Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, February 06, 2012

The intersection of globalism and jihadism

Kano has long been an important city in West Africa. Still is. Now it's an important city in Nigeria and the focus of cultural conflicts.

The terror they dare not name
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… 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… 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…

On January 20th, Kano was the target of the [radical Islamist group, Boko Haram's] most deadly attack to date. A series of co-ordinated bombings and ambushes destroyed police buildings and secret-service offices, leaving some 200 dead…

Once a rich trans-Saharan trade hub, the city can ill afford to lose more commerce. For centuries it enjoyed high levels of literacy and a degree of architectural sophistication. But its main industries, cotton and leather, have collapsed, unable to compete with low-cost imports.

“The Chinese are choking small-scale businesses,” laments Sani Yusuf, a manager at Kano’s indigo-dye pits, some of the oldest in Africa…

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