Ban of IMN in Kaduna: Let Not Repeat Mistake of Boko Haram

Two weeks ago, Kaduna State Government banned activities of the
Islamic Movement (IMN) in Nigeria, otherwise known as Shiite Muslims
or Shia in the state.
In the statement banning the sect members from practising their
religion in Kaduna, the government said it was an illegal
organisation. It said IMN was not a registered group in the state.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, said IMN was a threat to Nigeria.
He said the action was taken in the exercise of the government’s duty
to preserve peace and security in the state, and to ensure that all
persons and organisations are guided by lawful conduct and with due
allegiance to the Nigerian state and its Constitution.
He stated further that he drew on powers vested by the Constitution
and the laws of Kaduna State.
And the sect “has overtly continued with unlawful processions,
obstruction of public highways, unauthorized occupation of public
facilities including schools without regard to the rights of other
citizens and the public peace and order of the State, ” he noted.
The Order noted that “these acts, if allowed to go unchecked will
constitute danger to the peace, tranquility, harmonious coexistence
and good governance of Kaduna State”.
The Declaration Order, which comes into effect on Friday, 7 October
2016, provides for the prosecution of persons that may be in breach of
its provisions under the laws of Kaduna State.
Since this pronouncement, death and destruction have been visited upon
members of the group in Kaduna and some northern states.
There was report of destruction of schools belonging to Shia in
Kaduna aside the human lost. In Jos, Plateau State it was the same,
and in Kano and Sokoto.
The present ordeal of the IMN was sparked by a clash between its
member and the military at Zaria, Kaduna State in December 2015.
In the three days confrontation with the sect, soldiers reportedly
killing many of them, including the wife and son of the spiritual
leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky. In fact, almost a year after the clash, El-Zakzaky is still being held by the military without bringing charges against him.
Despite calls for his release, he is still being kept in confirnment.
The history of Shia Islam in Nigeria is the history of El-Zakzaky. Shia
was almost unknown in Nigeria until the 1980s, when El-Zakzaky introduced the movement.
The Iranian revolution of 1979, which led to the emergence of an
Islamic government, inspired many across the world.
El-Zakzaky, who had been trained in Shia theology in Iran, in the early
1980s, founded the Movement, following the disenchantment with the
political and religious establishment.
This rapidly gained ground in northern Nigeria. Its stated mission is
to establish an Iran type of Islamic state in Nigeria, which has kept
it in intermittent skirmishes with government security forces.
Then it was rumoured that the group had acquired weapons, and that it had not taken up arms against Nigeria’s secular government because the
group believed that the time to take up arms was not ripe in
Nigeria.
All along it has been no love lost between the sect and security
agencies in the country.
No doubt, members of the Shia community in Nigeria have been
persecuted in some cases, but has not taken this form as it presently
stands.
The state government of Sokoto reacted to the rise of Shia Islam in
the state by taking such measures as demolishing the Islamic Centre in
2007.
Also, El-Zakzaky lost three other sons in 2014 during clashes between Shias and Nigerian soldiers in Zaria on the International Quds day.
The 2015 massacre by the army and banning of its activities are yet a
new dimension.
This is where caution should be allowed to play a role.
Although, the Shiites like such other religious or ethnic groups need
to be curtailed for our collective security, the issue should be
handled with care.
A group that seems eager to foment trouble even without provocation
and pays no regards to the common rules that binds society is not one
that should be ignored without cautionary measures.
This group known for its disruptive actions- spewing hate language,
blocking roads for their activities or sending their members on long
pilgrimage-like treks on major highways, and thereby obstructing the
smooth flow of traffic, should not be forgotten is a portent danger to
the country.
Members are belligerent and appear permanently poised for violent
encounters or the enforcement of their peculiar doctrines.
Here we are confronted with Boko-Haram-like groups springing up around
us, determined to impose their strange doctrines on everybody.
By hindsight the group should be suppressed, even expelled from a
normal society.
But the question is will all these solve the problem or stop the activities of the group?
Repression hardly solves or stops such movement; rather it grows it
into an underground or guerrilla movement.
The birth of Boko Haram in Borno State in 2009 that has turned out to
be the nation’s Achilles heel cannot be wave off with a sigh. Let it
be a model for rediscovery on how a nation not to treat a religion
group.
Being religion the opium of the masses, the repression and extermination that seemingly end result of the ban of Shiite in Kaduna may snowball, God forbid, into another Boko Haram if not handled with care.
While we are not unmindful of the fact that Nigeria is engaged in a
long-drawn out war with Boko Haram, we nevertheless think it will be
more helpful if both the Federal and Kaduna State government act fast
by providing an enabling environment for citizens to practice his or
her belief without threat to others vi-sa-vis.
A lot of observers are raising red flags over the similarities between
the 2009 capture and execution of then Boko Haram leader Mohammed
Yusuf in police custody with this particular scenario in Kaduna. Nigeria cannot afford to repeat the errors of 2009 now.

Author: News Editor

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