Okay, I have a confession. Until my Twitter feed was replete with tweets referring to Boko Haram and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, I really didn’t pay much attention to this fringe group neither did I spend much time understanding who they were. Perhaps I was a bit tired of being bombarded by the media with negative news about Islam and Muslims. Or maybe I just didn’t care enough about what was happening in a country on the other side of the Atlantic. But now as pictures of anguished mothers of the more than 200 schoolgirls surfaced on the media, my heart just broke. I too am a mother of a teenaged daughter and I would be devastated if such a thing were to happen to her.
Yet again, this extremist group is attributing their heinous acts to what they believe are the teachings of Islam. According to a BBC report, its followers are said to be influenced by the Qu’ranic phrase which says: "Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors". The report goes on to say, “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.” The group believes that receiving secular education is un-Islamic. By naming themselves “Boko Haram”, which in the Hausa language is loosely translated as “western education is forbidden”, these extremists are doing what the Taliban did to girls’ schools in Swat Valley and in Afghanistan.
Yet again, here is a group whose members claim to be Muslims and the followers of the Prophet Muhammad, but certainly their actions and teachings do not represent an iota of what Islam teaches. At a time when Islam was only confined to Arabia and few of the bordering states, Prophet Muhammad said, “Seek knowledge even if you must travel to China.” If Boko Haram claims that secular education is forbidden in Islam, why then did Prophet Muhammad encourage all Muslims to pursue an education in China where Islam hadn’t even spread to?
Boko Haram has been creating disorder and chaos since 2009 when it attacked police stations and other government buildings in Maiduguri. These attacks continued and many innocent lives were lost. The latest round of violence took place in Gamboru Ngala which led to the death of at least 150 villagers. The motive for this grisly attack was that the Nigerian troops were deployed in the village in order to track down the abducted schoolgirls. The violence and attacks on educational facilities for girls are just precursors to the goal of Boko Haram to establish an Islamic state.
It is quite ironic that Boko Haram’s official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad". I can only just shudder to think how blasphemous and sacrilegious this title is for a group which is openly and audaciously defaming the very person whose teachings they claim to uphold. The Qur’an clearly denounces any kind of disorder in the land and warns the believers to “Seek not to create disorder in the earth. Verily, God loves not those who seek to create disorder” (28:78).
My prayers are with the young girls as well as their parents. As I say good night to my daughter, I will thank God for keeping her safe. And I will pray that the perpetrators be brought to justice and that our daughters can pursue knowledge without the fear of being in harms way.