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Fact File

Shi'ites: Victims of extremism or discrimination
Shi'ites: Victims of extremism or discrimination


Ibrahim Zakzaky, a Muslim cleric born in Zaria, Kaduna, has been the leader of Nigeria’s Shiite population. His sermons and charismatic rhetoric drew followers, which prompted the formation of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), supported by Iran.

Zakzaky is reported to draw his inspiration from the Iranian revolutionist and leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini. “Nigeria must become wholly Islamic and Allah proclaimed Lord of the entire nation,” Zakzaky said in 1996. This kind of statement attracted Muslims to him, who were tired of corruption and repression under the military rule at the time.

Adel Assadinia, a former Iranian diplomat, claimed that the IMN was set up by and modeled on the Lebanese Hezbollah and that Iran provides the IMN with training “in guerrilla warfare: bomb-making, use of arms such as handguns, rifles and RPGs, and the manufacturing of bombs and hand grenades.” These claims raised some questions concerning the radicalisation of the sect, and a researcher in Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Isa, in an interview with BBC in 2012 compared the group’s movement to that of “a state within a state.”

Shiite traditions have also led to widespread animosity from the Sunni. There were minor feuds between Shiites and Sunnis in Sokoto state, however, things escalated quickly when an anti-Shiite Imam in Northern Nigeria, Imam Umaru Danmaishiyya, was murdered by unknown men in 2007.

His death marked the beginning of Shiite vs. Sunni violence in Nigeria, with the Sokoto state government launching assaults on the Shiite groups in Sokoto, which in a particular incident, culminated in the destruction of their headquarters. As a result, the sect moved its headquarters to Zakzaky’s hometown in Zaria, Kaduna. Their headquarters, which was called “Husainiyya Baqiyatullah” has now, allegedly, been destroyed by the Nigerian Army.

Zakzaky claimed, in an interview with BBC in 2012, that he trained his men as guards, but that it is more “like teaching karate to the boy scouts.” His supporters also claim he is no supporter of violence. However, incidents involving the group in the last two years (coincidental, or not, with the rise of Boko Haram) seem to disparage those remarks. At least 33 Shia members were gunned down by the Nigerian army last year when fights broke out between the two groups during a Shiite procession.

Fact seems to suggest two possibilities- they are either victims of their extremism or victims of discrimination.

Source: BBC Dec 02, 2016



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