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Justice et injustices spatiales

Bernard Bret
Philippe Gervais-Lambony
Claire Hancock
et al.

Justice Spatiale, Identités, Minorités

Hypocrisy, Spatial (In)justice and Youthful “Policing” in Northern Nigeria

Dr Conerly Casey

Full text

1IN 1999 AND 2000, the implementation of Shari’ah criminal codes in twelve states of northern Nigeria brought heated public debate and violent conflicts over the legal bounds of civility and criminality, with armed youths the new agents of “policing”. The influx of Nigerian youths into city centers, political economic decentralization, and the primacy of the free market have stimulated parallel economies that support, and receive protection from, political, economic and religious rivals. Ethnic and religious vigilantes such as the Yoruba O’odua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the southwest (Akinyele 2001; Nolte 2004), and the Igbo Bakassi Boys of the southeast (Baker 2002; Harnischfeger 2003; Smith 2004) have received widespread regional support for demanding social justice and government accountability, even when these groups employed violence as enforcement. Contemporary ‘yan daba (urban ward gang members), ‘yan banga (bodyguards; political vanguard) and hisbah, (enforcing wing of the Shari’ah Implementation Committee) in northern Nigeria are part of this larger phenomenon (See Casey 2007a, b, c, and d; ‘dan Asabe 1991; and Ya’u 2000 for historical and contemporary analyses of Kano ‘yan daba and ‘yan banga).

2The gates of the predominantly Muslim Hausa Gari (old city) of Kano, and ethnically diverse neighborhoods on the outskirts of the old city, became new points of surveillance as ‘yan daba joined hisbah to “police” women, non-Hausa Muslims and Christians. Yet, ‘yan daba diverged from hisbah, and the reformist Shari’ah state, sometimes violently, over the right to consume alcohol and Indian hemp, to use tauri (herbal ritual medicine that prevents injuries from weapons), and to enter spirit possession rituals, criticizing the hypocrisy of reformist Muslims on these issues. They joined non-Hausa Muslims and Christians, living outside the gates of the old city, to argue for individual human rights, challenging Kano’s Shari’ah state and the United States government as democratic instruments for protecting individuals. ‘Yan daba evoked the question of ‘authenticity’ and practiced ‘truth’ versus ‘hypocrisy’ in public evaluations of Kano’s Shari’ah state and of the United States’ War on Terrorism and War in Iraq, focusing on visibility and the control of public space.

3Contrary to the premises of Islamic re-traditionalization and revolution, advanced in the scholarship about new implementations of Shari’ah criminal codes, I address the spatial histories of ‘truth’ among ‘yan daba and hisbah, and the geographies of injustice and accountability that have emerged through youthful vigilance. I focus on youths’ surveillance and the power of visual, public culture in ongoing struggles for the codification of rights, privileges and protection in city, state, national and international law and practice. This includes an analysis of the material and nonmaterial affects of colonial and global rights to space and of social movements, particularly religious and economic, that organize communal responses to spatial (in)justice.

4While scholars are beginning to comprehend the “spatiotemporal contradictions inherent in capitalism” (Harvey 2000), and re-territorializations of capital, commodities and people (Appadurai 1990; Deleuze and Guattari 1980; Mbembe 2000), spatiotemporal resonances of the material and non-material aspects of justice, are less understood (Casey 2007a, b, d; Comaroff and Comaroff 2004). I suggest that the hypocrisy of espoused liberal universalism and of Shari’ah law in the contexts of colonialism and imperialism, and the gaps between law and enforcement, encouraged Muslim Hausa youths to enact social justice via ‘policing’ and public violence against women and minorities. Because anyone may be a potential minority in Nigeria, this dynamic generates fear of travel, of migrating for employment, and other social exchanges, limiting opportunities for social justice for all Nigerians.

