Nigerian Islamic court bans satirical play on Sharia law

Kano, Nigeria - An Islamic court in northern Nigeria has banned a play written by a civil rights activist which satirises the implementation of Sharia law in 12 mainly Muslim states, court papers show.

The upper Sharia court in the Tudun Wada neighbourhood of the northern city of Kaduna issued an order restraining Shehu Sani from selling or circulating his play, "Phantom Crescent".

The order, which also bans performances of the play, was issued October 3 in response to a motion filed by Concerned Sharia Forum, a pro-Sharia group based in Zaria, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Kaduna.

This court grants an order restraining the defendant "from selling or in any way circulating the book titled "Phantom Crescent," the order, received by AFP Sunday, read.

"I have received the court order which we will comply with but which we will challenge legally,", Sani told AFP on the telephone from Kaduna .

The play is a satire depicting how politicians, especially governors of the states implementing the Islamic Sharia legal system, use it "as a tool for looting the public treasury with impunity and for stifling opposition," Sani said.

"I have contacted my lawyers who are prepared to fight this infringement on my fundamental right to freedom of expression," he said.

The stage performance of the play slated for October 23 has been put off pending the lifting of the ban, Sani added.

The court has set a hearing for Tuesday.

Since the return of Nigeria to civil rule in 1999 a dozen predominantly Muslim states in the north have re-introduced a strict version of the Islamic Sharia legal system.