US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2792

RADICALIZATION OF ISLAM IN NIGERIA

Identifier: 01ABUJA2792
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2792 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-11-01 11:35:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS PTER KISL PHUM KIRF KPAO OIIP
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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 SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002792 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
AF/W AND AF/RA 
AF/PD FOR SCOTT 
IIP/G/AF 
AF/W FOR PARKS, EPSTEIN 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2006 
TAGS: PINS, PTER, KISL, PHUM, KIRF, KPAO, OIIP 
SUBJECT: RADICALIZATION OF ISLAM IN NIGERIA 
 
 
REF: (A) SECSTATE 177569 
 
 
Classified by Charge Timothy Andrews, for reasons 1.5 (b) and 
(d). 
This cable is being re-transmitted to expand distribution. 
 
 
1. (SBU)  Summary:  The Embassy interprets a "radical 
formulation of Islam" (reftel) as one which deems violence 
against Americans as licit for reasons of faith.  Few in 
Nigeria have adopted this extreme view; however, there is 
widespread concern and significant anger among Muslims in 
Nigeria against the U.S. action in Afghanistan.  Sympathy for 
UBL is visible, particularly among the young, male, Northern 
urban underclass. On the whole, Nigerian Muslims are not 
anti-American, or anti-Western, yet may suspect us of being 
anti-Islamic and view our military action as confirmation. 
If military operations are prolonged or marred by growing 
civilian casualties, this belief will harden.  If this 
dynamic takes root, many Muslims, particularly young 
marginalized males and the more outspoken clerics, will 
become susceptible to a radicalized view of Islam that not 
only promotes violence, but also explicitly rejects Western 
ideals of a secular polity and market-oriented economy. 
End Summary. 
-------------------- 
View From the Ground 
-------------------- 
2. (SBU)  Most Nigerian Muslims condemn the 9/11 attacks but 
many also oppose coalition action in Afghanistan as an attack 
against fellow Muslims.  The majority hold the U.S. 
responsible for having created the atmosphere that produces 
terrorists through policies they perceive as anti-Islamic in 
Iraq and the Middle East peace process.   Many are skeptical 
about any evidentiary link between the September 11 attacks 
and Usama Bin Laden.  Our failure to provide a public account 
of our evidence seems to them to confirm their suspicions. 
More moderate Islamic leaders, in addition to publicly 
condemning the attacks, and tacitly acknowledging the 
necessity of some type of military response, have voiced 
concerns about how these events might affect Islam as a 
whole.  In a nutshell, our military action in Afghanistan is 
seen by many as the latest example of superpower 
heavy-handedness in the Islamic world. 
--------- 
The Media 
--------- 
3. (SBU) There is no newspaper or other media outlet in 
Nigeria that has a "radical Islamic editorial policy," 
meaning that it encourages Muslims to attack Americans. 
However in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria, numerous 
editorials criticized U.S. policy.  There have also been 
columns supporting Bin Laden, which increased dramatically 
after air strikes commenced.  Two newspapers--the Northern 
states' government owned New Nigerian in Kaduna and The 
Daily/Weekly Trust in Abuja--have prominently featured 
critical columns. The critical sentiment shades their news 
reports.  The Daily/Weekly Trust is new, so it does not have 
an established track record against which to measure its 
anti-American print.  The New Nigerian, however, opposed 
Desert Storm, so its spin on September 11 is consistent with 
its previous work.  Though new, Trust is far more widely read 
than the New Nigerian,  The Federal Government-owned Federal 
Radio Corporation Nigeria (FRCN) in Kaduna also airs highly 
critical opinions of U.S. policy. 
-------------------------- 
Islamic Preaching/Teaching 
-------------------------- 
4. (SBU)  Many Northern states have adopted versions of 
expanded Shari'a law in the past two years.  While this 
movement was based on local considerations, it was also, in 
part, a rejection of a dysfunctional secular legal system. 
Nevertheless, the Shari'a law movement has no direct link to 
growing distress at our bombing of Afghanistan.  Strong 
rhetoric critical of U.S. military action has been used by a 
small but steadily increasing number of clerics, and some of 
these have also advocated for expanded Shari'a.  Among the 
strongest statements was one from the Zamfara State 
Commissioner of Religious Affairs calling for Muslims to pray 
for the "annihalation" of the U.S. if it invades Afghanistan. 
 Yet, by and large, most clerics reflect as well as help 
shape mainstream Muslim views.  They decry the terrorist 
attacks, but in the same breath oppose our reaction. 
 
