Mauled by the media for suggesting aspects of Sharia Law should be incorporated into the British legal system, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has become something of a hero -- even a Christian legend -- in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria.
Speaking at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London on March 6, the leader of the multi-million strong Qadiriyyah wing of the Islamic faith, Nigerian Sheikh Qaribullahi Nasiru Kabara, told academics and diplomats that he felt "very good" when he heard what Williams had to say at a February lecture.
"I felt very good," the sheikh said. "The people of northern Nigeria are very happy. It shows the recent upward rating of the British and the way they see Islam...That call from the Archbishop of Canterbury caused a serious round of celebrations because people feel, 'These people are now listening to us. Let us look at them and talk to them properly.'"
Of course, happy or not, some of the people of northern Nigeria have killed thousands of Anglican Christians in the last few years.
Over 10,000 people have died in religious violence since 1999 when several northern states decided to implement the Shariíah penal code in defiance of the countryís secular constitution. The Wase area of southern Plateau State has experienced intermittent violence since the summer of 2002 when attacks by armed Muslims on the predominantly Christian Taroh tribe left at least 5,000 people dead, 100,000 displaced and over 80 villages destroyed.
There was a lull in the violence during 2003 when the State Governor, Joshua Dariye, convened local peace talks. However, tensions mounted once again on January 3 2004 after it emerged the Muslim Emir of Wase, deeply implicated in the violence of 2002, had brought more than 500 Muslim families to the area to settle in towns and villages abandoned by displaced Christians.
I somehow doubt that Nigerian Christians are quite as chuffed with the Mad Monk.