Spatial justice and the right to difference

5In Nigeria, “Where are you from?” is often the first question a person asks. One’s hometown is linked to ethnicity, religion, and region, and to the power of majority ethnic, religious groups to determine the geographic re-distribution of state material resources, while assigning value to non-material aspects of life (i.e. happiness, opportunity, security and liberty). The geographic patterning of access to state resources emerged as the British colonial project of uniting “politically neighboring but formerly autonomous states and peoples under imperial rule in one colonial state” (Levin 1997: 135). The British takeover of the Royal Niger Company in 1900, indirect rule as the British governing principle in northern Nigeria, and the consolidation of British colonial power under the Sokoto Caliphate framed the regional motif of British colonial policy (Last 1967; Levin 1997; Paden 1986). British administrators arbitrarily established specific territorial units within the colonial state as autonomous, in what Mamdani (1996) refers to as “decentralized despotism”, exacerbating ethnic, religious and regional political tensions over access to state resources. Fractions emerged between the majority Muslim Hausa in the north, Christian Igbo in the southeast, and Christian and Muslim Yoruba in the southwest, and the ethnic, religious minorities within these regions, most notably the Ogoni in the oil rich southeast (Crowder 1978; Falola 1998; Okpu 1977; Paden 1973).

6The colonial transfer of state power to northern Muslims in 1960 at Nigeria’s independence brought with it a renewed interest in world Islamic affairs, grassroots Muslim brotherhoods and efforts to re-impose Shari’ah criminal codes that had been excised at independence. The Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s generated thousands of internally displaced persons, requiring state governments to manage disputes about the constitutional and pragmatic rights and protections of displaced people. Nigeria’s oil boom, in the 1970s, and the state’s “petro-capitalism” and “spoils politics”, further deepened political antagonisms, based on ethnic, religious and regional interests in the control of Nigeria’s land and resources (Watts 2001).

7Under General Murtala Mohammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo, political attempts to establish a Federal Shari’ah Court of Appeal failed, but Shari’ah courts gained state level appellate status, and this status was incorporated into the 1979 Constitution (Williams 1997). These events, coinciding with the 1979 Iranian Revolution, emboldened reformist Muslims who considered the implementation of Shari’ah criminal law a way to confront Nigeria’s political economic and social ills (See Alkalai et al. 1993; Last 1967; Paden 1973;, 1986; Sanusi 2000a, 2000b; Umar 1993, 2001; Wesberlund and Rosander 1997, for historical analyses of religious politics in northen Nigeria and the question of Shari’ah law). In the 1980s and 1990s, the creation of new states (Levin 1997), the convergence of religious and state politics (Falola 1998; Williams 1997), and development projects (Ocheje 1997) again displaced large numbers of Nigerians, reviving constitutional disputes over state jurisdictions and the ethnic, religious and regional dimensions of national and state rights and protections. It is with this history of spatial politics and social displacements, tied to the spatiotemporal location and allocation of oil resources, that Nigerians grapple with spatial (in)justice.

8In the minds of Nigerians, colonial and global forms of oppression intersect with majority/minority oppressions within Nigeria. Prior to the implementation of Shari’ah criminal codes, majority Muslim Hausa political leaders naturalized their groups’ experiences and expectations as right and good, depicting those of minorities as inferior, deviant or unworthy. Within this moral landscape, minorities were both highly salient in public culture and relatively invisible, easy scapegoats for social problems, while undeserving of the protections of Shari’ah law.

9In response to an increase in the population of Christian and non-Hausa Muslim minority youths, particularly almajarai (Qur’anic students), and the ethnic, religious, and generational differences their presence evoked, Muslim Hausa political, religious leaders and news reporters began to describe youths as the new barbarians—“vermin”, “HIV infected”, “youths on the rampage”—in need of increased discipline and punishment, and as victimized innocents, hyper-socialized into market, pleasure and war economies.

10All over Nigeria, youths began to mobilize their activities around resource control and community security, combining “elements of complicity, insurgency, monitoring and disengagement” in response to state and international business “politics of plunder” (Gore and Pratten 2003). In the north, youths engaged cultural otherness, in face-to-face settings and via the media, taking advantage of outside educational opportunities and resources, but they also passionately defended cultural boundaries of opportunity and security (Casey 2007a). Resurgences of local identities, and distinctions between, “indigenes” and “strangers”, “believers” and “infidels”, resulting in large-scale violence emerged as “affective” responses to hypocritical, morally bankrupt adult leaders, local and global, and to new venues of political, economic, and religious participation (Casey 2007a, b, c, d).

