Back in 1979 there were hardly any Shia Muslims in Nigeria. Today the number is in the millions (I have seen estimates ranging from four to fifteen million). The man mainly responsible for this exponential growth is Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
Zakzaky is the Shia cleric whose home, you’ll recall, was attacked by the Nigerian Army on December 13 in what seems very much to have been a government-orchestrated massacre. Hundreds of people were killed (some say the number is as high as a thousand), and Zakzaky and his wife were arrested by Nigerian authorities. The incident took place one day after the army had killed twenty or so Shias–ostensibly after they attempted to block an army convoy in Zaria.
On December 15, I put up a post exploring the question of why the Nigerian government, at a time when presumably it has its hands full trying to contain the crazed, ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram group, would suddenly launch an attack upon the country’s Shia population–and I offered documentation of close economic and political ties between Nigeria and Israel.
I also offered the thesis that “it is beginning to look like anytime there is trouble in the world, scratch the surface and you will find a Zionist or a Zionist connection or component of some sort underneath.”
The post ended up getting a lot of hits, including quite a few from Nigeria, all of which aroused my curiosity further, and so when I had some time today I did some research to find out a little more about Zakzaky–who he is as well as his ideology and beliefs. He is obviously an incredibly charismatic figure–would undoubtedly have to be to attract as many followers as he has–yet it is widely maintained he has never advocated violence.
This of course runs contrary to the claim of the Nigerian government that Zakzaky and his followers were plotting to assassinate an army commander, but of course governments engaging in largescale bloodlettings are always looking for convenient pretexts, and this would likely hold true particularly in the case of a government as close to Israel as Nigeria’s has been.
In the tumultuous events of December 12-13, Zakzaky was wounded by gunfire and he and his wife were taken into custody. They government claims they are being well treated, but have not allowed visits by family or friends, and there are grave concerns at present over their health. The following is a video posted by Zakzaky’s daughter, who is not at present in Nigeria but in the United Arab Emirates:
Reports are now that among the hundreds killed on December 13 were Zakzaky’s three sons, Hammad, Ali, and Humaid.
Zakzaky is head of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). The organization has an English language website here. On it you will find updates on latest events as well as transcripts of past speeches made by the sheikh, one of which I will quote from below.
You can also go here to view a Press TV documentary from 2013 entitled “The Rise of Shia Islam in Nigeria,” in which Zakzaky is interviewed at some length. Here are a few of his comments:
“People are coming to understand what we are saying, and they are siding with us, and they are doing it in large number, in multitudes…Truth will always prevail….”
“We have a status quo, and we are not happy with the status quo. We have challenged it. It is bad. It needs to be done away with…A lot of people think of revolution as a change of government. Change of government is not the same thing as a revolution. A revolution means change of mind, change of attitude. People have one set of ideas, and they behave in one way, and they change those set of ideas and they behave in a different way. In other words, you change the mind of the man, not that you take a gun and force him to do one thing. That’s no revolution. A revolution is not by force. It’s [when] people voluntarily change.”
The attacks of a week ago were only the most recent against the Nigerian Shia community. In late July of 2014, Nigerian soldiers attacked an Al Quds day procession in Zaria that left 34 people dead. Strangely, you could almost think of the most recent assault as a case of that history repeating itself. The 2014 attack also occurred over two days, and three of the dead were Zakzaky’s sons. The Islamic Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation into the affair and found, among other things, that soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians without provocation and without issuing any warnings.
The 2014 attack took place over July 25-26, and may conceivably have been prompted by comments made by Zakzaky to a reporter just two months prior–comments in which he implicated the government as a possible supporter of Boko Haram and claimed to even know where the leader of the terrorist group was hiding:
Renowned Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky said the Boko Haram leader, Shekau is hiding in a military camp in the country, not even outside the shores of Nigeria. Zakzaky, who is also the leader of the Shittes Muslim group-the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, declared on Saturday that the Nigeria military knew the whereabouts of the most wanted leader of violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau.
Asking the military to henceforth stop fooling Nigerians, Zakzaky insisted that there was nothing like Boko Haram, noting that the whole scam was aimed at balkanizing the country, using ‘terrorism’ as a launch-pad. Zakzaky noted that apart from balkanizing the country, Boko Haram was being used as tool for the Western countries to invade Nigeria just as they did in other countries in order to plunder the nation’s resources.
The cleric , who said he knows the hideout of wanted Boko Haram leader, alleged collaboration with Nigeria’s military authorities, insisting that the activities of the Boko Haram sect was part of covert operations of a section of the West to balkanize Nigeria and plunder the nation’s resources.
And in an interview conducted earlier this year, Zakzaky made some comments about the Nigerian Army that didn’t seem to mince too many words:
“Nigerian military can be equated with wild beasts. Their actions has tarnished the prestige of the nation across the world. In the psyche of a Nigerian soldier, citizens have no right, but are enemies meant to be killed. The Nigerian soldier thinks he can do anything, having the license to kill and harass the citizens”.
