Boko Haram: A Short Time in the Public Eye; A Long History of Jihad

Over the last few weeks, Americans have learned of the horrible actions of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. The group came into American awareness as the result of the horrible kidnapping of more than 300 Nigerian girls from their school several weeks ago — about 275 are still believed to be in captivity, waiting to be sold into slavery. The #bringbackourgirls social media campaign has brought a lot of attention on the group and this particular atrocity, but it’s hardly the first horrible thing Boko Haram has ever done.

Since making itself known in Nigeria by launching an insurgency five years ago, the organization has been responsible for killing thousands of people (both citizens and tourists), bombing Christian churches, police stations, “moderate” Muslim mosques, and schools, with an ultimate goal of making Nigeria a “pure” Islamic state under sharia law.

This chilling article about the organization, from the BBC, gives an overview of its activity over the last five years, as well as a sense of its relentlessness:

“Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram – which has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and now abductions – is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.

Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. [Note: Indeed, the name Boko Haran means just that.]

This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.

Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president.”

Perhaps even more alarming, in this article from The Daily Beast, is an alleged direct connection between Boko Haram and al Qa’eda:

“In 2002, Osama bin Laden dispatched an aide to Nigeria to hand out $3 million in local currency to a wide array of Salafist political organizations there that shared al Qaeda’s goal of imposing Islamic rule.

According to an overlooked report from a well-respected international watchdog, one of those organizations was Boko Haram, the terrorist outfit that’s become globally infamous for its threat to sell girls into slavery. In other words, bin Laden helped provide Boko Haram’s seed money, this report maintains.”

The report is under some dispute, and while there might only be fleeting links between the two organizations, the vision of jihad the two groups have in common is no laughing matter. Americans, in particular, are dismissive of the idea that these relatively small groups could take over their countries, and could start a domino effect that leads to a world controlled by Islamist governments. But for Boko Haram and groups like that, they believe it, and individual members are willing to risk their lives for the cause. And for Boko Haram, the cause includes all manner of crimes against humanity as they move unflinchingly toward their ultimate goal.

Though the immediate goal of returning the kidnapped girls to their parents is a laudable one, we shouldn’t lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to fight jihadists though the means available to us through the rule of law — be it economic sanctions, assistance to nations committed to fighting jihadist insurgents (which the American government is now providing via drones, as Fox News reports), and even, if it’s prudent and there’s a cohesive strategy in place, military action. The worldwide attention that Boko Haram is attracting is indicative of how far-reaching the effects of radical Islam and terrorism are in today’s world, and the opening of the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum this week is a reminder of how close to home it can hit.


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