11During the implementation of Shari’ah criminal codes, conflicts over land rights and the use of public space drew on generational and ethnic, religious disputes over social visibility and appropriate uses of space, on the fear that social heterogeneity would dilute or contaminate Muslim Hausa culture, and on the loss of accessibility to wealthy kin with an increase in fortified enclaves for the nuclear families of the rich. Global infusions of neoliberal politics and capitalism, with mediated images of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq, revived the ongoing, glaring hypocrisy of espoused liberal universalism, on the one hand, and the violence of local-global inequities and injustice, on the other. Public debate about media images of U.S. soldiers humiliating Muslims in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, while occupying sacred spaces such as Iraqi mosques, furthered local-global Islamic alliances that placed pressure on ethnic and religious communal relations in Nigeria, and on the possibilities for spatial justice in cities such as Kano.

Social networks and spatial practices

12Muslim Hausa, living in Kano city, maintain social and familial networks that extend into rural farmlands, other cities, and countries, with most having regular contact with relatives in villages, and farms to assure their family’s food supply. One’s religion, ethnicity, language, and geographical affiliation are linked in complicated ways, with certain signifiers brought forward through day-to-day life. Kano spoken Hausa is considered “standard”, while that from other areas, by default, is nonstandard, so that many ethnic minorities and Hausa living outside of the city feel “downgraded” or excluded by language. Hausa living in the city joke about people from the “bush”, considering them uneducated or culturally unsophisticated, yet anyone who can afford to build a home in their family’s village does, and there is some sense that people living in villages have a greater knowledge about witchcraft, spirit possession, and tauri (herbal medicines and ritual practices to prevent piercing from weapons), alternative sources of power, because of their physical access to herbal medicines and the rituals surrounding these practices.

13‘Yan daba frequent villages to attend hunting expeditions with mafarauta (hunters) and ‘yan tauri ritual specialists. During the early years of Shari’ah implementation, ‘yan daba in Kano city described affiliations between their ward gangs and one of two small rival villages about 40 minutes south of the city: ‘Yadda ‘Kwari, which means the place where one drops arrows, and Kura, the Hausa term for a female hyena, an animal considered to have special magical powers. ‘Yan daba spoke of ‘Yadda ‘Kwari as the “black team”, with Kura as the “white team”, simultaneously indicating a mirroring east/west division between affiliated ward gangs in Kano city.

14At the heart of the old city, or Gari, is the Emir’s ancient palace, and the Central Mosque attached to it. Surrounding the Gari, remnants of twenty feet high walls built during the twelfth century create weathered hills that are crossed by indented walkways. During the implementation of Shari’ah, ‘yan daba hangouts and hisbah located their positions of surveillance around the gates and walkways of their wards, points of visual power, security and escape. These were also the locations of ‘yan daba black market businesses, with jerry cans of petrol a common sight around ward gates, a relief for residents seeking scarce petrol, but also a menacing reminder of potential violence.

15Beyond the predominately Muslim Hausa Gari is the congested sprawl of greater Kano, more cosmopolitan than the Gari, a maze of commercial and industrial sections interspersed between newly developed residential quarters for the rich. Two miles from the old walls is the tree-lined Government Residential Area (GRA), its colonial, stone houses a contrast to newer, Arabic-style residences. Unlike the Gari, there is a level of ethnic, religious and regional diversity within this quarter, for it is mainly populated by the Kano middle and upper classes who work in the professions, small business and manufacturing, and in government service. There are tensions between Muslims who live in the single family compounds of the GRA and their extended family relatives in the Gari who complain that the Westernization and elitism associated with life in the GRA results in an unruly selfishness that separates Muslim Hausa families. No ‘yan daba have historically congregated in the GRA, although in the years 1999 and 2000, the GRA became one of the main sites of political, religious protest and violence, especially violence associated with the profiling and “states of emergency” implemented to regulate “prostitution” and the consumption of alcohol, the other areas being wards on the outskirts of the Gari such as Doraye and Tudun Wada, whose populations are also culturally mixed, but tend to be poor, and Sabon Gari (the new city), comprised of a large market and residences of mainly southern Christians.

