Mass wedding to promote Islamic society in Nigeria

Updated 29 January 2014

Mass wedding to promote Islamic society in Nigeria

Islamic religious authorities married 1,111 couples at a mass wedding aimed at combating rising rates of divorce and births out of wedlock, and the number of impoverished widows and divorcees forced to make a living on the streets in Muslim northern Nigeria.
Thursday’s wedding in Kano city comes as the Hisbah Board responsible for Shariah law has been clamping down. Thousands have been arrested in recent months for improper dress, selling alcohol, prostitution and indecent mixing of the sexes. At one recent ceremony, a bulldozer crushed 240,000 bottles of beer.
“The high rate of divorce is a worrisome situation resulting in adultery, prostitution and the births of children out of wedlock, and has become dangerous to society,” Deputy Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said at the ceremony at the main mosque of Kano, Nigeria’s second city.
Kano has had several terrorist attacks, most recently multiple bombings planted around bars serving alcohol in the city’s Christian quarter that killed at least 24 people in July (before alcohol sales were banned).
Last year, an assassination attempt on the emir of Kano, a revered Muslim leader who has spoken out against extremism, killed his driver and three bodyguards. And nine women in a polio vaccination drive were executed in drive-by shootings.
The mass marriages also are seen as a way of wedding bachelors who cannot afford the cost of an individual marriage.
Millions of young Nigerians cannot afford the dowries required by customs for both Christians and Muslims, as well as the costs of many gifts and ceremonies leading up to a marriage.
“Poverty is the major setback to people getting married, while divorce is becoming rampant,” said Aminu Ibrahim Daurawa, commandant general of Kano’s Hisbah board.
There are no figures on divorces, but some analysts say as many as 50 percent of marriages in northern Nigeria end in divorce.
There were calls at the ceremony for laws to make divorce more difficult.
Grooms married at the mass ceremonies are not allowed to divorce without the permission of the Hisbah, and then they can be subjected to a fine of 50,000 naira ($313).
Divorced or widowed women in northern Nigeria often are left destitute, thrown out of their homes by the husband or his family members, and sometimes even lose custody of their children, according to Dorothy Aken’Ova, a human rights advocate in Minna, in central Nigeria.
Her International Center for Reproductive Health has gone to court to help widows reclaim their children and goods. But she said that most women do not know their rights, and often Islamic law is adulterated with traditional practices that favor men.
Many of the destitute women are forced to prostitute themselves or beg on the street. Also Thursday, Kano’s government banned street-begging.
For the mass wedding, the state government paid a token dowry of 10,000 naira (about $65) for each bride and gave them household utensils.
Grooms were given white brocade robes for the ceremony topped by scarlet hats, with brides in matching red outfits.
Some 4,461 couples have been wedded en masse in the past 18 months, Ganduje said.


Tower of London ravens re-adapt to life after lockdown

Updated 19 October 2020

Tower of London ravens re-adapt to life after lockdown

  • The 1,000-year-old royal fortress was closed due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions
  • This raised fears the birds — known as the guardians of the Tower — would fly away to find another place

LONDON: Chris Skaife has one of the most important jobs in Britain. As Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster at the Tower of London, he is responsible for the country’s most famous birds.
According to legend firmly rooted in Britain’s collective imagination, if all the ravens were to leave the Tower, the kingdom would collapse and the country be plunged into chaos.
Coronavirus lockdown restrictions saw tourist attractions across the country close their doors, including the imposing 1,000-year-old royal fortress on the banks of the River Thames.
That left Skaife with an unprecedented challenge of how to entertain the celebrated avian residents, who suddenly found themselves with no one to play with — or rob food from.
It also raised fears the birds — known as the guardians of the Tower — would fly away to try to find tasty morsels elsewhere, and worse still, risk the legend coming to pass.
There are eight ravens in captivity in the Tower of London: Merlina, Poppy, Erin, Jubilee, Rocky, Harris, Gripp and George.
A royal decree, purportedly issued in the 17th century, stated there must be six on site at any one time but Skaife said he keeps two as “spares,” “just in case.”
They are free to roam the grounds but to prevent them from flying too far, their wings are trimmed back slightly.
Back in March when lockdown began, Skaife — who is in his 50s and a retired staff sergeant and former drum major in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment — was furloughed.
But he still came to work to look after his majestic feathered charges, rotating feeding and caring duties with his three assistants.
“During that period of time, the ravens didn’t actually see anybody,” he told AFP.
“There were slight changes that I noticed. For instance, I had to keep them occupied without the public being there (and) there were less things for them to do.
“So I gave them enrichment toys that would help them enjoy their day.”
With no people around, he put balloons, ladders and even mirrors in their cages to keep them entertained, and hid food around the Tower grounds for them to find.
Breakfast time involves Skaife, in the distinctive black and red uniform of the “Beefeaters,” distributing a meal of chicks and mice, which the ravens cheerfully devour.
Skaife’s favorite is Merlina, he reveals with a smile.
She has become an Internet favorite from his frequent posts and videos of her on his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have more than 120,000 followers.
Once feeding time is over, he opens the cages on the south lawn to allow them to stretch their wings.
The Tower reopened its doors on July 10 but the pandemic has had a devastating effect on visitor numbers.
Some 60,000 people visited the Tower every week in October 2019 but it is now only 6,000, according to Historic Royal Palaces, which manages the site.
During the three-month national lockdown, Skaife said the ravens were given more freedom to explore other parts of the Tower.
But to be doubly sure they didn’t fly off completely, their wings were clipped back further.
The birds are now kept in their cages more often to make sure they eat enough, as there are slim pickings from the Tower’s rubbish bins because of the reduced footfall.
“I don’t particularly like doing it,” said Skaife.
He says the ravens may be kept in cages but the Tower is their real home.
“So, I would never want to keep a raven in an enclosure.”
Now, as life returns to a semblance of normality, the ravens are re-adapting to seeing more humans again and their old routine.
Skaife has looked after the ravens for the last 14 years, tending to their needs out of clear affection but also out of a sense of historic and patriotic duty.
“Of course, we don’t want the legend to come true,” he said.