By: Aminu Alhassan
My Iranian friend had asked me why President Buhari was detaining Zakzaky and why many of his followers were killed by the military. He had also insinuated that there was no religious tolerance in Nigeria and that the Sunni Muslim majority was violating the religious rights and freedom of worship of its minority Shia population. He had tried to compare that with how the Sunni minority in Iran was free and had never had any troubles dealing with the Shia theocracy that ruled Iran despite being just 10% of the population.
He had also mentioned how the Arab states led by Saudi Arabia were working with the Zionist state of Israel and the west to topple the Islamic government of Iran and how the Saudis were funding extremist ideology that fueled the rise of takfiri organizations like ISIS and Boko Haram. He also told me that the Saudis did not consider him and other Shiites Muslim.
I tried to answer his questions concerning Nigeria and Zakzaky as clearly, sincerely and as truthfully as I could drawing from my personal experiences in my many years stay in Zaria and Kaduna. I told him that while Islam may be older in Iran, the area where Zakzaki resided before his eviction and arrest by the state had been Muslim for at least 800 years and Sunni Islam had been the only Islam known to the populace until about thirty years ago when Zakzaky transmuted the Muslim Brotherhood which he alongside others founded in the school I graduated from to Shia.
So Islam was not new to us but Shia was. Secondly, while we may not have had Shia adherents living in our midst, we were not ignorant of its existence because ours was not only a land of Muslims but that of Islamic schorlaship and once upon a time a global center of knowledge and power. I told him that books written by scholars from Nigeria are reference materials of knowledge anywhere in the world.
That in the very neighbourhood of Zakzaky’s Geyellesu was a Wusasa which was predominantly Christian and whose people were Hausa and Fulani that converted to Christianity after the British conquest of northern Nigeria and had lived in peace with the Muslim Zaria for almost a century then without incidence.
So as Muslims, we knew diversity of opinion long before Zakzaky, and know what the rules of engagement concerning it were. I also informed him that while the Sunni in Iran were officially estimated at about 10% of the Iran’s 82million people and formed majority of more than 80% in many regions or states of Iran, the Shia in Nigeria did not make up 2% of the Muslim population of Nigeria and did not form a majority in even a single ward of an LGA any state of Nigeria.
So to the question, why Zakzaky was arrested and detained and many of his followers killed by the military, I educated my friend on the circumstances that led to the altercation with the military. How terribly the minority Shia population had treated its majority Sunni brothers. How they took over roads, schools and public buildings obstructing traffic and paralyzing traffic, business, office activities and social life for days whenever they wished. How on some occasions they stopped both the state governor and the emir of Zazzau the right of passage. How they operated a militia that takes over traffic, police and civil defense functions without the permission of state authority whenever and wherever they chose to.
I told my friend that our own brand of Zakzaky’s Shia did not recognize the Nigerian state, had its own governance structure independent of the state but still attended our government subsidized schools, use our roads and blocked at will, took up government jobs in every facet of life including the military and other sensitive security services without discrimination but held its loyalty to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I asked Aboozer what the definition of high treason was in his country? I narrated to my Persian friend one of the personal experiences I had with Zakzaky’s men and women when I was an undergraduate student at ABU. I had boarded a vehicle from the Sabon Gari park and our car left the park around 3:30pm. By the travel time then, we could have arrived Jos by 6:30pm or at most 7:00pm. Unfortunately for us, lord Zakzaky was out for one of his numerous activities. We were held in his human traffic that took over the PZ-Zaria City for nearly 5hrs such that by the time we were able to wriggle out of Zaria, it was already some minutes after 8:00pm. We arrived Jos almost 12pm and I got to my house in Bukuru at about 1:30am. Thankfully, Jos was still then the home of peace and tourism.
Having now provided the background to the situation we were dealing with, I then asked him, what could have been Zazzaky’s fate if he had happened to be a Sunni Muslim and challenged the Iranian state the way he did to Nigeria and openly declared his allegiance to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Was it most probable that the Iranian state could have executed him just as they did in June 2010 with Abdulmaleq Rigi, the founder and leader of Jundullah movement and subsequently many of his followers?
I asked my friend again, why as a member of the about 2.2 billion Muslim Ummah I had to choose between Iran and Saudi Arabia whom combined population was some 110 million people less than 2.5% of the world Muslim population and in fact less than the population of Muslims in Nigeria?
I went further to ask what business Iran had in Syria that it was propping up murderous blood thirsty dictator in coordination with Hezbollah and Russia to kill fellow Muslims? Wasn’t Iran doubly guilty of the worst crimes it accused its Arab adversaries of? Collaborating with non Muslims to undermine the wishes of the majority Syrian population to get rid of Bashar Al-Assad and establish a government that mirrored what Iran had, a theocracy based on majority rule since Bashar Al-Assad only represented a miserable 8% of the Syrian Alawite Shia that even the Iran’s own twelver Ja’afari Shia considered heretic?
Where was the Islam, I asked my friend, in a so called Islamic government that could not negotiate a truce between two Muslim adversaries but took sides in the massacre, destitution and displacement of millions in the service of sectarian loyalties? For while the Saudi Arab axis could be accused of the crimes of hypocritical support of the enemy, the Iranians participated directly in the murder of fellow Muslims.
I concluded by telling my new friend that while Iran and Saudi Arabia held special places in the history of Islam and Muslims, they did not speak for us. I told him I saw better example in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, Jordan, Algeria and recently Turkey that had opened their doors and vaults to the Ummah in need either in the form of Education or welfare as Turkey and Jordan did in taking in millions of refugees from Syria displaced by Iranian funded violence, Turkey’s positive intervention in a propping up the central government in Somalia, Morocco’s government intervention in solving Nigeria’s fertilizer crisis etc.
I told my Iranian recruiter that I knew Iran trained and armed Shia militias from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Ansaruddin in Yemen to the popular mobilization forces in Iraq and Syria and the goal looked to me more like a Shia empire creation than a care for the greatest welfare of the Ummah. That I had never heard Iran receiving refugees from the many conflicts it was involved in or offered scholarship free of sectarian strings or food to the hungry Muslim in Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia, Eritria or South Sudan. The billions they spent in creating, training, arming and sustaining militias across the world would have made a world of difference in educating and empowering the millions of illiterate and hungry Muslims around the world.
Oh, I also reminded him that a renown Nigeria’s minister was one of the most known Shia affiliated scholars in Nigeria and he served in the kitchen cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari. How did that look when contrasted with the situation of the Sunni minority in Iran whom despite forming more than 10% of the Iranian population and over 85% in at least 3 states could not be governors in the states they are majority, cannot be ministers of the central government and cannot serve in sensitive security positions?
We concluded our lengthy conversation after Isha prayers. Exchanged phone numbers and made an appointment to meet the next day at the Haram again. When we met the next day however, we had moved on from discussing the global Sunni-Shia divide. There was no longer Zakzaky. He didn’t bring it up. I didn’t offer to continue either.
We only talked about matters of friendship, hobbies and history.
This opinion, entirely that of the writer, was lifted from. Anas Chika ‘s wall