KANO, Nigeria – Cutoff pants displaying a bulging calf? Sleeveless T-shirts showing off a well-muscled physique? Forget it in Nigeria’s northern Kano state, where Islamic police are deploying thousands of officers to arrest anyone sporting the “indecent dress” that’s fashionable among young men driving motorized rickshaw taxis.
Police also have orders to arrest any cabbie carrying men and women together in the confined space of the three-wheeled taxis.
“The way and manner some of the commercial tricycle operators engage in indecent dressing and carry men and women together is disturbing,” said Yusuf Yola, spokesman for the Hisbah board that is responsible for ensuring compliance with Shariah laws in Kano.
He said such dress, with pants cut off just below the knee like Bermuda shorts, also was “un-Hausa,” referring to the biggest tribe in Nigeria’s north.
Usually it’s women who are the target of the Islamic police checking that they have properly covered their heads and limbs.
Yola said Monday that 10,000 officers will be deployed to ensure the laws are enforced, including “a law in the state which prohibits gender mix in commercial vehicles.”
He said officers have orders to stop and search to make sure everyone obeys – including Christians.
Nine of Nigeria’s 37 states have introduced Shariah law since 2000 as some Muslims have become more fundamentalist.
But the law is interpreted differently and enforced more rigidly in some states. Three other states introduced Shariah law, but only for Muslims who want to use it as an alternative to Western-style family law.
The rest of Nigeria is under secular law. Africa’s most populous nation of more than 160 million people is almost equally divided between Muslims and Christians.
In Kano on Monday, taxi driver Jamilu mai Babur, a Muslim, was rebellious: “I will not comply with this useless order because Shariah is not about violating human rights.”
Jamilu Hisba, another Muslim driver, agreed but said he would have to obey. “It’s against Islam, this forceful order, but they have power over us so I must comply because this is my means of survival.”