One of the best sub-titles ever, in this case from the WSJ’s article named “In Nigeria, Wedlock Seen as Terror Fix: One Islamic City Tries Mass Weddings to Coax Single Men Into Peaceful Ways.”
Northern Nigeria has been wracked with violence from an Islamic sect called Boko Haram and the Kano State Hizbah (“a local bureau that implements Islamic law,” whatever that means) is getting creative. The institution is funding mass weddings under the theory that good wives make men less interested in terrorism.
Policymakers who tried the same thing in India and Yemen might disagree. So far 1,350 couples have been married so far in the last year and a half and there are more than a 1,000 scheduled for the rest of the year. The policy appears to be popular as the waiting list is around 5,000 people.
So why are people so interested in having the government play matchmaker for them? Well, for the men, the government pays the traditional dowry of $60. The brides receive “a bag of rice, two crates of eggs, some cooking oil, a mattress, about $125 to start a business, and sometimes a sewing machine.” They also get help in learning the Nigerian marriage basics are, which includes being able to “make perfume from local plants and to cook bite-size butter cakes.” Who knew?
As an extra enticement, the couple receives hand-sewn “flowing white Islamic wedding robes” and afterwards, a “chicken and yogurt lunch with the governor.”
Not all women are convinced; Faiza Iza argues that the mass weddings are unlikely to reduce terror. She argues instead that it is just a “superstition to discriminate against unmarried women.”
How good are the institutions match-making skills? The chairman of Reports and Documentation confidently claims that “It’s usually a match.” That’s understandable after the government’s thorough questionnaire, which asks men (in all caps), “Do you want a tall and elegant girl? Fine?”
Not all of the matches seem to be totally on the up and up though. For instance, police recently arrested 20 prostitutes and gave them the option of participating in a mass wedding or going to jail. The new husbands shockingly weren’t informed of this. Sounds like a match made in heaven! The divorce rate in the region is around 50%, so what happens to terrorism when the marriages go sour?