C O N F I D E N T I A L ABUJA 001516
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).
Â¶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
Â¶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
Â¶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
Â¶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.
g) The JNI and Izala can and do cooperate across the
political spectrum, within the bounds outlined above in Para
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.