Two days ago (my internet has been down for a day and a half–thus the delay in posting this), I read in the Sunday Trust and the Hausa language weekly Aminiya a story I had heard from filmmakers a week and a half ago before my trip to Abuja. I hadn’t blogged about it because I had only heard ji-ta-ji-ta (rumours) about it, but the newspapers confirm the story.
Apparently, according to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, page 33, “Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops,” the Kano State Censorship Board closed 15 video shops over “selling tapes of the history of Prophet Yusuf.” (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the link to the article online. If I find it, I will link to it here. In the meantime, here is a photograph of the article.)
The Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, “said in an interview in Kano that
“banning the sales of such films has become necessary as it is against the teachings of Islam and therefore will not be allowed in the state.”
Rabo also mentions that
“under aged children who can easily be influenced are also involved in hawking such films along the streets without knowing the implications. He also said the ban was as well in the interest of potential customers who might not get to these children even if they found the films were bad.”
[S]ecretary of the Kano film sellers association, Malam Isa, described shutting down the shops by the censorship board as unfortunate as the director general of the board did not keep to the promise of briefing them on what stand it is taking on the sales of the film before acting.
“I can recall that the DG sometimes in October last year invited us for a meeting at A Dai Daita Sahu and during the meeting, one Islamic scholar, Malam Aminu Daurawa, mentioned that watching the film was not appropriate and after the meeting, we met the DG at his office on the matter and he told us that was just a dialogue among scholars which does not involve us. He then promised that he was going to inform us on any development thereafter but unfortunately he didn’t. The next thing we saw was the closure of the shops” he said.
Malam Isa said that the film sellers:
“have reported the case to the Emir of Kano and as Muslims we are ready to comply with the ban so long as it is Islamic scholars that will come together to prove that the film is contrary to the teachings of Islam.”
He also lamented the loss of business this was causing to the shop owners saying:
“business has been their major source of livelihood and now that the board has closed the shops, these people are finding it hard to survive.”
The Hausa weekly Aminiya, 12 February 2010, provides more details. I will provide a summary of the article in English here—please note that this is NOT a direct translation but a summary in my own words.
Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi writes in “Hukuma ta haramta sayar da fina-finan tarihin Musulunci a Kano” (p. 21) (“The [Censor’s ]Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”) that the director of the censors Board Malam Abubakar Rabo went to the Kofar Wambai market and closed four shops where they were selling films on the history of Islam, specifically the film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf [Joseph] and the film The Message.
In a radio program on Radio Kano, DG Abubakar Rabo said that “the censors board had closed 15 shops in Kano and he warned others who were selling the films.”
Aminiya reporters went to the Kofar Wambai market to see the shops that had been closed, and one of the film marketers, Musa Abdullahi Sanka who started selling film cassettes in 1976, said that the story was true. The Censors board had come and closed shops selling films on the history of the Prophet Yusuf and the history of Islam, The Message.
When Aminya asked Abdullahi Sanka what reason the Censors Board had given for closing the shops, he said that the censors said that they should stop selling the film because apparently there were some Islamic scholars who had issued a fatwa on selling films on the history of the prophets, saying such films were not appropriate.
The marketer responded saying that the businessmen wanted the well-respected Islamic scholars in Kano to come together and say whether the films were appropriate or not. If they said they were not appropriate, then how could they correct them? If they gave very strong reasons for banning the films, then the marketers would stop selling them.
The marketer told Aminiya that four shops in Kofar Wambai had been closed: that of Alhaji Salisu, that of Ahmadu Hussaini, that of Anas, and another Igbo marketer whose name he did not give.
He said that the film sellers got the films from Misira, others from Lagos, others were brought from Arab countries. He said that he had heard that the film on the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was made by Shi’a in Iran, and that is why the Censorship Board had cooperated with the fatwa of an Izala scholar against the film.
When he was asked if he had seen the film and if it seemed to be appropriate, he said that he hadn’t seen the entire film but that he remembered how when he had been fifteen years old, the late Islamic Scholar Sheikh Nasiru Kabara had told the history of the Prophet Yusuf, and what he had seen of the film followed exactly what the scholar had told them.
The Secretary of the Film sellers association of Kofar Wambai Market, Malam L. Isa said that the discussion with the Censors board had started last year. The Censors Board had invited them to a meeting organized by A Dai Daita Sahu (the government sponsored Societal Reorientation Directorate) on 24 October, where it was said that Sheikh Aminu Daurawa had preached a sermon in which he said that it was not right to watch this type of film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf. “When we heard this, we asked the director of the Kano State Censorship board about this. He told us we shouldn’t worry that it would not affect us. But we were surprised that day, without notice, without letting us know, people came to the market and closed shops belonging to those in our association.”
He said that after the shops were closed, they complained to Malam Rabo who did not listen patiently to them. This is why they went with their complaint to the Emir of Kano. “What is happening with us right now. We went to Director Malam Rabo, but he didn’t listen to us or give us any good answer. He even kicked us out, so we got up and we went to our father, the emir of Kano, and carried our complaint to him. Since there are big men in power, we should let them know what is going on with us—If they don’t know what has been happening, they will now know.”
The Secretary continued,” We called on the emir to negotiate between us and Malam Rabo because we have been obeying the government and the censors board, but now there is no understanding between us. People were sent from the board to us without anyone letting us know there was such a law.”
Another marketer Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim K’ok’i, better known as Palasd’inawa, also expressed his unhappiness at the actions of the Censor’s Board. He said that they had been watching films on the lives of the prophets since they had been children. On Muslim holidays, the Kano state television station used to play them.
“It shouldn’t be that the judgment of a single Islamic scholar becomes the basis of the entire Muslim culture. Now Malam Rabo should tell us what kinds of films that we should be watching, because they have banned Hausa films saying that they are spoiling women and children. So now why are they banning films on Islamic history, since no one can say they are spoiling culture?’
The director of the Kano State Censors Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim explained the reason for the ban. He said that it is in accordance with the culture and the findings of Islamic scholars who said that such films were not fitting as they were not respectful to the prophets.
The gist of Malam Rabo’s statement was that the Kano State Censors Board was created keeping in mind Islam and the judgments of Islamic scholars who guide the community. The board had heard from the association of Islamic scholars and other religious organizations that people were trying to make money on offensive films made about the lives of the messengers of God. He also noted that they had called a meeting through a Dai Daita Sahu (Societal Reorientation Directorate) where one of the Islamic scholars had shown the danger of these types of films that were insulting to the Messengers of God and culture.
Malam Rabo said that this is the reason the Censor’s board said that the selling of these types of films must stop because it was not fitting to show another man in the film claiming to be the Messenger of God. He further said that the Board would continue to hunt down those who brokered and spread films in Kano state, especially, he emphasized, those who were selling films on the sides of the roads because this is illegal.
To read the article in Hausa, see the photo of the article here:Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”], Aminiya, 12 February 2010, p. 21″]