The Islamist group Boko Haram currently has around 200 schoolgirls enslaved in Nigeria. Not just kidnapped or abducted (any longer), enslaved – the former terms would imply that they would be returned unharmed if the militants’ demands are met. Reports of multiple rapes have already surfaced and this week Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has revealed that he considers the school girls his slaves who he will “sell off” in marriage. He justifies his plan in a recently released video saying: “I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam.” And here is Shekau’s plan in his own words: “I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.”
So what was the crime of these schoolgirls which has led to them being enslaved and treated as war captives? Chibok’s Government Girls Secondary School, from the dormitories of which these girls were initially believed to be kidnapped, teaches “Western education”. And the name Boko Haram, which in Hausa translates into “Western education is sinful”, gives us all a comprehensive answer.
Boko Haram believes that Western education is haraam, even more so for girls, who according to their ideology should not be allowed to do much without their male guardians. Attacking girls’ schools has been high on Boko Haram’s Sharia-enforcement agenda, in a bid to prevent these girls from being “westernised”. And for Pakistan, Boko Haram’s antics should ring very familiar alarm bells.
[quote]Muslim countries burn themselves with rage owing to cartoons but there is a complete lack of outrage for heinous acts like these[/quote]
Following the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack on Malala Yousafzai in October 2012, girls’ education came into the spotlight. But along with that came superfluous apologia that has resurfaced amidst the latest manifestation of Boko Haram’s bestiality.
When Muslim countries burn themselves with rage owing to protests against cartoons or videos, the lack of one against the most monstrous of acts resoundingly sets up our order of priorities. Most progressive Muslims’ efforts – just like in the case of most Islamist manoeuvres – have been dedicated to cooking up apologia for their religion, and claiming how Boko Haram is blatantly misinterpreting its scriptures. Whereas the fact of the matter is, whether or not Boko Haram’s actions are compatible with Islam, or if Abubakar Shekau’s claim that Allah permits slaves holds any credence or not, is totally and utterly irrelevant.
The then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan released a seven-page open letter on October 16, 2012, a week after the attack on Malala justifying the attack comprehensively through Sharia, scriptures and Islamic precedents. The content of that letter, which reiterated a point the TTP has made in countless press releases, has been echoed by Abubakar Shekau and Boko Haram. That two terrorist organisations in two different continents are “misinterpreting” the Islamic texts identically – mirroring a millennia-and-a-half of same interpretation – to wreak havoc in their respective regions, connotes that highlighting the “misinterpretation” isn’t quite as important as highlighting the fact that the text can be interpreted to such devastating effect. Because the former might win you some religious (and maybe academic) brownie points, while the latter will showcase a security concern that has engulfed various parts of the world, the most conspicuous of them being our very own neck of the woods.
Stating the obvious fact that the TTP and Boko Haram are driven by their religion – as the militants proclaim themselves – is dubbed “Islamophobia” in unison by both the progressive Muslims and overwhelming parts of the liberal left in the West. It would make all the sense in the world to shield one’s ideology if iterating that it is leading to terrorism precedes the defence. The focus unfortunately however is on how the ideology shouldn’t, or doesn’t (bizarrely), lead to violence. Political correctness continues to trump effective counterterrorism strategy, lest one is dubbed “culturally insensitive”, or an Islamophobe.
All Western reports highlighting Islamist terrorism are brimming with disclaimers, stressing upon various versions of Islam. While a debate on various interpretations of any ideology is an academic necessity, what is the immediate relevance of these disclaimers in a report narrating terrorists’ acts and their own justification for said attacks? Why is there reluctance in using the term “enslaved” in the mainstream media ever since Abubakar Shekau stated that his religion sanctions slavery? If it’s about safeguarding the sensitivities of the Muslim world – 22.74 percent of the global population – why weren’t the ideological sensitivities of the communists – almost an identical percentage of the global population – catered to by the Western mainstream media during the Cold War?