At the crossroads of free market capitalism and Shari’ah criminal law

16Since 1991, the numbers of male youths participating in daba black market economies in Kano city has increased tenfold, with almajarai the main recruits (‘dan Asabe 1991; Casey 2007a, b, c, d). ‘Yan daba leaders, with greater incomes and social influence than their parents, invert generational power, and emerge as political economic and sexual rivals to adult men. Phallic domination, and power based on the mobilization of conservative Christian and Muslim foundations of masculinity and femininity, has been revived in “postcolonial economies of pleasure where the threat to one’s life is not as great as the questioning of a male’s ability to demonstrate his virility at the expense of a woman and to obtain its validation from the subjugated woman herself” (Mbembe 2001: 13). Power brokers in illegal and illicit economies, youths such as ‘yan daba incorporate minority youths, engage reforming markets and economies of pleasure, offering themselves and requisitioning the bodies of other youths, for labor, pleasure, and violence.

17In the early stages of Shari’ah implementation, there was little money for the creation of jobs, social services, or education, other than reformist Islamic education, funded by Saudis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis and wealthy Nigerians. Instead, the Kano State Shari’ah Implementation Committee started campaigns against the sale and consumption of alcohol and prostitution, and for marriages of all unmarried Muslim Hausa women. A member of Hisbah told me:

Women are the people to bring all moral conduct. It is for them to teach children. They are our mothers, so we like them to be in front. They are the figureheads of everything moral.

18Hisbah complained that Muslim Yoruba and Christian women, not practicing the partial seclusion (kulle) of Muslim Hausa women, were “too independent”, available attractions for Muslim men. Among Muslim Hausa, failing to maintain what is considered proper control of one’s love, including spatial control of marital and familial relations, erotic desires and sexual behavior, is a religious lapse, a falling into non-Muslim patterns of indulgence and romanticism (Callaway and Creevey 1994; Wall 1988). Because erotic desire and sexual urges are considered natural and inevitable, moral virtue is relative to one’s behavior within the family, the guardian and container of Eros and sex. Unmarried women and women who live alone are commonly referred to as “karuwai” (prostitutes), bound to men only through sex and money, potential sources of communal betrayal. During the implementation of Shari’ah law, ‘yan daba received silent encouragement (or thought they did) and condemnation from reformist Muslims to frighten and attack Muslim women, married and unmarried, who ventured out of their homes unaccompanied.

19Conceptions of reformist interventions in moral, social order are widely associated with conservative ideologies of gender and family, yet reformist Muslims simultaneously developed strong educational programs for women and persuaded women to participate in politics. Muslim Hausa women, marrying and having babies, were a major front in the domestic politics of democracy as majority rules, but they also participated in protests and other public displays of reformist political affiliation. In December of 2000, thousands of Muslim Hausa women protested in front of the Kano State Government House to ask the Governor, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, for a stricter implementation of Shari’ah—that the bans on alcohol and prostitution were not strong enough to prevent Muslim Hausa husbands and sons from enjoying these pleasures.

  • 1 Some ‘yan daba participate in ‘daukar amarya, the kidnapping and raping of women whom they feel ha (...)

20At the crossroads of free market capitalism and Shari’ah criminal law, efforts to marry or to remove unmarried women, referred to as “prostitutes”, from Kano State, led to increased rates of rape, particularly of young Muslim Hausa girls selling food on city streets1. The intersections of free market capitalism and Shari’ah criminal law also led to the emergence of new underground networks of Eastern European and Middle Eastern sex workers brought into Kano by wealthy businessmen. To avoid arrest, middleclass and wealthy Muslims, venturing out to consume alcohol, changed from Muslim Hausa riguna into Western cut shirts tucked into pants, a style Muslim Hausa jokingly referred to as zanzaro (wasp), an indication of the immodesty of ‘yan daba, Christians and Muslim Yoruba who show their bodily contours. Concerned with the “visibility of immorality”, hisbah arrested their age mates and the poor more often than their elders for consumption of alcohol and for wearing clothes, such as short skirts, associated with “prostitution”, strata of society less able to hide in cars or guesthouses.

21Though ‘yan daba had played an integral part in forcing Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso to implement Shari’ah criminal codes, literally threatening to burn down the city with black-market petrol, ‘yan daba became an early focus of hisbah preaching and surveillance. ‘Yan daba and hisbah considered Shari’ah law to be a democratic form of governance, but they differed in the emotional attachments they had to democratic values. Hisbah tended to equate Shari’ah law with a democracy of majority rules, while ‘yan daba emphasized social justice and individual human rights. For instance, a member of hisbah said:

We are a democracy. We are the majority. And, the Islamic injunction is superior to any other injunction. So they say it’s a government of the people, for the people, by the people—Abraham Lincoln, American President… since this is a democracy, we can use it (Shari’ah) as a political weapon, to make sure that someone who is conscious of Shari’ah is elected.

