By Charles Onunaiju
Since the army swooped on the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, popularly called shittes, in what the media and the political establishment including the army authorities mis-represently referred to as “clash” last December, there has been no let up in the smear campaign to tarnish these simple and ordinary Nigerian Muslims. Apart from the fatal blow to this group by the massacre of its members, including women and children, a development which has now been admitted by the Kaduna state government. As if the attack of the Islamic Movement was premeditated, a daily barrage of smear campaign has been mounted against the group. One is amazed at how the teachings of these simple ordinary Muslims strikes fear and paranoid among the northern political and religious establishment.
Shia Islam is a strand of the Muslim community that venerates the Muslim caliph, after the death of prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Ali who took the title of imam, which simply means leader, a departure from his three predecessors, caliph Abubakar, Omar and Othman. A close companion of the prophet and reputed as the first convert to Islam, Ali was both pious and deeply imbued with justice. A cousin of the prophet, he married the prophet’s daughter Fatimah and bore his two grandsons, Hassan and Hussein. Hussein is a reverend and adored figure in Shia Islam and his courageous resistance to his overwhelmingly militarily superior adversary at the battle of karbala was the origin of Shia revered Ashoura, in commemoration of the brutal annihilation of his forces at karbala by the ever ruthless governor of Sham, now Syria, Yazid. Ashoura procession is outstanding in solemnity in Shia Islam as the Christian Sunday procession of Christ triumphant entry to Jerusalem after his resurrection.
Inspite of the varying traditions from the early and key historical figures in Islam, the divergence is over-shadowed by the core consensus in the divinity of the Quran and the Prophet’s elaboration in the hadith.
The schisms in Islam as in other established religions flow essentially from political contestations that seek to appropriate the profound influence of religion to gain ideological hegemony and material bounties. In the Middle East, cradle of the both the two established religions, geo-political contest has accentuated the schisms in Islam, widening the rift within the Muslim community beyond the region.
The current persecution of the members of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, most vividly exemplifies the struggle for ideological hegemony. Historically, the tradition of shiism exemplified by the peaceful, and compromise gesture of Imam Hassan in the battle with the Syrian cunning governor, Muayiwa, firmly established Shiism as tolerant, accommodating and inclusive.
From the Commission of inquiry set up by the Kaduna state government on the December Army attack of the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, some chilling facts have been unearthed. The Kaduna state government through its key officials has admitted 347 bodies including women and children were murdered and buried in a mass grave. The leader of the Islamic Movement, Mr. El-Zakzaky and is wife for the trauma of the cold – blooded murder of his children and his colleagues are held incommunicado and in unknown place.
Since the December Mayhem, when the Islamic Movement in Nigeria was nearly physically decimated, so much propaganda stuff has spewed out, to ostensibly bring them to public odium. The most serious of the charge against the group even, if it is the most ridiculous, is that the group is a State within State, with all paraphernalia of a government. And the evidence, according to this charge is that the group does not recognize government and have their own organizational apparatus. However even social clubs, political parties have internal organizations, with some designating their top leadership position as president. Every Sunday in many churches, it is not the police or army that provides orderly traffic within and around the domain of the churches. It is young men and boys decked in paramilitary uniforms that provide the function. On Fridays, in many mosques, it is also the young men that ensure orderliness during the prayer period. If it is these young volunteers that make the IMN a State within State, it beats our common sense to imagine how many States there are within the Nigerian State.
Even as web of lies are been woven around the shittes to justify the heavy-handedness of army clamp down on them, the most spurious ones includes that the group is another Boko Haram in the making, waiting to unleash mayhem if their activities were not preemptively curbed. But even a casual observer knows that the extremist and intolerant Boko Haram shares absolutely nothing in common with the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. The movement has even come under attack by the Boko Haram extremists.
It appears that the paranoid about the shittes is more likely from their famed discipline, organizational dexterity, and egalitarian virtues of self improvement. The republican slant of their Islamic activism appears to sit uneasily with the northern traditional and political establishment. It offends common sense that a group that has existed for nearly four decades without any record of public nuisance or disturbance is now dressed in the cloak of public enemy number one.
As if smear campaign linking the shiittes with treason is not enough, efforts are been orchestrated to link their alleged treasonable acts to a foreign power.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, that happens to share values of faith with Islamic Movement in Nigeria is being bandied as the instigator of the alleged malfeasance of the shitte group. But the same Iran took a global centre stage as she successfully concluded key nuclear deal with key world powers. As a result, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the cynosure of attention as Tehran is turned into the hub of global diplomacy. The French has officially visited. The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping also paid a state visit and just recently, the South Korean leader, Mrs Park called. In the parliamentary election held just recently, a record number of women made it to the national debating chamber.
Iran is long past the meddling and revolution-exporting entity that she is been unduly associated in some quarters here.
Onunaiju is a Journalist based in Abuja