FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

From central banker to Islamic king

Kano, Nigeria

By Joe Penney

Last year Lamido Sanusi wore pin stripe suits and a colorful array of bow ties to work, and his job consisted mostly of managing interest rates and keeping inflation under control.

Today, he sports long flowing gowns and a white veil over his face, while his daily activities include reciting the Quran and blessing visitors who bow before his feathered slippers.

The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II at the palace in Kano

Sanusi was crowned Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th Emir of Kano in June, taking over from Ado Abdullahi Bayero after his death. Reuters visited his palace, an elaborately decorated place within the historic walled city, last month. He is surrounded at all times by their court and bodyguards, who wear brightly colored headwraps and babban riga, or big gowns.

A grandson of the 11th Emir of Kano and prince in the royal family, Sanusi was Central Bank governor from 2009 to 2013, when President Goodluck Jonathan suspended him after he exposed massive corruption at the state oil firm. Critics said Sanusi had no right to use his post as a pulpit from which to preach about corruption.

For Sanusi, it makes quite a change from his old job.

The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II rides a horse with his bodyguards by his side from the Grand Mosque to the emir's palace in Kano

His first months have shown the major challenges he faces: a string of suicide bombings, carried out by women, forced him to cancel the traditional end of Ramadan celebrations called the Durbar.

from The Great Debate:

Human Rights Day: Still pursuing religious freedom

December 10 marks Human Rights Day, the 65th anniversary of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed by 48 nations -- with just eight abstentions.

Sixty-five years ago, naysayers insisted it was nobody else’s business how governments behaved within their borders. The declaration confronted this cynical view -- and continues to do so today. Human rights abuses and their consequences spill beyond national borders, darkening prospects for harmony and stability across the globe. Freedom of religion or belief, as well as other human rights, are essential to peace and security. They are everyone’s business.

Each signatory nation pledged to honor and protect these rights. For example, the declaration provides the foundation for much of the agenda of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which we serve.

from John Lloyd:

The coming clash of civilizations over gay rights

Supporters of gay rights have been protesting in Western cities this past week, picketing in front of Russian embassies and consulates. They’re protesting the passing of a law in the Russian parliament that bans "homosexual propaganda" directed at under 18-year olds -- which if interpreted strictly, bans all public demonstrations and much public and private discussion on the issue.

Not so long ago how a country’s administration handled its ‘homosexual problem’ would be thought of as its business. Many still think that way. But most Western democracies don’t. They haven’t just adopted legislation that enjoins equality of treatment for all, irrespective of sexuality. They have taken seriously, for the most part, the claims made by gay organizations for many years: that discrimination against gay men and women is an affront to civil liberties, and that when some states pursue discriminatory policies, those who do not should make their disapproval clear. Gay rights are now part of the world’s clash of cultures.

This is presently true most clearly in the United States and the U.K., not because they have been ahead of the pack in equality -- they have lagged a bit behind Canada and the Scandinavian states, ever the pioneers in such matters -- but because they have had, and still have, the most contentious relations with Russia.

Nigeria arrests 100 suspected members of violent Islamist sect Boko Haram

(Shattered remnants at the site of a bomb blast at a bar in the Nigerian northeastern city of Maiduguri that killed five people and injured 10 more in the latest apparent attack by Boko Haram, July 3, 2011/Stringer)

Nigeria’s state security service (SSS) has arrested more than 100 suspected members of radical Islamist sect Boko Haram and had foiled a spate of attempted bombings in the past month and a half. Guerrilla attacks on police stations and assassinations by gunmen on motorbikes have killed more than 150 people since the start of the year in the remote northeastern state of Borno. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for much of the violence.

Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security risk in Africa’s most populous nation in recent months.

Q+A-What is Nigeria’s radical Islamist sect Boko Haram?

(Members of the local Islamic group Boko Haram lie on the ground at a police station after their arrest in the northeastern city of Bauchi, July 25, 2009/Ardo Hazzad)

 

Nigeria’s radical Islamist sect Boko Haram is suspected to be behind almost daily attacks in the remote northeast and claimed a series of bomb blasts further afield last month. Following are questions and answers on who the group are, what they want, and whether their ideology is widely followed.

WHAT IS BOKO HARAM?

