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‘How Buhari Disappointed Shiites, Buharists’ – El-Zakzaky’s son

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Muhammad Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, one of the 3 surviving children of the embattled and detained Shiite leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky has expressed disappointment in the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari saying that the Shiites would never forget how his government treated them badly.

“Buhari has brought nothing but disappointment, poverty, destruction and death upon the very people (Buharists and Nigerians) who gave him his seat”, the younger El-Zakzaky told The Punch in an interview.
El-Zakzaky said “the states with the worst cases of mounting poverty, insecurity and now hunger, happen to be the states where he won the most votes”.

Responding to questions about his parents imprisonment and health status, he said his fathers health was failing as he had suffered stroke and is losing sight while in detention.

“I saw him a few weeks ago at the Kaduna Prison on Independence Way. We talked about current events since he has no access to news from the outside world. And he told me about his needs regarding health and personal matters. I told him about new births and deaths in the family and the ones that involved loved ones. I was not allowed to see him and my mother at the same time” Muhammad said.

On August 5th 2019, a court in Kaduna state granted him and his wife bail to seek treatment abroad but they returned from India after 3 days on the premises of unfair treatment and tough restrictions by security operatives deployed to the medical facility.

Muhammad Ibraheem El-Zakzaky (right) with his father Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky on the left./The Punch

Ibrahim El-zakzaky, the 67-year old leader of a Shia Muslim body called the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, (IMN) and his wife Zeenah are now very familiar names to Nigerians.

They have been in detention since 2015 when a religious procession transformed into bloodshed after a confrontation with the Nigerian army left hundreds of IMN members gunned down and burnt alive according to human rights groups which have earned the Nigerian government widespread international condemnation, including a probe by the International Criminal Court in February 2016.

The IMN is a pro-Iranian organization, focused on the adaptation of an Islamic state in Nigeria with an estimated 3 million members, the group claims.

They have been at loggerheads with the Nigerian authorities for decades as the government accuse the group of wanting to ferment an Iranian-style revolution, being a “state within a state” and forcefully turn the country into an Islamic Shiite state resulting to arrest and continuous detention of zakzaky and his wife.

On July 26 2019, a Nigerian court ruled that activities of the IMN amounted to “acts of terrorism and illegality” and ordered the government to ban the religious group.

“The narrative that IMN members are dangerous, extremists, secessionists, maybe even anarchists, was borne out of a desire by this government to justify its atrocities and continue with its persecution against a community, simple and short” the younger El-zakzaky said

The ban on the group came less than a week after police violently cracked down on IMN members in Abuja, where they rallied in the streets and called for the government to allow the ailing Zakzaky to get medical care. At least 11 protesters, a journalist and a police officer were killed, while dozens of other protesters were wounded or arrested.

– El-Zakzaky and the history of IMN in Nigeria-

El-zakzaky turned to Shiism after he was expelled from Ahmadu Bello University in 1982 and eventually went to Iran to complete his studies, It’s important to note that Zakzaky didn’t openly declare his Shia theological conviction until 1994. And when he did, it led to a split in his group. ” Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development told TRT World

El-Zakzaky grew up in northern Nigeria where Islam is the dominant religion; he began propagating Shia Islam around 1979. After his return to Nigeria from Iran, he started proselytizing the Shiite doctrine to millions of Nigerian Sunni Muslims thereby establishing the IMN with support from Iran. 

Since the organization took off in the early 1980s, the IMN has been at odds with the larger community of Nigeria’s Sunni Muslims and the government at large.

IMN supporters have continued to argue that the organisation, which is made up of minority Shia Muslims, is peaceful and has been targeted for upholding religious beliefs that differ with the Sunni principles on semantics.

Some analysts say hostility toward the IMN is part of the wider tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims around the world as Saudi Arabia and Iran have pushed soft power in Nigeria, offering scholarships and funding initiatives to help poor Muslims there. 

– El-Zakzaky’s continuous detention –

El-zakzaky has been detained several times due to accusations of civil disobedience or recalcitrance under military regimes in Nigeria during the 1980s and 1990s, and is still viewed with suspicion or as a threat by Nigerian authorities.

The Iranian government has repeatedly pressed the government to release El-Zakzaky who has been in custody since 2015 when hundreds of IMN workers were killed in a crackdown.

A December 2016 ruling by the Federal High Court declared the detention of El+Zakzaky and his wife as illegal and unconstitutional and ordered the government to release them and provide them with accommodation since their own home was destroyed in the 2015 raid, according to their lawyer. However, the government has not complied with the order. 

In response to the continuous detention of their leader, the Islamic movement in Nigeria has been holding peaceful free El Zakzaky protests which they say will continue until their leader is released.

“We are being pushed to carry arms, but we will not. We are not terrorists. We are not Boko Haram. We are ordinary Muslims trying to practice our religion as we understand it.” Abdullahi Musa, a Shiite, told Voice Of America.

“The concern is that, if the Shia are radicalized, that is not going to be good. Now there’s a difference. El-Zakzaky has never advocated violence, whereas Boko Haram preachers have. So that’s a fairly important point. On the other hand, the concern has to be: What happens if the Shia, in fact, start advocating violence?”, John Campbell told the VOA in an interview. Campbell is a former American diplomat and a senior fellow of the Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a specialist on Nigerian affairs.

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