Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Nigeria: Kano under Shakarau.

Date: Wednesday 10 September 2003
Subj: Nigeria: Kano under Shakarau - all schoolgirls to wear hijab.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Sharia law was officially launched in the northern state of Kano on 21 June 2000. However, the then governor, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, was reluctant to enforce sharia in such a cosmopolitan city as Kano city. His primary interest as governor was rural development and he was constantly accused by pro-sharia groups of dragging his feet on the issue of implementation of sharia.

The 19 April 2003 governorship elections resulted in a change of governor in Kano. Dr. Kwankwaso, who was aligned with Obasanjo's PDP, was defeated by Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who was aligned to Muhammadu Buhari's pro-sharia, Islamist ANPP. Shekarau campaigned on a platform of rigorous sharia enforcement.

Daily Trust of Abuja reported on 20 June that the Kano State House of Assembly had vowed to "rectify all policies that contradict Islamic and Hausa cultures, inherited from the former administration. The House also resolved that only policies which goes in line with principles of Islam would be promulgated."


The United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported on 1 September 2003, "Kano state government in northern Nigeria has made it compulsory for all girls attending schools run by the state government to wear the hijab Islamic headscarf, whether or not they are Muslim." (Link 1)

The directive does not apply to private schools or schools run by the Nigerian Federal Government, but it does apply to all girls of all religions who attend schools run by the state government. Considering that the Kano state government has closed virtually all Kano's Christian schools, Christian families are not going to have much choice.

(Christian schools are closed in Kano on the grounds that they do not meet state mandated standards. The education standards however, include the mandate that all schools (Christian schools included) must employ Islamic clerics to indoctrinate the children in Islam. Those schools that refuse are closed.)

According to the IRIN report, "Kano state commissioner for education, Ishaq Mahmoud Umar, said the order for schoolgirls to wear the hijab formed part of the state government's efforts to uphold public morals and ensure 'the teachings of Islam are applied in each and every aspect of governance'."

The Vanguard of Lagos reported "Northern states chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has frowned at attempts by some of the states to force Christian students to wear the Hijab." (Link 2)

A CAN communiqué urged governments of northern states to "respect Christian culture in the interest of peace and harmony". CAN also expressed disappointment over what it termed "large-scale discrimination against Northern Christian students in admission policies of some institutions of higher learning in certain courses such as medicine and law."

Al-Jazeera added that not only will all girls in public state schools wear hijab, but all public schools will now have imams to lead prayers. (al-Jazeera, 30 Aug, Abuja)

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) Kano State Directs All School Girls to Wear Muslim Scarf
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) 1 September 2003

CAN Flays Imposition of Hijjab On Christian Students in Northern
States. By Umar Yusuf. Vanguard (Lagos) 5 September 2003