In fact, such Islamic seats of learning as Deoband, Qom and Al Azhar must unite in expressing their abhorrence of the atrocity in Nigeria. Silence will mean the Muslim world’s tacit approval of Boko Haram’s misogynist brigandage.
THE news from Nigeria is blood-curdling. Shrouded initially in mystery, the kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian girls last month has now been owned by Boko Haram, with its chief threatening ‘by Allah’ to sell those girls in slave markets. In a chilling demonstration of his intentions, in the name of Islam, Boko Haram chief Abubakr Shekau released an hour-long video that showed his hooded acolytes raising rifles and shouting ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ as Shekau flaunted his criminality to the Nigerian people by declaring, “I abducted your girls”. Describing the girls as “slaves”, he had no qualms about saying he would repeat his actions. Over 50 of the girls have managed to flee, two have died of snakebite, many have been forced to marry and some have been forcibly converted — all in the name of Islam.
Last week, two explosions killed or injured more than 100 people, and police believe Boko Haram wanted to demonstrate its destructive power as Nigeria prepared to host the World Economic Forum. So far acts of terror by the Boko Haram militants and security crackdowns have led to over 1,500 deaths this year alone. But there is no indication yet that the Nigerian government has the political will to purposefully take on the extremists who have chosen murder and abduction as a strategy to advance their political aims for which they claim religious sanction. The Nigerian government has come under intense criticism at home for focusing all security measures on the WEF delegates and for ignoring the urgent task of recovering the girls.
However, the issue doesn’t concern Nigeria alone. Seen against the background of religious militancy that has rocked Muslim (as well as non-Muslim) countries from Indonesia to Morocco, Boko Haram’s latest act of crime against humanity poses a question or two to the entire Muslim world, especially its intellectuals and ulema. Will the Muslim world stay quiet over this debasement of their religion and look away from the Nigerian people’s trauma? Girls are abducted from schools because Boko Haram says it opposes ‘Western’ education. That an education can be ‘Western or Eastern’ is a debatable issue, but even if ‘Western education’ is all that devilish, was the mass kidnapping of the girls the best way to register protest? The Muslim world now must speak up. Those who accuse the Western media of tarring all Muslims with the same brush now have an excellent chance of correcting this erroneous perception by denouncing Boko Haram’s evil deed in unequivocal terms and by dissociating the international Islamic community from such fiendish crimes. In fact, such Islamic seats of learning as Deoband, Qom and Al Azhar must unite in expressing their abhorrence of the atrocity in Nigeria. Silence will mean the Muslim world’s tacit approval of Boko Haram’s misogynist brigandage.