At the time of writing, members of Nigeria’s murderous Boko Haram terror group were attacking northeast Nigeria and planning to launch a deadly attack on a city of 200,000 Christians, possibly even extending their reach into Chad in their bid to establish an Islamic caliphate. Sounds familiar? Not to Iran, which has been cozying up to Nigerian clerics despite its vocal disavowal of Syria and Iraq’s Islamic State.
IS’s similarity to Boko Haram has not been lost on Iran, which has pledged to provide help to African nations hit by the group’s violence. And yet, if a recent meeting between Iranian and Nigerian clerics is any indication, Iran thinks something good is happening to Nigerian Islam.
The recent meeting in Qom between senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani and visiting Nigerian cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky was reported by Iranian news agency Tasnim. We couldn’t really find English-language reports of the meeting elsewhere – a shame, because Zakzaky’s remarks on it exposed Tehran’s selective stand on Islamic extremism.
According to the Tasnim report, Hamedani and Zakzaky discussed the “Islamic awakening movement in the African country.” While we would like to assume this was not a reference to the relentless, ruinous rise of Boko Haram, we wonder how the terrorist group, which was likely carrying out massacres in the name of Islam as the meeting was taking place, was left out of the conversation.
And it wasn’t like “Islam’s enemies” weren’t discussed by the two – the report cited the Nigerian cleric praising “awakened Muslim nations” for their “vigilance against plots hatched by enemies.” We might hazard a guess that Islamist terrorist groups were not included in the “enemies of Islam” category, but their targets may well have been.
Zakzaky was likewise said to have praised the “continuation of the Islamic movement founded by the late Imam Khomenei in Iran,” saying that Nigeria, like Iran’s 1979 revolution, was “moving toward the awakening of nations.” Has terror-ridden Nigeria taken up belligerent, globally isolated Iran as a role model, pledging to help Muslim nations “defeat their enemies” by means of violence and terrorism? The cleric’s words on Nigerian Islam may provide clues: in his country, he boasted, “large groups of people are being invited to Islam and awakened.”
Remember #bringbackourgirls? Over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls that have been held hostage by Boko Haram for 305 days, and that have gone forgotten as the terrorist group’s power has grown? Is this the kind of invitation to Islam Zakzaky was talking about? And is Iran endorsing it?