Shia Islam in Nigeria
Though the majority of the Nigerian Muslim population is Sunni (60 million), there is a significant Shia minority, particularly in the northern states of Kano and Sokoto. However, there are no actual statistics that reflect a Shia population in Nigeria, and a figure of even 5% of the total Nigerian Muslim population is thought to be too high “because of the routine conflation of Shi’a with Sunnis who express solidarity with the Iranian revolutionary program, such as those of Zakzaki’s Ikhwani.”
Introduction of Shi'ism in Nigeria
Shia Islam was "almost unknown" in Nigeria until the 1980s, when Ibraheem Zakzaky introduced a syncretic blend of Shia and Sunni Islam. Zakzaky's gained a following among those disenchanted with the political and religious establishment, and were commonly identified as Shi'a (due to similarities with Khomeni's traditions). However, these so-called Shia are believed to generally share little with Middle Eastern Shia, and the designation instead refers to “radical” and utopian and may imply the receipt of funding from Iran.
Members of the Nigerian Shia community have been persecuted in some cases, but in other cases have united with Nigerian Sunni in the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. Cleric Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is a primary figure in the movement.
The state government of Sokoto has reacted to the rise of Shia Islam in the state by taking such measures as demolishing the Islamic Center in 2007. Furthermore, clashes between Sunni and Shia residents followed the assassination of Imam Umaru Danmaishiyya, who was known for his fiery anti-Shia preaching.
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