Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nigeria’s northern capital: The terror they dare not name

28 January 2012

Globalisation and jihadism intersect in the little-known metropolis of Kano

A YEAR ago arrivals on the outskirts to Kano had to pass a sign forbidding alcohol consumption and banning women from riding on motorbikes. Now it is gone.

Kano may be the sixth-biggest Muslim city in the world—after Karachi, Jakarta, Dhaka, Cairo and Istanbul—but it is far from the most conservative. Women lift their hemlines to get on the back of achabas, motorbikes that are the main source of transport. Mini vans carry both sexes to their destination. It is possible to get a cold beer to wash away sand inhaled during a day on the edge of the Sahara.

The relaxation of sharia rules has come gradually, but it has accelerated with a recent change of guard. Ibrahim Shekarau, the former governor, liked to please radical clerics. He put up pious signs even as prostitutes plied their trade and policemen took bribes from alcohol merchants. When Rabiu Kwankwaso took over last year, he dropped the charade.

For now religious homogeneity in Kano creates harmony, one resident says. “It allows people to communicate. There is little bitterness or resentment.” But as 10m souls are confined to their homes during a newly imposed night-time curfew following this month’s attack, many will wonder how long until BH strikes again.

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