Interim leader of the outlawed Islamic Movement of Nigeria popularly referred to as Shi’ites, Sheikh Yakubu Yahaya, has accused the Federal Government of persecuting its members describing the group’s proscription as a sham.
Yahaya who spoke at a press conference in Katsina on Saturday urged the relevant authorities to cite a portion from the Muslim Holy Book, the Qu’ran, to justify the proscription of the group.
According to Yahaya, “if there is a law or verse from the Holy books that prohibits our activities they should prove it to us.
“We are not fighting the government because we understand them but it is the government that are fighting and attacking us because they don’t understand our religion.
“Our religion permits us to rally during the observation of our various occasional events.
“If they agree that we have a religion they should allow us practise our religion the way we understand it.
“Our doors are open for dialogue with the government and whoever wants to dialogue with us. Our doors are open anytime, without any conditions.
“When two parties are feuding, it is not the use of force that will bring lasting peace or solution, but a peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation is what matters.
“But if there is no good reason for us to be outlawed, then they should allow us be and not interfere with the way we have chosen to practise our religion.
“We do not do anything illegal and we are not fighting government. The Constitution allows us to practise our religion the way we deem fit.”
The Shi’ites leader described the press conference as a replacement for the, “usual symbolic trek or procession to mark the Arba’een, the murder of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, who was killed on the 10th of Muharam of the Islamic calendar.
As he put it, “during the last Ashura procession, about 17 of our members were killed across the country and in states such as Bauchi and Katsina among others while over 30 others were arrested.
“Even, yesterday (Friday) our procession in Abuja was disrupted. Our people were attacked. We carry out our processions without arms.
“We are peace loving people. And we have no country other than Nigeria, so we won’t allow anybody to use us to destabilise the peace of the country.
“If they extend the hand of friendship to us, we will oblige them. We are a peaceful group and will never do anything to undermine the security of the country.
“Even our neighbours here in this state (Katsina) have attested to the fact that we are peaceful people. We’ve met with 20 of our neighbours and they have given the same verdict about our group.
“When security personnel fired teargas into some neighbours’ homes sometime ago, we went and sympathised with them and even treated those wounded.”