The brother of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the
Iranian-funded and inspired Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), has accused Iran
of converting Zakzaky and said the IMN should be proscribed for causing terror,
according to an interview with Nigeria’s Punch Newspapers.“Iran
invited him to their country to join them (become a Shiite), and they financed
Originally, El-Zakzaky was Sunni but Iran lured him into becoming a
Shiite,” Zakzaky’s reported brother Sheikh Mohammed Yakoob told Punch’s
Ted Odogwu on Saturday.According to the Punch interview, Sheikh Yakoob also alleged
that Iran promised to make Zakzaky “their Shiite ambassador in Nigeria.”Zakzaky, a Nigerian Shiite cleric, founded the IMN in the early
1980s after he visited post-revolution Iran.
The group draws inspiration from
Iran’s former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini and has received financial and
political support from Iran since its inception.The IMN,
which advocates for an Iranian-style republic in Nigeria, has been
banned and designated as a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government. The
banning of the group has drawn attention to Iranian influence among
the Shiite community in Nigeria, which makes up an estimated five to 17 percent
of Nigeria’s 100 million Muslims, amid fears of sectarian conflict erupting as
the IMN rejects the authority of Nigeria’s Sunni President Muhammadu Buhari.A Nigerian expert on the IMN who wished to remain anonymous
emphasized Iran’s support for the organization.“They use fatwa [legal verdicts] issued by the Iranian clerics.
They always look up to these clerics as sources of spiritual guidance and
Members of IMN enjoy Iranian scholarships and study in Iranian
universities/institutions, especially in [the Iranian city of] Qom,” the source
told Al Arabiya English.The source also alleged that Iran’s finances are facilitating
the IMN’s recruitment tactics, suggesting the financial support from Iran was
“utilized to economically empower new converts to Shiism.
empowerment is one of the potent weapons and strategies adopted by IMN to win
loyalty of its distressed members.”Yakoob also criticized the IMN, alleging that its members carry
guns and agreeing with the Nigerian government that it causes terror, as
reported by Punch.Regarding the 2015 incident in which his brother was arrested,
Yakoob blamed IMN members for “attacking” Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen.
Buratai, and suggested they should “learn to face the consequences.” Other
commentators have disputed this view, pointing to the Nigerian government’s
disproportionately violent crackdown on the IMN.Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015 after the Nigerian
government stormed the IMN’s offices, resulting in approximately 350 deaths.
The IMN has since been campaigning for his release, with protests often turning
violent.When asked by Punch if the IMN has arms, Yakoob responded “If
you ask any security agency in Nigeria, they will tell you that Shiites have
arms, but not enough to fight with.
They have both local and foreign-made guns
but they are not enough to fight.
They kill soldiers and police officers.”Sheikh Yakoob, who is a Sunni Muslim, also expressed anti-Shiite
views during the Punch interview.Zakzaky was granted bail to fly to India for medical treatment
on Monday last week.