He wondered how a top ranking military officer in Nigeria did not know the real definition of war, saying “a war is a war between two armies of two sovereign nations”.
Finally here are excepts from a speech Zakzaky gave some years ago on the subject of terrorism, a speech in which he specifically sought to offer a definition of the term. The speech can be found here on the IMN’s website, though there is no date given for it. It does, however, seem to have been made prior to the US killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and my guess is it probably dates to 2004, which was the year of the Besalen School seige in Russia:
So, terrorism is actually defined as the use of violence to achieve a political goal. Yes violence is there; striking terror is there, but for what reason? It is either to establish a government or to destroy one, or to establish a state, or to create one, or to destroy a state. Now, when you have a political party, which adopts a way of striking terror either by kidnapping, sexual assault, bombing, striking or any form in order to intimidate the government to succumb to their demands, they are terrorists. I thought before the riot in September 11, 2001, terrorism used to be confined to its real meaning, as a means of achieving a political goal by a group. And it was used to refer to some specifically political entities or political organizations, that used violence in other to achieve their aims, except perhaps the misuse of the word by the Israelis, who actually happen to form a state through terrorism, and in fact one might say on the map of the world today, the only state created by terrorism is Israel. And it is a state where all the citizens, 100% of them are terrorists. But they call others terrorist, so they have defined P.L.O, Palestine Liberation Movement as terrorist.
When one uses it in its real sense, it should be the use of violence in other to achieve a political goal. Now, another question arises, is it justifiable or unjustifiable. Some might say: well, in a way, we are forced to do this, as there was no other way, some might say well it wasn’t right to do it. We all know that human beings fight what is called “war”, and it seems that war has been legalized by all known states, they have ministries that are in charge of it and allocate huge sums for buying weapons to fight, they have what is called “war colleges”. So it seems that somehow, war, though undesirable, has come to be part of human life, so rules and regulations are made on how war should be fought. Nobody will say that is how you should go to war, but if you are in a war, there are rules and regulations. It appears that terrorists do not use the conventional means of waging a war, and that is why they are also qualified as terrorists. Paharps if they use conventional means, it might be accepted as an act of war.
Now, perhaps I should not be concerned with the definition, a lot of people have defined terrorism in their own way. But I must be concerned about what should be called terrorism, but it is not called, and that is “state terrorism.” I’ve heard terrorism being mentioned but none of them have written a certain Government, which has been using terrorism as a weapon to sustain itself and to intimidate its opponent.
It seems that after September 11, some particular Governments have adopted the word and misuse it in a way that strike terror. In other words, use terrorism in order to sustain either their own policies in their countries or outside world. Typical of this, is the Government of the United States of America, which in itself is becoming more and more of a terrorist Government. I’m not saying all the people in the United States are terrorists, but the Government is becoming a terrorist one. What will you say of their own atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq? If it is not known, it is now accepted for an open secret indeed.
Somebody told me a story of Afghanistan, where a delegation from the United States had a meeting with the Taliban government long before the September 11, 2001 tragedy. They wanted to have some agreement, which will allow the United States government access to abandoned gas resources of Afghanistan. But the Taliban government refused. When the agreement failed they wrote them (Taliban government) that they either consent to US exporting their gas or they will litter the streets on top of the land beneath which is their gas with corpses of their people. And after sometime, we heard September 11 attack, and while the flames could still be seen burning and the smokes filled up the skies; they said it was Usama bin Laden! How did they know? And they kept on saying it was Usama bin Laden up till today. And the same person, the President of the United States of America, Mr. George W. Bush said the responsibility for the strike was from one man. His name was Usama bin Laden, with his network of Al-Qaeda. So he confined it to one man and his network, and he said his message to the Taliban Government was to deliver Usama bin Laden. A little after, they did what they did in advance, one would have thought that was the end of it.
Who is responsible for striking the World Trade Center on September 11 2001? The United States Government said it was from one man, his name was Usama bin Laden and his network of Al-Qaeda. So it proves that this man was a suspect, they were thinking he was a prime suspect. One might ask, if you are representing director of security. Somebody is suspected of committing a crime; whatever the crime, whatever the gravity of the crime, even if it is a matter of hundreds of people, but the suspect is inside a house. What do you do when you want a suspect? Does the rule allow you to destroy the house including everybody inside it? No! How much more when he is hiring a room in a hotel. Does the law say that you can go and destroy the whole hotel and the entire guest inside it because you want to destroy him? If that is the case, they should have shown if it is legally allowed. But this is what they did in Afghanistan – they destroyed the whole nation looking for one man. Worst still at the end of the day the man escaped! And they have destroyed the lives of so many millions of innocent people. If this is not state terrorism, what is it? Next time they will now come to Nigeria and say, they want all our oil for the next one hundred years or we will face the consequence like Afghanistan, if we decline. What do we do? Do we just say ok, come, and have it? Because we wouldn’t want to be like Afghanistan, who have been taken one hundred years back.
