest order coming from such a high ranking officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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