22 November 2002

Nigeria: Uneasy Calm in Kano

Kano — Last Saturday's blasphemous publication in the ThisDay newspaper has continued to generate reactions from the public in Kano, especially from the community of Ulamas. Since news of the publication spread in Kano on Monday, series of meetings and consultations have been held among the various Islamic groups to articulate a common front.

As news of the events in Kaduna filtered into Kano on Wednesday, the blasphemous publication became the topic of discussion at mosques and social gatherings in Kano even as selective reactions began to emerge.

The Kano Vendors Association refused to circulate the newspaper in Kano yesterday to protest the publication on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Distributors also followed by announcing a boycott of the ThisDay newspapers in Kano.

Weekly Trust gathered that the front-page apology published yesterday by the newspaper to appease the Muslim community could not be circulated in Kano for fear of generating additional tension. "If we bring that out, many people who do not know about the issue will know and tension may flare up," said a vendor at Murtala Mohammed roundabout in Kano.

The police in Kano swiftly moved into action Wednesday by deploying armed policemen at Galadima Road venue of newspapers distributors and the office of ThisDay newspaper. The team, comprising about 12 officers, was later reduced to two policemen who kept vigil at the office, which is yet to be in use by the newspaper.

The Supreme Council for Muslim Unity at a press conference yesterday in Kano described the publication as a new form of terrorism against Nigerian Muslims "where a pen terrorist has been hired to create fear, tension, riot and public disturbance in the country, perhaps to disrupt the forthcoming elections."

The conference attended by Ulamas and traditional rulers in Kano, saw the publication as the work of a hired mercenary engaged by political losers to cause civil unrest by provoking religious conflicts. The Ulamas however noted that the intention of the architects of the blasphemous act will not prevail as Muslims in Kano will not take to the streets nor take the law into their hands on the current scandalous act against their revered Prophet.

Spokesman for the council, Professor Isa Hashim therefore urged Muslims in Kano State and other parts of Nigeria to boycott ThisDay newspaper by refusing to either buy the paper or advertise in it. The council also blamed the federal government for the entire episode, arguing that if the government had not sanctioned the beauty pageant and allowed it to hold in Nigeria, such blasphemous act would not have taken place.

Also commenting on the publication in his widely-televised tafsir, the Waziri of Kano, Alhaji Isa Waziri, said followers of other faiths are always taking the peaceful disposition of Muslims for granted. He stated that the government's tolerance and approval for the beauty contest have been interpreted as a licence to slander non-supportive groups in the Nigerian set-up.

Sheikh Isa Waziri warned that if such blasphemous act against the Prophet of Allah were allowed to continue, Muslims would have no alternative than to act by reciprocating in the same manner. He however called for calm and urged the government to bring the erring people to book.

Former special duties minister, Alhaji Wada Nas said ThisDay newspaper should have learnt a lesson from his first declaration that the Muslims in Nigeria would soon boycott the paper for its anti-Islamic posture. Wada Nas recalled that "there was a time I even called for people, more especially Muslims, to boycott ThisDay because of its attitude towards Islam as a religion," adding that the paper has ridiculed Islam on several occasions especially over Sharia controversy.

"It is very blasphemous to say such a thing against our Prophet of Islam. It is very insulting, very insulting. This paper does not have any regards for Islamic religion," the former minister said, stressing that the only thing that could perhaps help ThisDay out of its present predicament is to apologise profusely and discipline the erring writer for taking the Muslim faith for granted.

Meanwhile, all attention is now focused on the outcome of today's Friday sermon by major Islamic scholars in Kano. Already, anti-ThisDay messages are being flashed through the GSM message network. Part of the messages sent by various unpublished numbers reads "boycott ThisDay. Don't buy, and don't advertise if you love Allah and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)."

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