Based in Maiduguri, capital of the northeastern state of Borno, it was initially led by self-proclaimed Islamic scholar, Mohammed Yusuf, who was radically opposed to Western education and wanted strict sharia Islamic law adopted across Nigeria.

Violent Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram rejects amnesty offer

(Members of an local Islamic group lie on the ground at a police station after their arrest in the northeastern city of Bauchi, July 25, 2009/Ardo Hazzad)

A radical Islamist sect in remote northeastern Nigeria, blamed for almost daily killings and attacks, has rejected an offer of an amnesty. Kashim Shettima, governor-elect of Borno state, made the amnesty offer to the Boko Haram sect shortly after winning April elections to try to end months of attacks on symbols of authority including politicians and police officers.

“We reject any offer of dialogue or so-called amnesty from Kashim Shettima for two reasons,” a spokesman for the group said in a statement broadcast on the BBC Hausa service, a local language radio station in northern Nigeria, on Monday. “First we do not believe in the Nigerian constitution and secondly we do not believe in democracy but only in the laws of Allah,” the spokesman said, speaking in Hausa.

Nigerian elections seal major power shift to largely Christian south


(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his home village of Otuoke, Bayelsa state April 16, 2011/Joseph Penney)

A decisive election victory by President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria has shifted power firmly to the largely Christian south from the Muslim north and could reopen political fissures in Africa’s top energy supplier.

Violence swept northern cities, leaving hundreds of people dead and many homeless after Jonathan’s crushing victory over his northern opponent Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.

“Jonathan’s landslide, though on the surface it appears like a resounding pan-Nigeria mandate, has brought back with a vengeance all the religious and sectional cleavage, not to mention ethnic bitterness,” Olakunle Abimbola of The Nation newspaper wrote in a column.

Nigerian president appeals to Muslim leaders before vote

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(Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at a campaign rally in Kano, northern Nigeria, March 16, 2011S/Joe Penney)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to Muslim leaders to help ensure that elections next month, which risk stoking regional rivalries, pass off peacefully. Africa’s most populous nation holds presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections spread over three weeks in April, all of which are set to be fiercely contested.

Jonathan met on Sunday with the Sultan of Sokoto, one of Nigeria’s most influential Islamic leaders, and other senior figures from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Muslim umbrella organisation Jamatul Nasir Islam in the northern city of Kaduna. Nigeria is home to the largest Muslim community in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for roughly half of the country’s 150 million people, as well as to more than 200 ethnicities, most of whom generally live peacefully side by side.

Nigeria’s Muslim north risks growing sense of alienation

kano

(A motor rickshaw transporting Muslim women drives past a signboard promoting Islamic faith in Nigeria's northern city of Kano March 15, 2011/Joe Penny)

Standing on the dancefloor among shards of glass and splintered wood, Tony Baisie rues the day he agreed to help set up a nightclub in one of West Africa’s oldest Islamic cities. For more than 15 years this converted office on an industrial back street in Kano, northern Nigeria, was a thriving business. Customers — Christian and Muslim — would dance among its mirrored walls or shoot pool in the courtyard outside.

But three weeks ago, members of Hisbah — a uniformed Islamic squad set up by Kano’s state governor in 2003 to enforce sharia (Islamic law) — raided the club, smashing tables and chairs, and seizing its drinks stocks and sound systems. “They took me away and detained me overnight,” Baisie said. “Before they released me they made me sign an undertaking I would not sell alcohol or play music ever again in Kano.”

Nigeria’s Jonathan takes election campaign to Muslim north

jonathan

(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan speaks at the launch of his presidential campaign in the central city of Lafia, Nassarawa state February 7, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

From Islamic police enforcing a ban on beer and prostitution to its centuries-old market and mosques, Nigeria’s northern city of Kano feels like a different country to the pulsating southern sprawl of Lagos. Its low-rise buildings and dusty tree-lined streets have more in common with the sleepy Sahelian cities of Niger or Chad than with Nigeria’s commercial hub, a city built on hustle and home to some of Africa’s largest companies and richest tycoons.

Securing support in this ancient city — the second most populous after Lagos — and other parts of Nigeria’s Muslim north will be key if President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, is to clinch victory in the first round of elections next month.