Dallas yesterday took it to the streets to express people’s frustration with the Nigerian ordeal where more than 270 school girls, between the ages of 13 and 18, both Muslim and Christian, remain unaccounted for after they had been kidnapped by an Islamist extremists.
The rally in Dallas was on Mother’s Day, where more than 100 people participated. Many were women, standing in solidarity with the Nigerian mothers whose daughters have been abducted a month ago from their school dorms while they were sleeping in the middle of the night.
The group who is accused of the abductions is “Boko Haram” which translates into “Western education is a sin.” This militant group has made several announcements about the destiny of the girls who are still under abduction (more than 50 already managed to escape). It has announced that the girls are being sold in slavery. Its latest announcement today was that it was willing to exchange these girls with members of the Boko Haram who are in Nigerian prisons.
Hence, their so called Islamic ideals are only excuses for their ugly crime! Even though their original claim was that they were opposed to the Western education in Nigeria based on religious reasons, now it’s clear that this group is like any other Islamist group, and has political agendas. Such people use the cloak of religion to commit crimes that the very essence of Islam opposes.
Many people around the globe have called for Muslims to condemn the kidnapping. As usual, Muslims are put under the spotlight whenever trouble makers use the name of Islam to stir fear and terror. But the same people never ask Christians, for example, to condemn every single crime committed by Christians every day. We get the picture, and I am not going to dwell on this point any further.
We Muslims do condemn all acts of terror committed with or without the name of religion. What this extremist group has done is not only contrary to Islamic ethics but is also a major crime that is punishable under Islamic laws. Kidnapping is a major offense in Islam. Human trafficking is another major crime that Islam has worked since the 7th century to stop it.
We are not here in a clash of civilization; what Islam teaches is the very same moral ethics that modernity and civility call for. Neither kidnapping nor human trafficking is accepted in either civilizations. So it is up to us, the global community, to reject these and similar crimes as one voice, beyond our theological and cultural differences.
This is what the Mother’s Day Rally participants had in mind when they gathered yesterday holding signs that said ‘bring back the girls,’ and ‘real men don’t buy girls.’ They voiced their opinions in the most civilized and fashionable way. People from different faith traditions participated, including three Muslims who stood at the podium and voiced their opinions on the matter.
Alia Salem, Executive Director of CAIR, mentioned after her speech, “I am so grateful to be allowed to be a part of so much good work!! Now the real work begins. Please call your state and federal representatives to take action on all cases of sex and human trafficking especially including this latest incident. Sitting on social media and sharing this stuff won't bring back any girls.”
Salem echoed a deep Muslim American concern about human trafficking that other organizations like the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation have previously addressed. Hers reflects the Muslim American opinion that condemns any forms of violence and gender abuse. To this, I add our concern for the education of girls, Muslim and non-Muslims. Knowing what Nigeria gave birth to throughout history, I am deeply saddened to wonder about the future of these kidnapped girls.
Nigeria was the home of a famous Muslim woman in the 19th century. Nana Asma’u Fodio (1793-1864) was a scholar, poet, educator and advisor who was born in Degel (Nigeria today). She developed a practical and methodical system through poetry for the education of women in rural areas. Asmau’ also formed a cadre of older educated women of good character that would be trained to use her poetry as lessons plans to instruct secluded women about details of Islamic worship/ manners. She influenced her community and many generations after her and beyond her geography. She became a hafizah of Quran. She was fluent in four languages. She became her brother’s trusted advisor when he became caliph (religious leader of the state).
Another example of what the education of Nigeria resulted in is Dr. Ayesha Mje-Tei Imam, a Nigerian born sociologist who currently lives in Senegal. She is a researcher, educator, and advisor on women’s rights, gender issues, and Islamic law. At the spirit of her activism is that “the spirit of Islam is the basic protection of women’s rights based on the Quran and the prophetic tradition.” She believes that the way Islamic law is currently applied is based on a misinterpretation of the provisions of Islamic law. These misinterpretations originate from pre-Islamic prejudices and deep rooted cultural beliefs which ultimately affect the process and implementation of such laws. Such misinterpretation undermines the legitimacy of the Shariah by being discriminatory against women. Dr. Imam has founded several women and feminist organizations in Nigeria. For example, BAOBAB for women’s Human rights is an organization that empowers women by providing them with means to access their Islamic rights. It is worthy to mention that Dr. Imam is the daughter of Dr. Abubakar Imam, a prominent writer, journalist, and activist in the years leading to Nigeria’s independence from Great Britain in 1960. She credits her father for teaching her to respect principles.
These Nigerian women made a powerful impact in their society, and so would the kidnapped girls have done if they were given a chance to finish their education. Bring back the girls…