 
6. (SBU)  If radicalism emerges in Nigeria, a focal point 
would be Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, a long-time center 
of Islamic activism.  Zaria based Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, 
leader of Nigeria's Muslim Brothers, relishes being known as 
a militant and would be a likely candidate to push Nigerian 
Muslims toward radicalism.  However, both Zakzaky and his 
movement lost support because of his opposition to the 
adoption of "partial" Shari'a law under a secular government. 
 The Ullama, particularly in Kano, could also emerge as a 
catalyst for radical Islam. 
----------------- 
Political Parties 
----------------- 
9. (SBU)  There is no political party that advocates Islamic 
radicalism in Nigeria. 
----- 
NGO's 
----- 
10. (C)  Prominent Islamic NGO's include the Red Crescent, 
International Islamic Relief Organization, International 
Federation of Islamic Students Organization and the 
Federation of Muslim Women of Nigeria.  All have ties to 
Saudi Arabia but none appear tied to Islamic radicalism. 
Transnational organizations, such as the Islamic Call 
Society, also have offices in Nigeria.  Cataloguing all 
Islamic NGOs operating in Nigeria and determining their 
political orientation exceeds our limited resources. 
---------------------- 
Financial Institutions 
---------------------- 
11. (SBU)  The former BCCI operated in Nigeria, and its 
Nigerian assets are now controlled by the Lagos-based AIB 
Bank.  Post has no information linking AIB, or any other 
bank, to radical Islamic activism. 
------------- 
Foreign Study 
------------- 
12. (SBU)  Most Nigerian Muslims who study abroad go to the 
U.S., U.K., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Iran, in 
descending order of popularity.  Those who wish to study in 
an Islamic country and who are seeking technical or medical 
degrees lean toward Saudi Arabia, while those pursuing 
Islamic studies gravitate to Egypt.  Many professionals are 
reluctant to return here for economic reasons, but religious 
scholars tend to return after their course of study.  After 
completion of their studies, they are likely to preach or 
take up positions as Ullama or teachers.  We expect a more 
militant bent from many of those who studied in Libya, Sudan 
or Iran, but there is no evidence of a violent radicalism 
being brought back to Nigeria. 
------------------ 
Foreign Itinerants 
------------------ 
13. (C)  Post does not have knowledge of individual foreign 
itinerants promoting a radical, i.e. violently anti-American, 
formulation of Islam in the North.  There are a substantial 
number of itinerant Islamic scholars from the Sudan who 
reside in or visit Nigeria regularly.  Algerian and Iranian 
religious scholars resident in Katsina and Kano have also 
been reported.  Malam Yakubu Musa, a Muslim cleric residing 
in Katsina, was recently arrested and then acquitted of 
harboring Algerian radicals alleged to be affiliated with the 
FSPC.  While we do not have specific knowledge, we would 
expect many of these Ullama to be among the most vocal and 
militant "street clerics" and likely candidates for fomenting 
radicalism. 
 
 
14. (C)  There have been no rumors of planned attacks by 
Muslims against USG installations or Amcits.  That said, if a 
European or American were to wander into an anti-U.S. 
demonstration he or she could well be targeted.  Muslim FSNs 
have expressed concern and mistrust for Ibrahim Zakzaky. 
They warn that while he stops short of preaching that 
violence against Americans is justified by Islam, some of his 
followers may be more radical. 
 
 
15. (C)  Comment:  Nigeria is struggling with its own ethnic 
and religious conflicts, independent of recent world events. 
However, world events do exacerbate internal ethnic and 
religious tensions.  On the whole, Nigerian Muslims are not 
anti-American, or anti-Western, but are unhappy over US 
military action in Afghanistan.  The fact that our forces do 
not target civilians means nothing to Nigerian Muslims as 
long as our munitions are killing civilians.  Some Nigerian 
Muslims view bombardment that results in collateral (Muslim) 
civilian deaths as not substantially different from terrorist 
attacks that deliberately target (American) civilians.  The 
longer our military action is prosecuted in Afghanistan, and 
if significant civilian casualties continue to mount, this 
anger will only increase.  In time, it could give vent to a 
more radical expression of Islam in some parts of the 
country.  End Comment. 
Andrews 

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