The Al Qaeda of Nigeria: Inside the Boko Haram
Boko Haram has abducted more than 200 schoolgirls this month (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP)
Boko Haram, which means, “Western education is sinful,” is the name of the extremist group with an Al Qaeda-inspired ideology which over the past few years has been actively involved in bombings, killings and abductions in Nigeria, which has the largest population and biggest economy in Africa. The movement’s stated objective is to implement Islamic Shari’a law—in the same manner as the Taliban in Afghanistan—across Nigeria, whose population is almost split 50–50 between Muslims and Christians.
Boko Haram’s activities have claimed at least 10,000 lives so far, with methods similar to those used by like-minded groups in other parts of the world. The group has made inroads by taking advantage of racial and ethnic tensions and sectarian disputes.
But Boko Haram recently made its mark by abducting 200-plus schoolgirls—who were in the middle of taking their exams when the kidnapping occurred. The operation is reminiscent of the Dark Ages, when warring tribes used to abduct female captives from each other. Such practices were familiar among all nations, ethnicities and religions.
Boko Haram justified the operation, whose target was neither a military nor a government institution, by saying it was wrong for young women to go to school when instead they should be married. Boko Haram’s leader appeared in a video recording—a product of the Western civilization which the group rejects—saying he deems the abducted schoolgirls to be the spoils of war and who will be either forced into marriage or sold. Attempts to use ideology as a cover for a criminal act betrays the perverse beliefs of these groups. In fact, by justifying their crimes by appeals to religion, these mad groups are damaging Islam.
There is neither a future nor any hope for these groups in the political sphere. Any normal person anywhere finds such acts repellent. Even if these groups have problems or grievances, their terrorist activities prevent society from reforming itself and cause chaos. It is as though bloodshed and destruction are their only missions in life.
Bombings and chaos have spread while progress and development have been halted wherever these groups find space to operate by taking advantage of the political and security vacuum. Examples are rife: from Afghanistan, the areas where Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates, to Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.
Syria serves as the best example for these groups’ perverse ideology, with the disruption of a popular uprising demanding freedom. Amid the crisis in Syria, Al Qaeda-affiliated groups like the Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria serve as examples of this perverse ideology. After they intimidated the populace, they turned against each other.
These groups have come up with bizarre forms of violence and crime—from staging indiscriminate and random bombing attacks, to abducting schoolgirls.
By Ali Ibrahim