Viewing cable 03ABUJA1516
Title: POLITICAL ISLAM: NIGERIA SNAPSHOT

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
03ABUJA15162003-09-04 14:16:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L ABUJA 001516 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2013 
TAGS: KISL PREL PHUM XF XA XG NI
SUBJECT: POLITICAL ISLAM: NIGERIA SNAPSHOT 
 
REF: STATE 205815 
 
 
Classified by Counselor James Maxstadt for reason 1.5 (c). 
 
 
¶1.  (C)  Reftel questions appear to pertain primarily to 
countries with active Islamist political parties or NGOs, and 
Nigeria does not fit neatly into these cookie-cutter 
categories.  Nigeria has no national parties or groups that 
pursue policies consistent with the definition of Political 
Islam put forth in reftel.  Social problems exist in Nigeria 
to be sure, but even "religious issues" here are driven 
largely by political and economic considerations, and play on 
ethnic divisions. 
 
 
¶2.  (C)  The only known group in Nigeria expressing overt 
hostility to political and religious pluralism is Sheikh 
Ibrahim Zak-Zaky's "Muslim Brotherhood."  This allegedly 
Shi'a sect is a tiny minority even in its own part of the 
country and Zak-Zaky's influence has waned since his 
opposition to the Abacha regime in the nineties.  Most of the 
meager funding he previously received from Iran has dried up. 
 While his rhetoric has not cooled, he is unable to attract a 
wide following. 
 
 
¶3.  (C)  Even smaller groups exist with varying degrees of 
influence in particular areas of the country.  The Jamatul 
Nasiral Islam (JNI) and the Izala movement are the two most 
influential.  Both strive to defend northern Nigeria's 
heritage against "secular" influences, but their primary 
concern is promoting the social and economic welfare of 
Nigeria's Muslims.  Izala is the more conservative of the 
two, viewing the practice of Islam in Nigeria as tainted by 
the influence of the West African Sufis.  While the JNI and 
Izala are not political movements, individual members are 
politically active in most of the 30 officially registered 
parties in Nigeria and throughout most of the 36 states in 
Nigeria. 
 
 
¶4.  (C)  Following is response to the eight questions 
contained in reftel: 
 
 
a)  Not applicable.  No successful (or unsuccessful) groups 
espousing Political Islam exist. 
 
 
b)  About half of the population of Nigeria could potentially 
be influenced by any Islamist group promoting 
social justice, economic improvement and democratic 
principles in Nigeria. 
 
 
c)  While influences from outside exist, Nigerian groups tend 
to pursue a domestic agenda and receive only 
limited funding from outside. 
 
 
d)  The practice of Shari'a in Nigeria is traditional but 
also a response to civil disorder.  It is more about social 
justice than an Islamist agenda, at least among Nigerians. 
Shari'a is not widely viewed as "evolutionary" in Nigeria, 
but neither does its application depend on the immutable 
seventh-century interpretation.  Instead, it is supported by 
the practice introduced in Nigeria in about the tenth century 
and adapted to local conditions.  It is based on the Maliki 
school of jurisprudence, but with heavy influence by the Sufi 
tariqas which abound throughout West Africa. 
 
 
e)  No modernizer has emerged to take the place of the late 
Sheikh Gumi from Bauchi, although several respected Sheikhs 
are locally important. 
 
 
f)  n/a 
 
 
g)  The JNI and Izala can and do cooperate across the 
political spectrum, within the bounds outlined above in Para 
¶3. 
 
 
h)  The negative perception of our policies is dampened by a 
widespread respect for America and Americans.  Nigerian 
intellectuals almost universally resent at least some USG 
policies, notably concerning the Middle East, but private or 
public individual Americans are generally not blamed.  There 
is also a vast pool of pro-American sentiment on other policy 
issues.  And many Nigerians have enduring misconceptions 
about the U.S., as in not believing there are American Muslim 
who are not immigrants.  Any claims to the contrary of such 
popular misconceptions are generally discounted. 
ROBERTS