The movement began with a Shia Muslim university activist, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who is said to have become so impressed with the 1979 Iranian Revolution that he wanted one at home. Later, Zakzaky went to Iran, ultimately becoming a Shia cleric. At home he became the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and turned it into a vehicle for proselytizing and gaining followers in the 1990s. As a result of his activities, millions have converted to Shia Islam in a country once with hardly any Shia population.
The movement is said to incorporate both Shia and Sunni Muslims and to hold processions, mainly in Zaria, to raise awareness about itself and to advocate the liberation of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.
The movement conducts most of its spiritual activities in Husainiyya Baqiyatullah, located in Zaria. According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission, thousands of Muslims from both Sunni and Shia schools of thought are affiliated with it.
The movement has been known as a non-violent Islamic movement for decades. The movement has organised peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstrations on an annual basis across Nigeria for over 33 years, primarily in the state of Kaduna. The movement's gatherings have been attacked several times by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian army.
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