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Boko Haram and the threat of political Islam

Originally published in the Daily Times

Nigeria’s most deadly Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has just detonated mutiple bombs in the city of Kano. Curfew has been imposed and the city, the state and the entire nation is engulfed in tension, fear and uncertainty. Several lives have reportedly been lost. This group appears unrelenting in its murderous campaign.

Kano has joined the ranks  of northern states -Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Plateau, Niger where the terror of Boko Haram holds sway. Religious crisis orchestrated by Muslim fundamentalists is not new to this northern city but these attacks have brought a frightening dimension to Islamic militancy in the region.

The Spokesperson of Boko Haram, Abdul Qaqa, told journalists that they carried out the attacks on the city because the authorities had refused to release their members arrested and detained by the police. So with these attacks, Boko Haram has sent very clear signals to the authorities in Kano and beyond- “Capitulate”, “Surrender”, “Do our Bidding”, “Join forces with us”, “Embrace our cause” or “Be destroyed”.  Since last year, Boko Haram has carried out bomb attacks on several institutions including the UN building and police headquarters in Abuja. This militant group has targeted churches and southerners or anyone they percieved to be opposed to their cause of implementing sharia and enthroning  political islam. It has declared a war on anybody, muslims as well as non muslims, opposed to or critical of its cause. This is characteristic of the totalitarian nature of political Islam- a social political and economic order based on Sharia.

A fringe movement that started with a group of Islamic preachers on the streets of Maiduguri a few years ago, has turned to a real threat to Nigeria’s corporate existence and a terror to the world.

Unfortunately, most analysts continue to shy away from the truth- the bitter truth that Boko Haram is an Islamist group with a political agenda. Boko Haram is a jihadist organisation that has declared war against anybody that is really or imagined to be opposed to its cause. Instead many analysts continue to blame the attacks and crisis orchestrated by this militant sect on the injustices, poverty and marginalisation of the North. Some commentators have made it seem as if Boko Haram are northern equivalent of the Niger Delta militants fighting to address social, economic and political marginalization of the region. Even when the group has made it clear that they are opposed to western education and want Sharia implemented in Nigeria. Boko Haram militants are not asking for jobs. They are not agitating for any finacial reward or compensation. Their cause is religious. Thier agenda is Islamist.

They are just a bunch of Islamic militants and nihilists who want to turn Nigeria into an Islamic empire by force.

Nigerians must begin to acknowledge the jihadist agenda of Boko Haram and try to find out how the teachings of Islam, particularly as contained in the Koran or the Hadith, were propagated or twisted to breed this terrible monster. We need to know how these militants are being motivated to embark on this self destructive mission. We need to identify the cells and networks that are recruiting, training and brainwashing these militants.

We in Nigeria must stop decieving ourselves by saying that the Boko Haram attacks have nothing to do with religion. Or that they have nothing to do with Islam. This is not true. Though people can carry out such heinous attacks for other reasons, or be motivated by other secular causes. From the pattern of their attacks, the Boko Haram phenomenon has a lot to do with religion, particularly Islam. It is the Nigerian version of al-Qaeda. The militants are not bombing police stations, UN building and churches for the sake of it. They are not agitating for Sharia law for the fun of it. The Boko Haram militants are fighting a holy war. They are prosecuting a jihad for which they expect to be rewarded abundantly in the hereafter with some virgins. That is why the group has not run out of suicide bombers. That is why they have their operational base in the muslim majority states. Boko Haram militants have been brainwashed by few Islamic clerics to believe that they are 'Hezbollah'- the army of Allah. They have been deluded to think that these suicide bomb attacks and other murderous acts they carry out are religious duties in line with the will of Allah and in furtherance of Islam. Nigerian authorities must acknowledge and address  the ‘Islamic’ roots of the Boko Haram menace now, before it is too late.