22By contrast, a response I commonly heard among ‘yan daba is reflected by the statement:

We are all Muslims. Shari’ah will help us to know each other better. In this way, crimes will be reduced and the rich and poor will be the same under the law.

23‘Yan daba described their hopes for jobs and schooling, for health care and for personal reforms in behaviors such as their use of alcohol, forms of idealism reflected in wider discourses of support for Shari’ah criminal law. However, alongside these public narratives of support, ‘yan daba activities revealed mistrust, feelings of betrayal and anger. ‘Yan daba developed ward “lookouts” who monitored their neighborhoods for hisbah. Some said discretion was their best protection from hisbah because “Shari’ah works with eye-witnessing a crime.” Others said they would allow hisbah to preach to them, but would not change.

  • 2 Bori is widely regarded as animism, or a spirit possession cult that predated Islam.‘Yan Bori cons (...)

24‘Yan daba and hisbah were concerned with masculine power and the moral authority to secure public space. Hisbah identified the ideologies, practices and people who might undermine Kano’s Shari’ah State. They ethnicized ilimi (religious knowledge) and the “Islamic authenticity” of signs, people and practices, and nafs, control over bio-psychological processes, such as sexual desires, accusing Christians, non-Hausa Muslims, particularly Muslim Yoruba, and members of Bori2, of directly or indirectly patronizing alcoholic, mixed gendered, celebrations of the worship of false gods. Because of the closeness of Yoruba deities to the Yoruba institution of kingship, hisbah claimed that Yoruba political leaders promoted polytheism, alcohol inebriation, and womanizing under the guise of “culture”.

25In March of 2001, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, the reformist Sunni Deputy Governor of Kano State, announced an Islamic “state of emergency” referring to the inability of Shari’ah criminal law, as it was being practiced in Kano State, to stop “prostitution” and the sale and consumption of alcohol. In conflict with the Governor, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, Dr Ganduje led hisbah on a series of raids to local hotels, restaurants, and “cool spots”, where hisbah verbally abused patrons, while destroying millions of dollars worth of alcohol. Because Christian Igbo and Muslim Yoruba owned most of these businesses, these raids bankrupted some, scaring others into a mass exodus of Christians and Muslims who feared increased violence. Establishments stayed indefinitely closed or operated odd hours or with armed guards patrolling the gates. Jokes about “dying for a drink” became a permanent fixture as humor rose to meet increased levels of anxiety. Rumors about the arming of Muslims and Christians came more frequently. In response, President Olusegun Obasanjo called Dr Ganduje to Abuja, stating in public that the Deputy Governor had endangered Nigerian state security, thus, reframing Kano’s Islamic “state of emergency” as a national “state of emergency”.

Armed youths and social (in) justice

26Vanguards in the politics of identity and citizenship, youth ethnic and religious vigilantes represent divergent political imaginings of Nigeria, and the use of power to enforce certain ethnic, religious, and regional spatial interests. With demilitarization, deregulation and the primacy of the market, Nigerian vigilantes use violence to “control the means of coercion”, gaining advantage in conflicts over state sovereignty, land and the appropriation of resources (Mbembe 2001: 78). Violence occurs in the struggle for national and state codification of new rights and privileges, extrajudicial challenges to the international judiciary, the Nigerian nation state, Nigerian state governments, and corporate elites, whom vigilantes claim turn a deaf ear to the needs of the poor. Mbembe (2001:86) views this as

…a process in which international networks of foreign traffickers, middlemen, and businessmen are linking with, and becoming entwined with, local businessmen, “technocrats,” and warlords, causing whole areas of Africa’s international economic relations to be swept underground, making it possible to consolidate methods of government that rest on indiscriminate violence and high-level corruption.

27The exploitation of minorities and the poor by wealthy elites and majority ethnic, religious groups has become an integral part of postcolonial economies of pleasure and of war.

