The United Nations, Special Investigator on Religious Freedom, Ahmed Shaheed, has accused Nigeria and several other countries across the world of religious intolerance.
Shaheed said in a report submitted to the UN General Assembly that Nigeria is one of the countries that has created laws proscribing religious groups and defining them as terrorist organizations.
The former foreign minister of the Maldives specifically spoke of the proscription of the Shiites in 2019.
“A Nigerian court ruled in 2019 that activities by Shiite Muslims amounted to ‘acts of terrorism’ and illegality and ordered the government to ban their association,” he said.
“Acts like these, are, however, not tied to Nigeria alone.
“In almost every region of the world, religious minorities appear to be at particular risk of being designated as terrorist groups and of having members arrested under extremism or illegal activity charges,” he said.
The diplomat, who has been the UN’s special rapporteur on religion since 2015, said Nigeria is also one of the few countries where it is a criminal offence not to have a religion.
Aside from Nigeria, he listed other countries that had made apostasy illegal to include, Afghanistan, Brunei, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen – where apostasy is in principle punishable by death.
“The failure to eliminate discrimination, combined with political marginalization and nationalist attacks on identities, can propel trajectories of violence and even atrocity crimes,” he said.
In the same week when this report was sent, the Nigerian police used live ammunition to disperse peaceful Shiite protesters in Abuja who were calling for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El Zakzaky.