Friday, February 23, 2007

Passage Imminent III

[UPDATE -- this legislation is up for a vote in the Nigerian Senate tomorrow, March 1. For more on what you can do to speak out against it -- it's almost too late -- see here.]

For far too long, the Anglican church in Nigeria has used the "shari'ya" canard to justify their advocacy of the anti-gay bill currently before the Nigerian Senate.

On December 19 of last year, in an open letter to the Virginia parishes leaving the Episcopal Church for Nigerian oversight, Archbishop Peter Akinola was given the opportunity to rationalize his unequivocal endorsement of the legislation:
We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it.
The subtext here -- as emphasized innumerable times by conservative Anglicans supportive of Akinola's actions -- is that the efforts of the Nigerian Church in civil affairs are subject to extreme pressures from Nigerian Muslims, many of whom apparently believe that their Anglican brethren are light in the loafers.

The "pressure from Islam" thread has been repeated elsewhere. Here's Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh), the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, on March 15, 2006:
... it should be noted that while the proposed law sounds harsh to American ears, the penalty for homosexual activities in those parts of Africa under Islamic Sharia law (such as the Sudan and portions of Northern Nigeria for that matter) is death. It is precisely the imposition of these much harsher Sharia laws that Archbishop Akinola and other Anglican leaders in Africa have resisted so strongly for many years with little publicity or support from the West.
Here's (now) Bishop Martyn Minns, Rector of Truro Parish, Virginia, on March 4, 2006:
The situation in Nigeria is even more complex. There is a precarious balancing act between those regions that are under Muslim influence – where Sharia law calls for the stoning of homosexuals – and those that have a majority Christian population. The situation is volatile as demonstrated by the repercussions from the Danish cartoon saga that have already led to hundreds of Christian and Muslim deaths. Keeping the lid on this situation is a formidable task. In recent months homosexual activism sponsored in part by organizations from the UK and South Africa has threatened to add further instability. In response the President of Nigeria has proposed legislation that would restrict such activities.
Minns is now a bishop under Archbishop Akinola's oversight.

We are led to believe that a primary impetus for Akinola's unequivocal endorsement of the legislation is the threat of Islamic extremism.

Until we read this, from This Day (Lagos, Nigeria), February 22, 2007 [my emphasis]:

The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Nasir Mantu (Plateau State) [a Muslim name] who spoke after the Senate Leader said that he would have thought that the government would devote more time to "do things more important to the lives of our country than for it to propose this Bill."

"What the government is now doing is creating awareness to this thing and for us to create this kind of awareness, people may now want to start exploring it. Mr. President we have more serious things to do than to be working on this bill, I therefore urge that members should help me to kill this bill." Senate Chief Whip, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma supported Mantu and argued that, "when you pass a law, it is meant to deal with a problem. My view is that the marriage act that we operate in Nigeria defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. As the deputy Senate President [Mantu] said, I think we should set this aside so that we can concentrate on the more important things we have to do."

What!??! A northern Nigerian Muslim doesn't think this legislation is important enough to warrant the attention it's getting? Hmm, that doesn't fit with Akinola's, Minns', and Duncan's argument. I'll have to give this logical puzzle some thought.

But notice what I think is the key phrase from Senator Udoma: "My view is that the marriage act that we operate in Nigeria defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman." That is, there is already a marriage law on the books that unequivocally defines marriage as between a man and a woman. This was new to me, and it makes it quite clear that even the nominally important aspect of the new legislation (a ban on gay marriage) is legally unnecessary. Homosexuality is already illegal in Nigeria; marriage is already defined as between a man and a woman.

All the new legislation does is ban activism and in a nakedly political fashion. Those who have endorsed this bill, and the allies of Akinola who have failed to actively criticize his endorsement of this legislation, have a lot to answer for.


MadProfessah said...

Cool blog... thanks for covering this topic so thoroughly!

Dave C. said...

I'm sure there isn't much need for any additional legislation in northern Nigeria. I think the Sharia death penalty pretty much keeps gays in check without need for any new laws. I'm sure you could have found plenty of good ol' boys in the South during the 50s and 60s who wouldn't have seen the need for any legislation against Black men whistling at White women either.

Matt said...

Dave C.:

But wouldn't those southern gentlement have been happy to let their views be imposed on the rest of the country? Wouldn't Deputy Senate President Mantu?

Just because Mantu's Plateau State would be saddled with no worse penalties that it would be under Shar'iya, does not mean that he wouldn't want to impose those penalties on the rest of Nigeria.

Furthermore, remember that the bill is nominally about banning gay marriage. Why wouldn't he want to simply allow those provisions to pass? His reluctance only makes sense if he is troubled by the far more draconian provisions found later in the bill.