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CONFRONTING RADICAL ISLAM IN AFRICA

"Western Education is Forbidden"
"Western Education is Forbidden"
Jaja Malik Atenra

Islam is the second largest religion in Africa. According to the World Religion Database, out of an estimated one billion inhabitants in Africa, 48% are Christian (495.8 million); 41% are Muslim (423.5 million), and 11% practice traditional African spiritual beliefs. However, African Muslims practices consist of a variety of Islamic schools of thoughts and traditions. The two most dominant branches of Islam in Africa are Sunni and Sufi.

In Africa, Muslims have traditionally practiced a more tolerant and moderate form of Islam. But more recently, there have been a number of groups emerging that are advocating a more extreme and stricter form of Islam. Proponents of these extreme ideologies advocated that they are reviving the true tenets of Islam and protecting Islam from various infidel (non-Islamic) external influences. They also advocate taking up arms against existing governments if the leaders do not comply to their demands. Some of the recent groups that have made recent headlines across the world are: Al Shabaab, Ansar Dine, and Boko Haram.

Ansar Al Dine is based in Mali. Ansar Dine (Deen) means "helpers or defenders of the faith." Ansar Al Dine's claim to fame was in 2012, when the group's seized a number of cities in Mali, most notably Timbuktu. Ansar Al Dine destroyed many ancient Timbuktu shrines, monuments, and Islamic writings. Ansar Al Dine and the Tuareg separatist group MNLA agreed to a ceasefire with the Malian government on 21 December 2012. The ceasefire came a day after the UN Security Council approved a plan to deploy troops to Mali. The U.S. Department of State designated Ansar Al-Dine as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224.

Al Shabaab is based in Somalia. Al Shabaab means "the youth." It was the radical youth wing of Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts and emerged as a response to the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. Al Shabaab's objective is the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia, based on strict version of Islamic law, and the elimination of infidel external influences. They have destroyed a number of Sufi shrines and committed a number of terrorist acts. The U.S. Department of State designated Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Boko Haram is based in Nigeria. Boko Haram means "western education is forbidden." Boko Haram was supposedly founded in 2002, when about 200 university students decided to separate from the jurisdiction of what they considered the corrupt and unjust Nigerian Government. Their community was supposedly founded on Islamic law, and the group was known by the nickname the ‘‘Nigerian Taliban." Boko Haram advocates a strict form of Sharia law and the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria. They also oppose the westernization of Nigerian culture and the disparity between the haves and have nots. Boko Haram has committed various terrorist acts and kidnappings. The U.S. Department of State designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224.

What are some strategies that can be implemented to confront the rise of radical Islamic groups in Africa? The following are my recommendations: 1) the African Union should ban all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) suspected of propagating extreme Islamic ideologies in Africa; 2) the African Union should launch a continental wide media campaign to promote the more tolerate and moderate version of Islam in Africa to counter the extreme radical ideologies; 3) African governments should ensure that communities in impoverished areas that are susceptible to recruitment by radical Islamic groups are provided with their basic needs; 4) African nations should actively promote Pan-Africanism as an ideological defense against radical Islamic ideologies; and 5) the African Union should create a multi-national Anti-Terrorist Strike Force to respond to the various terrorist group located in Africa.