Nigerian Police Arrest Barber for Offering ‘Anti-Islam’ Hairstyle

Twitter/@ode_elijah
Twitter/@ode_elijah

Police arrested a barber in Nigeria’s majority-Muslim Kano state for allegedly cutting his clients’ hair in styles deemed offensive to the Islamic faith, Nigeria’s Punch newspaper reported Monday.

Local senator Abba Moro demanded the barber’s release from police detention on Sunday, explaining that he was arrested on January 15 and again on January 27 “by a group of Muslims over claims that the hairstyle he designed on two of his customers was insulting to Islam and the Holy [Islamic] Prophet Mohammed.”

The barber, named Elijah Ode, is “currently being tried in Gyadi-Gyadi Magistrate’s Court sitting in Kano State,” according to Moro. The senator said Ode has “been denied bail” despite intervention on his behalf by two Nigerian governors from his native Benue state and Kano state, where his business is based. Moro argued the barber’s arrest and continued detention is unconstitutional.

“None of my constituents will suffer unjustly anywhere, as long as I remain their senator,” he pledged.

“I will also follow up on the case, with all the seriousness it deserves, until justice is served on Elijah, who I believe, has done nothing wrong by being creative and innovative,” Moro added.

Ode posted a statement to Twitter about his first arrest on January 26 prior to his second detention.

“My name is Elijah, I’m a barber based in Kano. I was arrested by Metro Area police command authority, Bank Road, Kano on 15th January, 2021,” Ode wrote, according to Nigerian news site Sahara Reporters.

“According to the police officers that showed up in my shop that day, in response to the allegation made against me by some members of the Islamic group in Kano, they said that they received a report that I gave two of my clients a haircut style with a design of an image which was said to have some similarities with something in Islamic religious group [sic],” the barber explained.

“However, they eventually arrested me, took some of my barbing tools [sic]. They also arrested the two of my clients who had the hairstyle on their heads. We were being detained till in the evening on Friday [January] … 15th till Saturday night, 16th,” he continued.

“We were being charged approximately N27,000 [about $70] plus for the alleged offense. My shop was shut down for 4 days and it took 4 days as well for me to be able to get my tools back. Attached is the haircut design which they allegedly claimed is an Islamic inscription,” Ode added, including photos of the hairstyles that he was arrested for creating.

Kano state’s Islamic police force, known as the Hisbah corps, “arraigned Elijah in court on Tuesday, February 2, and thereafter remanded him in prison,” a Benue state activist named Sunday Ukenya told Sahara Reporters.

A dozen Muslim-majority states in northern Nigeria, including Kano, operate under a sharia, or Islamic law, justice system.

“Sentences handed down by the courts include floggings, amputations, and the death penalty,” the BBC reported last summer.

The Kano Upper Sharia Court sentenced a 22-year-old singer to death by hanging in August 2020 after the man was found guilty of blasphemy for a song he promoted on the WhatsApp messaging app.

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