My second week in Kano went as well as the first. After spending week one at the university, I was eager to get out into the city more during week two, and I largely succeeded. I was able to talk with officials at several Islamic institutions, and met several people who studied in Saudi Arabia and Sudan (in other words, exactly the type of people I came to conduct interviews with). Later today I am hoping to meet with some members of a Nigerian Shi’a group. My research focuses primarily on Nigerian Muslims who have studied in Arab countries, but talking with people who studied in Tehran and Qom should help broaden my understanding of the phenomenon of Nigerians pursuing religious education abroad.
As I’ve branched out beyond the university, I’ve been struck most by the number of conversations I’ve had with Muslim intellectuals who are deeply concerned about the situation in Israel/Palestine. Nearly everyone I talk with seriously has something to say on the topic. Northern Nigeria may not be crawling with foreigners, but its residents are (in my experience and by other accounts) deeply connected to and interested in world affairs. Radio, notably BBC Hausa, VOA, Deutsche Welle, and Radio France, along with local outlets, has played a major role in shaping this international consciousness. Granted, I have been talking with people who come from backgrounds of relative affluence and high education, but still I think American policymakers may underestimate the degree to which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict engenders tremendous passions not just on the “Arab street,” but also on the West African street. And there are, if one performs a rough estimate by calculating that Nigerian Muslims make up 50% of its 150 million residents, some 75 million Muslims in this country.
Other political conversations have focused on Nigeria’s national politics, especially the upcoming elections. From what I can see, former head of state and two-time presidential runner-up Muhammadu Buhari enjoys broad support in Kano, as does his new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). I do not know what Buhari’s chances of winning the presidency are, but it seems that CPC has a good chance of capturing the governorship here in Kano State.
I think I’ll stop there. I’ll try to post one more update before I leave, but in the rush of gift-buying and packing next weekend I may not be able to. I’m also trying to put together a links post for tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who’s still checking in despite the drastically reduced output.