Of all the spirited groups and individuals across the world who sympathized with the Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Yaqoub Zakzaky over the brutal killing of 33 members of the Movement, including of his children, Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad, stands out like a sore thumb. In his weekly column in Leadership newspaper, Focus on Faith dated August 1, 2014, titled, “In Support of The Shi’ah Procession”, the writer tried in his usual way to brig to fore the imaginary and unnecessary divisions among Muslims as his main focus, before expressing a subtle “condolence”.
Yes, only someone new to his column would need a “caveat” to know that Ustaz Abubakr is an arch-enemy of Shi’ism. His writings had been replete with attacks on Shi’a creed. Read his opening lines: “Do I need to state that I am not an adherent of Shi’ism or that I do not pledge allegiance to the declarer of the Quds procession? I do not”. Should this come from a “supporter” of a procession by a bereaved in the period of mourning? In as much as I tried to place the writer among the sincere sympathizers of the Islamic Movement over the unfortunate incident, as he aimlessly tried to show that the issue was beyond “sectarian leanings”, I found him a bundle of contradiction. His deep rooted hatred for the Shi’ism kept surfacing throughout the writing.
In the first place, the choice of words in title, “Shi’ah Procession”, gave the writer away. If, as I assume, the writer is well abreast with current events, the issue of Palestinians and the occupation of Palestine by the illegal state of Israel is beyond a particular group or section of the society. Why then refer to expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause as “Shi’ah Procession”? The narration by the writer on the true situation of events in Palestinian with regard to the Israeli brutality and aggression, as well as the world hypocrisy, was right. He however failed to note that, the issue of Palestine and Quds Day procession are global phenomenon, involving people of conscience and freedom-seekers. Moderate Jews and their Rabbis, Christians and atheists, and even world leaders of some countries participated in the procession on annual basis. Some Christians participated during this year’s procession in Kaduna, while one Christian was among those killed and another (female Christian) also injured by the soldiers in Zaria. It is therefore irrational for one to view Palestinian issue as an exclusive concern of a group, and protesting against injustice on them as “Shi’ah procession”.
Ustaz Abubakar got it wrong while narrating the Zaria incident. Hear him: “Whichever way you want to look at it, somebody with weapons went beyond the call of duty and broke the rules of engagement of the Army by firing at mostly unarmed people. I say mostly unarmed because from some of the information I gathered, some of the Shi’ites were armed with bows and arrows. I also gathered that what probably triggered the bloodbath was the way the procession blocked the road, which left the soldiers on an assignment stranded. When the soldiers demanded that they be let through, a melee ensued”. This is the common narration of the incident by common men on the street, who did not care to investigate what actually happened. I expected Ustaz to look further than his nose, go beyond the rumour before putting down his pen to write this statement that could be read by many people. He chose to act on hearsay. Even the soldiers that committed the atrocities did not say, “The procession blocked the road”. While the story of the Zaria incident lasted, I have not read anywhere, or heard statement from anyone who claimed that, “The Shi’ites were armed with bows and arrows”, except from the writer. I use this opportunity to discourage arm chair column writing. Did the writer ever cared to watch the video clip of the shootings posted on the Islamic Movement websites, or read the Movement’s newspapers? No, he had no need, for he had “listened to accounts of the incident from eyewitnesses”. I also wonder if the writer cared to read Dr. Kabir Mato’s writing on the incident in the Daily Trust newspaper titled, “Understanding the Zaria Massacre”, and other similar write-ups.
Having indirectly accused whom he referred to as “Shi’ites” of being armed during the Quds Day procession, the writer went a step further to accuse Iran and Hizbullah of being silent on the killings in Gaza, and that the “Shi’ites” in Nigeria were not protesting the killings in Gaza but the occupation of Palestine by Israel. What a contradiction! In the first place, the writer should know that Iran had never kept silent in the over sixty years of Israeli atrocities on Palestinians. In fact, the rise of Hizbullah was in reaction to the Israeli brutality in Palestine. I believe that the writer deliberately refused to read, or if he had read, refuse to tell the truth, on series of statements issued and conferences organized by Iran and Hizbullah on the plight of people of Gaza and Palestine in general. For the writer to alleged that Hizbullah kept mute over the issue because, “Palestine has a Sunni government, Hezbollah is a Shi’ite group, so it is quite convenient to be silent”, rendered him a laughing stock. I challenge the writer to bring forth any country or organization that gives support to the cause of Palestinians more than Iran and Hizbullah. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria under the spiritual guardianship of His Eminence Sheikh Ibraheem Yaqoub Zakzaky has championed the cause of Palestinians, whether in Gaza, Rafah or West Bank, over the years. The Movement had had about five martyrs, before the present ones, during Quds Day processions in past years. When Israeli Defence Front (IDF) murdered Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Dr. Abdul Azeez Rantisi (all Palestinian Sunnis), the Islamic Movement held special mourning sessions to remember them as fallen heroes. A procession was also conducted to protest the brutal murder of Dr. Rantisi, in which two members of the Movement were shot dead by Nigerian security. I am yet to read a piece from the writer, lamenting the plight of the Palestinians.
Even while demanding for justice over the Zaria killings, the writer could not hide his deep hatred for Sheikh Zakzaky and his followers: “I owe them no allegiance but even a pagan has a right to justice in Islam, not to talk of people who are largely Muslims. Only a small fraction of them have unIslamic ideologies”. Whatever name the writer gives members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, history has proved them as sensitive to the plight of the people, Muslims and non-Muslims. Theirs, just like the Quds Day procession, is global mass movement. It was not a “Shi’ah Procession”, but a global mass movement of people with conscience demanding for freedom and justice. This was why Christians, Jews and atheists participated in the procession all over the world. In Kaduna, Nigeria, Christians also participated in the procession that day, and this was why Christians and their umbrella body Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) extended condolence to Sheikh Zakzaky and families of the people killed. This is a global issue, with global outlook, hence the global condemnation.
I therefore see the writer shedding crocodile tears for the murder of the 33 “Shi’ites” in Zaria, for he could not have supported a “Shi’ite Procession”, in which the protesters, as he claimed, were “armed with bows and arrows”.
If what Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq wrote was meant to be a condolence or call for justice, it has fallen short of that. He has only succeeded in bringing to the fore and promoted, the imaginary divisions among Muslims, which enemies of Islam are always trying to promote. In this period, of mourning, condolence and sympathy, he should have kept low the issue of unnecessary divisions among Muslims and just lament the brutal murder of his fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. I recall with great sense of pride and respect, the words of late Imam Ruhullah al-Khomeini: “Those brewing discord between Sunnah and Shi’a, are neither Sunnah nor Shi’a”.