It is ironic that all the endeavour of progressive Muslims is dedicated to shielding their ideology from criticism, when it’s actually this critique that would lead to necessary reform, which at the end of the day is their much touted agenda. By claiming that criticism in unjustified, and denying the rather obvious influence of religion on religious extremism, one contradicts the “progressive” and “reformist” labels. While there is no denying that an irrational phobia of Muslims exists all over the world – considerably less than irrational phobia of people belonging to all other religions in the Muslim world, one might add –the term “Islamophobia”, used to shield the ideology, not the people, from scrutiny – and hence reform –, again, becomes a self-defeating misnomer.
By saying that Islamists are using the “wrong” Islam uses the same logic that Islamists use to claim that the progressives are using the “wrong” Islam. Playing “true and false”, while thousands continue to be under the Islamist gun is a very dangerous game to play. Anyone who claims that the terrorism that is brewing owing to Islamism needs to be countered and condemned should focus on ensuring that no punches are pulled in condemnations for the acts. Whether or not the Islamist ideology is a blatant misinterpretation of “true” Islam is tantamount to needless apologia in the immediate aftermath of an Islamist attack.
I completely agree with the author. Sharing this on all available forums…
This is a really interesting post in that you manage to write several hundred words which are devoid of any actual content.
You write: “Political correctness continues to trump effective counterterrorism strategy” – That’s a really interesting claim, would you care to substantiate how this is the case? What do you think counterterrorism is exactly? How specifically does calling Boko Haram the true vanguard of Islam make it easier to fight them or any other terrorist group? You have some hidden expertise but your opinion flies in the face of what people who actually do counterterrorism say – that making counterterror a War Against Islam is hugely counterproductive and also entirely unnecessary.
Also who are these nameless and faceless people who have been falling over themselves to make sure that no ones feelings are hurt? Do they exist purely in your own head? Perhaps your complaint is that media and political figures have not been been pushing harder to attribute these acts specifically to Islam – something which would probably be upsetting to the Muslim girls who were kidnapped as well as people like Malala who actually do insist that they are Muslim. Your aggrieved feelings that the world is not rallying to support your own personal dislike of religion in your private life are a bit childish to say nothing of myopic.
I’m not going to repeat ad nauseum the fact that if terrorist actions were intrinsic to Islam the world would’ve pretty much ceased to exist a long time ago. You offer no thesis or coherent argument at all in this article, just an exercise in self-affirmation hollow of any content or originality at all. Reflects poorly on this publication.
Estimates put the number of people killed by Muslims since the 7th C at 240,000,000. So, you’re right, it’s not “the whole world”.
Murtaza wrote, “How specifically does calling Boko Haram the true vanguard of Islam make it easier to fight them or any other terrorist group?”
I think you are misrepresenting Shahid’s main argument here. He doesn’t claim that Boko Haram has the one true interpretation of Islam, or that counter-terrorists, journalists, etc., ought to say that. He says such arguments, which especially appear in the media after Islamist terrorist attacks, over what is “true” or “false” Islam, are irrelevant. It is enough to observe and point out that Boko Haram is drawing upon an interpretation of Islam, without making further assertions about whether the interpretation is correct.
“Perhaps your complaint is that media and political figures have not been been pushing harder to attribute these acts specifically to Islam – something which would probably be upsetting to the Muslim girls who were kidnapped as well as people like Malala who actually do insist that they are Muslim.”
Pointing out that the terrorists themselves attribute their actions to Islam–which is what Shahid is suggesting–would not likely come as a surprise to the captive girls, who would (a) probably already know or have already gleaned this from the terrorists themselves, and (b) likely have more important concerns.
In addition, most of the girls captured in this case are reportedly Christians. Boko Haram (BH) deems the captured Muslim girls not true Muslims, on the grounds that they were allegedly violating Islam. The BH leader called them all infidels. If any of these girls converted to BH’s version of Islam, the BH leader said he’d save them, whatever that means.
Malala can insist whatever she likes about what is true Islam according to her own interpretation, but that has no bearing on the empirical fact that Boko Haram is operating on an interpretation of Islam. If she or anyone else says anything factually incorrect, it should be refuted with evidence.
“I’m not going to repeat ad nauseum the fact that if terrorist actions were intrinsic to Islam the world would’ve pretty much ceased to exist a long time ago.”
