In This Review

Muslims Talking Politics: Framing Islam, Democracy, and Law in Northern Nigeria
Muslims Talking Politics: Framing Islam, Democracy, and Law in Northern Nigeria
By Brandon Kendhammer
University of Chicago Press, 2016, 312 pp.

Since the mid-1990s, several states in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north have sought to institutionalize Islamic law (sharia). Kendhammer combines deft ethnographic research with a deep knowledge of Nigerian history and culture to examine this trend, its implications for democracy and liberalism, and the reasons why many Muslim Nigerians have welcomed it. He finds that although some northern politicians have cynically exploited Muslim fears of being attacked and marginalized in an increasingly secular society in order to promote sharia, many ordinary Muslim Nigerians required little convincing: they sincerely believe that implementing Islamic law will improve the performance of woefully deficient state administrations and legal systems, encourage economic development, and lead to a more responsive democracy. In practice, Kendhammer finds that sharia has served to strengthen the state’s regulatory apparatus over religion, and that it has also harmed the interests of non-Muslim minorities. Meanwhile, sharia’s effects on good governance and growth have been inconsistent and partial.