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Persecution of the Shittes and its consequences:

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.