The culture of envy and denigration by Furera Bagel

A woman named Juma once embarked on a trip from her hometown to another in order to visit her parents. But she was accosted by the youths of that place, who booed, slapped, beat and stoned her just because she dressed differently from them. To them, her attire had qualified her as an uncivilised rustic. They even went as far as destroying the gift she brought along for her parents.

That was a story from ‘Magana Jari Ce’, a book published 82 years ago, and this shows how long women suffered denigration for daring to dress differently from the usual in our society.

Sometimes even males fall victim to such vicious attacks, but most of the time the female gender is at the receiving end.

From the time I was a child, I have witnessed many instances of such nasty occurrences that usually happen when a new cloth or fabric is in vogue. In most cases during Eid festivities many people are eager to buy that fabric and the spite usually arises from those who cannot afford to buy it. So in a typical ‘since I can’t have it, it must be bad’ fashion, they set about attacking and insulting anyone they see wearing that same fabric.

The first one I remember was a green Ankara fabric, which was mischievously named ‘Goggo-Chabu, by the belligerents. There was even a demeaning song saying that any girl who refused to hawk would end up wearing ‘Goggo-Chabu’ which accompanied the booing and stoning of any unfortunate girl or woman who was sighted wearing the fabric.

Another one was the popular tie-and-die fabric known as Adire in the south but was termed Kampala in the north. The wearers of that fabric were also subjected to such aggression in some places. There was also taunting a song that accompanied them which translates as “Kampala, the fabric of the poor, rich people only use brocade!”

Next was a brocade fabric called ‘Shonekan’, so named because it was introduced during the interim government of Ernest Shonekan. I remember even men were not spared for wearing clothes made from that material. There was also a jeering song that accompanied the heckling.

In 1996, there was another brocade that was equally christened ‘Karci-Kasa-Buba’ and a voile outfit that was named ‘Bambalasta’. What further fuelled the denigration of ladies wearing the voile that year was that a famous royal from Bauchi decided to purchase it for his horses for the Eid durbar at the same time girls were busy saving their hard-earned money to wear it during the Hawan Daushe part of the festivities. This resulted in further ridiculing of the ladies by comparing them to the horses.

Also, ladies who were seen wearing trousers were heckled with the insult, ‘Biri da wando’, i.e. a trousers-wearing monkey. There are many examples one can cite.

Looking back at how long that archaic culture has been allowed to happen, one is left to wonder if we are progressing or retrogressing, especially with the latest incident at the Kano State University of Technology (KUST), Wudil, where a female student was harassed by her male counterparts for wearing what they saw as a different way of dressing: the loose, long gown called Abaya.

But the only difference between all the others and the KUST fiasco is that Abaya is not a new fashion trend in our society. Women have been dressing it for decades and nothing untoward had ever been reported to happen.

What fuelled the misadventure was nothing but how we ignore our most pressing issues for a more sensationalised ones in order to appear as current or woke. Unfortunately, even some of our Ulama are guilty of this.

Right now we have very crying issues in our society apart from the insecurity, high rate of divorce, domestic violence, unemployment, etc. There is also a rising trend of phone snatching which sometimes result in homicide or deeply inflicted injuries on victims. There are also many reported cases of the abuse of male children.

Few people seem to be paying attention to that. Recently, I was told about a man who broke a man’s car windshield for buying his teenage son a bike and replacing it with a newer one just six months later. He suspected the man was abusing his son, and it turned out he was right.

These are issues I am hoping to hear our preachers speak about because they are doing a lot of harm and would do even more if not checked. I pray we will see a sea change in our attitude and that of our Ulama towards those pressing issues.

* Furera Bagel, PhD

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