Nigerians are subsidising human rights violations by Hisbah in Kano. When does it end?

It has almost become a tradition – the kind you know will happen but that you are not sure when – to wake up to the most bizarre thoughts or actions made public in the name of the Shariah police – Hisbah. Today, it is that the illegal body which is responsible for countless criminal human rights violations in some Northern Nigerian states, has banned the use of mannequins to display clothes in Kano. 

Hisbah cites the reason for this latest violation to be because “The use of mannequins is responsible for immoral thoughts among the public.”

We have written here in February this year, warning about a fast decline into Islamic extremism in Kano facilitated by Hisbah with the approval of and funding by the state government. About the danger of allowing a kind of religious fascism that seeks to enforce its brand of theological understanding on everyone. Muslim or Christian. 

There is a common argument in defence of this dangerous undertaking which Kano and Zamfara among 12 other Northern states that have adopted Shari’ah law since the early 2000s have been unveiling in bits and pieces over the years. That sharia only affects believing Muslims.

Even if this argument is true – which the case of a Christian Police Inspector, known as OC Gulder, who was detained by Hisbah for allegedly supplying beer to a vendor who is also Christian easily disproves – it will still be illegal and a dangerous undertaking.

Believing Muslims are not a monolith, even to begin with.

In this piece we wrote just as the Ramadan fasting was starting, we documented how some Muslims feel about the unchecked illegal activities of the Hisbah – most of it is unhappiness. It is not uncommon to see Hisbah enforcing not only dress codes, haircuts and alcohol consumption ban, but also dictating how believing Muslims must express their faith, even grieve.

Take the case of a young man identified as Muhammad Ikbal, who stopped praying and going to the mosque after operatives of the Islamic police shaved his hair for being “unislamic.”

His response – a classic case of grief processing or just an expression of rage at the injustice of his violation by these emboldened criminals – was met by yet more violation.

Hisbah arrested him for a viral video he shared in which he declared he no longer prays or goes to the mosque following the assault on him by Hisbah. Ibn Sina, the head of Hisbah in Kano, advised him to perform naafil – voluntary prayer – and seek Allah’s forgiveness.

This may seem innocuous, after all it is just advice, but something more sinister is at play when a picture of the guy – who committed no crime whatsoever but was treated as if he did – was made public by Hisbah.

We know from past precedents – for instance, the case of the Kano singer Yahaya Sharif who was tried on the charge of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad and sentenced to death – that a mob of mindless fanatics can have their way with him even long after Hisbah has finished putting him through the wringer.

Yahaya – whose case is currently in appeal, had his family home burnt by angry mobs who would have harmed him had he been within reach.

There is no doubt that Hisbah is a dangerous entity that is fast reducing Kano – a one-time commercial hub almost at per with Lagos – into a terror capital using taxpayer Naira.

Every Nigerian is within their rights to demand an end to the activities of Hisbah since they are funded by the commonwealth of Nigeria. Nigerians – largely from the southern regions but not limited to them – have been unequivocal about their concern regarding Hisbah.

It is a testament to the intentional deafness of the Federal Government that nothing has yet been done to stop Hisbah or reign it in at least.

It can demoralise, when we know that however loud our protestations our elected officials may choose simply to ignore us. We can’t however afford defeat in the face of this great moral evil. Now is as good a time as any to mount a collective agitation anew to either end Hisbah or criminalise its funding using taxpayer money.

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