28In the years immediately following the implementation of Shari’ah criminal codes in Kano State, public sentiments about injustice toward Muslims increased with Al-Qaeda’s September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, the subsequent bombing of Afghanistan, and the U.S. war in Iraq, culminating in the May 11, 2004 large-scale ‘yan daba violence against “arna(unbelievers), “Kiristoci(Christians) and “baki(strangers).

29In the weeks preceding the May 11, 2004 violence, Muslim Hausa residents of Kano paid close attention to reports of terrorism in Nigeria, and to violence in Plateau State, in the Palestinian territories, and in Iraq. Muslims quickly dismissed reports of the U.S. State Department’s alleged concern with an Afghani-associated Taliban in Yobe and Bornu States, of the existence of Al-Qaeda in Plateau State, and of the Salafist group in Kano State as ploys by the United States to keep a firm grip on the political affairs of Nigeria. Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, argued that: “the ‘propaganda’ about the existence of terrorist cells in the North (Nigeria) may be part of a general plan by the United States to prepare the ground for coming into the country…” (Gwantu, 2004), a popularly held concern that the Bush administration plans a war on Nigeria to “steal” the petroleum.

30In the early 2000s, the polarization of Western Christian and Eastern Islamic political identities by world leaders such as George Bush and Ariel Sharon, hardened political identifications in Nigeria, not just among Muslims, but among a range of political actors concerned with global justice and security. Muslim Hausa youths took Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as heroes, adorning their motorcycles and buses with stickers of their images, not because they identified with the religious politics of these men, but with Islam, in general, and with the military-masculinity and willingness of bin Laden and Hussein to “stand up” to George Bush and Ariel Sharon, personalities they associated with anti-Islam, elitism, corruption and violence.

  • 3 Protests over the killing of Sheik Abdul-Azeez Rantisi occurred all over northern Nigeria.
  • 4 Interview with a ‘dan daba from Kano City, 8-21-04.

31In the week prior to the May 11th crisis, leaders from Muslim factions in the old city of Kano met to discuss holding a protest march for the death of Palestinian leaders, Sheiks Ahmed Yassin and Abdul-Azeez Rantisi3. After some debate, they decided that a public demonstration might become too passionate, degenerating into violence, so they asked people to make prayers at their local mosques. Then, reports of the American and British abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib hit the news. Pictures of Muslim Iraqis naked and tied together, while dragged by British and American soldiers, including women soldiers, made local as well as international news, further angering Kano Muslims. In response to reading about Abu Ghraib, a ‘dan daba said, “A Muslim is a brother of Muslims. Whenever a Christian sees a Muslim, he will humiliate him, while a Muslim will humiliate a Christian4.” Such emotions mapped onto memories and ongoing feelings of the humiliating violence of colonialism and imperialism, local and global.

32On May 2, 2004, Nigerian newspapers reported attacks by Christian Torok on Muslim Hausa and Fulani living in Plateau State, particularly in Yelwan Shendam and neighboring villages. Reports estimated between 67 and 200 deaths in Yelwan Shendam alone, with women and children raped and taken as slaves for labor and sex. The news reports highlighted Governor Dariye’s language and references to Muslim Hausa victims as “strangers”, “settlers” and “tenants” who had no one, but themselves, to blame for the violence.

33The victims of the violence in Yelwan Shendam and neighboring villages, many of whom had relatives in Kano, came to seek refuge in Kano. Several FM radio stations aired accounts of their attacks, such that people within the predominately Muslim old city of Kano described feeling increased gaba (hostility) and tashin zuchiya (literally, a rise in the heart, angry or hot tempered). Islamic leaders reversed their earlier decision not to hold public prayers, announcing the plan to hold public prayers and a protest rally during which they would march to the Governor’s House to ask that he demand security for Muslims living in Plateau State, in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories

34During the protest, two large overnight buses from the southern, predominantly Christian part of Nigeria drove by the roundabout close to the mosque where the rally was taking place. Youths threw stones at the buses then ran down Zoo Road and into the Gyadi-Gyadi area, burning shops and houses, attacking “arna”, “Kiristoci” and “baki”.