That’s a claim, not a fact. Also, you are confusing Islam as an ideology, a doctrine, etc., with the behaviour of Muslims in their interactions with others throughout history. Obviously, actions can vary considerably from the doctrine, especially since adherents generally don’t practice all available elements of a religion. An element can be intrinsic to a religious doctrine (e.g., something clearly commanded in the Qur’an), without being practiced by large numbers of adherents a large amount of the time. Even if it was the case that most Muslims were practicing terrorism most of the time, it doesn’t follow that humanity would cease to exist, unless the rest of humanity was completely pacifist and didn’t fight back or oppose what the terrorist were demanding. But this isn’t about whether terrorism is intrinsic to Islam (or what is true Islam).
You go ad hominem on the article, saying it’s “devoid of any content.” Your concluding statement about the world ceasing to exist, hypothetically, needs explaining. Is that how you argue?
Kunwar laid it out plain. Please engage. For example, why don’t you question why Muslims protest insults such as cartoons, yet are not in the streets condemning Boko Haram?
In past writings you have implied equivalency between Islam and Christianity because both encourage atrocities such as slavery and honor killing. But according to UN Women over 91% of world wide honor crimes are within Muslim societies (the rest are attributed to Hindus, Coptics, etc.).
That’s a huge discrepancy.
Or this? How many Christians support death for apostates? Even one would be an evil. But there’s this: 64% of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan Support Death Penalty for Leaving Islam
You fail to engage in the dialectic between benevolent Islam and chauvinist fundamentalism, and you should: Sam Harris vs. Glenn Greenwald & Murtaza Hussain & Nathan Lean
The dialectic is the evil of Boko Haram vs. your benevolence.
It’s odd. Once again, Kunwar lays it out plain.
The acts commited by Boko Haram ARE intrinsic to Islam. They are very much justifiable by the Quran.
The reason why the world hasn’t completely gone up in the flames of Islamist terror yet is not thanks to some obscure positive qualities of Islam; no, it’s owed to the basic moral decency that is indeed intrinsic not to Islam, but to HUMANS.
I know this is going to be “refuted” by saying there is nothing in the Quran that could be used as a justification for these actions. Well, either you are ignorant of your own holy scripture or you are lying, both of which, if I may remind you, are less than reputable actions for a “good Muslim.” The Quran (and the Hadith) are very clear on this subject. They condone the enslavement of these women. Boko Haram has taken direct instructions from them.
Yet another great article Kunwar, THANKS, – and absolutely no need to “substantiate” !
Many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion: imperialism, genocide, inquisitions, slavery spring to mind. Certainly Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam have a lamentable history.
However these are not intrinsic to the main principles of the religions. The Spanish Inquisition and the Nazis’ genocidal acts against jews were in the name of Christianity; the Israelis’ genocidal actions against Palestinians are justified by the idea that God gave Israel to the jews.
The point is that cruel, ruthless groups of humans use religion to justify their actions.
Atrocities against women and children are not sanctioned by any religion despite the claims of the perpetrators.
So let’s focus on how the world can unite to stop these, not get caught up in religious warfare.
“The point is that cruel, ruthless groups of humans use religion to justify their actions.”
It would be very difficulty to justify cruel ruthless actions as a Jain. The reason that these books become a problem is because people who take them seriously will read the bits that really are violent and intolerant. Is there any real debate that if we replaced all the bits about portraying the prophet with a verse that said “Portray the prophet mohammed, especially in jest, for this pleaseth the lord” that the world would not be a less violent place, in absolute terms?
When you have a book that you believe has divine authorship, then the content of the book is relevant. Pretending that the source texts – the koran and the hadiths – have absolutely zero impact on the actions of radical muslims is intellectually dishonest. We don’t even have to argue about this – you can watch the suicide videos of muslim terrorists on youtube. A man makes a video saying that his justification for killing infidels and himself in the process is that he is guaranteed a place in heaven, and then blows himself up in a bus full of children. As a rhetorical device, I find this rather convincing, and am inclined to take him at his word.
I’m done with these contortions. Nowadays I simply choose to call the terrorists the same things they call themselves.