Zakzaky goes on to give a similar recounting of the US invasion of Iraq, and his assessment of that war, too, like the war in Afghanistan, most of us, I think, would probably not take too many exceptions to. A great many of us, however, would likely find fault with his analysis on Russia:
If America can occupy Afghanistan, usurp all its resources, and do the same to Iraq and all its resources, why shouldn’t other countries do the same? More so, what you need to do is evolve your September 11 and start to attack your neighbors in the name of fighting terror. And this I believe is what the Russian Federation had done on September 1 this year, in Southern Russia, where some terrorists took school children as hostage. At one time the children were playing and they were shooting them from behind. They said they were terrorists, they covered their faces, you couldn’t see who were the terrorists. But they surprised the world, I don’t know how people think. They wanted us to believe that these terrorists had a tape and they recorded the operation, just visualize it in your senses, with ordinary human sense, you’re not trained as himself in security matters. An armed robber for example, goes to robbery with a cameraman? And he’ll be busy stashing away the money and then the cameraman will be taping? And he’ll leave the videocassette behind so that people would know how he robbed the area?
I happen to see it as they were showing it in the television, my wife was even drawing my attention. One of the terrorists as they were taping him, was asking the man to video tape the bomb he was putting. Now I don’t have the proof, but I believe that the terrorists were with the KGB.
Regardless whether we agree or disagree with him, what seems clear is that Zakzaky has triggered enormous levels of concern within the Nigerian government, most likely due to the size of his following. And given his value judgements on state sponsored terrorism and the roles played by the US and Israel, it could probably be conjectured that the concern has extended into those governments as well. The silence of the Obama administration on the massacre of a week ago, a massacre which claimed hundreds of lives, as well as its seeming indifference to Zakzaky’s fate, would suggest this might be the case.
Interestingly, the mainstream media are now warning of a “new Islamist threat” about to emerge in Nigeria–not from Boko Haram, but from the IMN, which AFP describes as “a radical Shiite group.” The same report also estimates the death toll from the carnage of a week ago as “at least a dozen.”
And finally from the IMN website, a statement released just today by Nusaibah Zakzaky (the cleric’s daughter who you see in the video above) calling for Muslim unity.
I am not a Shia Muslim, I am just a Muslim, and NOTHING comes before the name Muslim. We Muslims should not accept names like that. Names that segregates us into different types of Islam, there is only one type of Islam brought by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his Family).
We Muslims shouldn’t accept names like Shia Muslim, Sunni Muslim, Nigerian Muslim, American Muslim, modern Muslim, contemporary Muslim, moderate Muslim and so on.
Its really unfortunate and disappointing how I see some of our brothers and sisters referring to what happened in Zaria as a massacre of Shiites, as if these people (The Nigerian government and Army) attacked us because we gravitate to the Shia school of thought. As if there are no other people in Nigeria that gravitate towards the same school of thought but were not attacked.
When this movement started, most of the people in it gravitated to the Sunni school of thought, none the less the government attacked them just like they are attacking us now. They imprisoned them just the same, and viewed them as a threat to their unjust and corrupt ways. Why? Because we seek to end their oppression of the Nigerian people. If we behaved just like most people in this country who say nothing about the corruption and the oppression we all suffer, then we will live in “peace” , as much peace anyway as you can live in a country where we have no rights, not even basic human rights.
My father has never identified himself as a leader of a sect, or the Islamic movement as a sect. The Islamic movement’s main agenda was to fight the injustice of the system that we are forced to live under in this country. Anyone from anywhere including non-Muslims are welcome to join our struggle.
At the end of the day, whatever school of thought we gravitate towards, we all want to be doing exactly what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) brought to us.
We where only weeks from celebrating ‘usboo9ul wa7da’, a week when all muslims from all walks of lives are invited to celebrate what we have in common rather than our differences. Don’t let what happened make you forget the valuable lessons we have learned from this week over the years.
When my three brothers were killed last year, they were demonstrating in solidarity with the Palestinian people (most of whom gravitate towards the Sunni school of thought). They weren’t killed because they happen to follow the Shia school of thought, they were killed because they were fighting for the oppressed, The authority figures in Nigeria felt threatened by that because they are oppressors themselves, otherwise why would a peaceful protest drive you to shoot unarmed people and let them bleed to death for hours.
This is not a Shia massacre, this was a massacre period. And everyone in the world should be outraged by it, including non-Muslims and especially Nigerians. If your government or people sworn to protect you, like the army can kill you for a petty reason like a road blockade, and even release a video that in their mind can justify the death of hundreds if not thousands of people, what else do you think they can kill you for? If you don’t speak against this, someday this will happen to you and then who will speak for you?
By Nusaibah Ibraheem El Zakzaky