35The industrial areas of Sharada and Challewa, along with Panshekara, a town 20 minutes outside of Kano where many Christian workers from the industries live, were all heavily attacked. The palace of Eze Ndigbo was burned to the ground as the aged Eze narrowly escaped death, joining other Igbos in fortified areas such as Sabon Gari, acts that brought visceral memories and outrage about the Kano attacks on Igbos in 1995 and in 1966, preceding the Nigerian civil war.

Concluding remarks

36Spatial analyses of injustice, in which we consider the economies and social conditions of various groups as well as the social production of space —that space impacts groups and their opportunities in material and non-material ways—are critical in the fight for local and global forms of social justice (Dikec 2001; Harvey 2000; Soja 2000). In Kano, spatial and historical alliances and felt solidarities with reformist Muslims in the Middle East and other parts of Africa mobilized Muslim Hausa to organize against corrupt political leaders, Nigerian, American and Israeli. The implementation of Shari’ah criminal codes led to renewed attention to Muslim Hausa poor and disabled, to youths and to women, yet had devastating consequences for those deemed unworthy of assistance such as non-Muslim Hausa minorities and so-called “marginal Muslims”.

37Power brokers in new decentralized political and religious economies, and in older, centralized state sponsored economies, Muslim ‘yan daba and hisbah sacrificed their lives and the lives of others in violent demonstrations of virility through the control and subjugation of women, and to establish control of markets, state political economic power, and power in the global war on Terrorism. The sentiments aroused by the hypocrisy of espoused liberal universalism and of Shari’ah law in the spatiotemporal contexts of colonialism and imperialism, and the gaps between law and enforcement, encouraged Muslim Hausa youths to use public violence as a means of ‘insuring’ justice. Yet, such violent enactments of cultural justice inevitably denied justice to others, contributing to a fear of travel within Nigeria since everyone away from home is potentially a minority. It is at the crossroads of free market capitalism and religious orthodoxies, where the affective language, activities and spatial exclusions of selling and converting coincide, that oppressed youths learn to use public violence and the fear it generates to ‘insure’ spatial (in)justice. This global dynamic requires a healthy critique of colonial, imperial and jihad structures of (in)justice, and of the spatiotemporal configurations, material and non-material, which continue to oppress minorities, women and youths at home and abroad.


38I am thankful for the assistance of Aminu Sharif Bappa, Usman Aliyu and Show Boy, and for the ‘yan daba, hisbah and families who allowed me into their lives. For reasons of confidentiality, they shall remain unnamed, but I greatly appreciate my experiences with them. I would like to thank Abdulkarim ‘Dan Asabe, Salisu Abdullahi, Murray Last, Fatima Palmer, Istvan Patkai, Shobana Shankar, Aminu Taura Abdullahi, Aminu Inuwa, Aisha Usman, Mike Aliyu and the late Philip Shea and Umar Sanda for their important contributions to my thinking about this project. I am grateful to faculty in the Departments of Psychiatry and Sociology, Bayero University and in the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles for research affiliations and a sense of home base. I am indebted to Robert Edgerton, Douglas Hollan, Allen Feldman, Uli Linke and Alexander Hinton for their mentoring and inspiration for this project, and to Susan Phillips for her invitation to participate in the conference on spatial justice for which this paper was written. However, the project would have been impossible without the generous support of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (2000-2002), and the skillful guidance of Karen Colvard, and a Fulbright IIE Lecturing/Research Award (2004).



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1 Some ‘yan daba participate in ‘daukar amarya, the kidnapping and raping of women whom they feel have “slighted” or disrespected them. ‘Yan daba admit kidnapping groups of “prostitutes” from hotels, brutally raping them in uninhabited areas of Kano. Unfortunately, these rapes are rarely reported. According to a Magistrate Judge in Gyadi Gyadi, cases of reported rape increased six-fold between the implementation of Shari’ah law in November of 2000 and January of 2001. The Judge attributed this to a decrease in the number of “prostitutes” available for older men, who had instead begun “turning to young girls” (personal communication, January 12, 2001).

2 Bori is widely regarded as animism, or a spirit possession cult that predated Islam.‘Yan Bori consider themselves Muslims, while Kano reformist Muslims variably refer to them as “fallen Muslims”, “marginal Muslims” or “pagans”.

3 Protests over the killing of Sheik Abdul-Azeez Rantisi occurred all over northern Nigeria.

4 Interview with a ‘dan daba from Kano City, 8-21-04.


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