Boko Haram is a Nigeria-based Islamic militant group whose violent and extremist existence revolves around their religious ideology. The group actually refers to itself as “Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad” (JASDJ; Group of the Sunni People for the Calling and Jihad) or the Nigerian Taliban, according to the National Counterterrorism Center. In November 2013 the U.S State Department officially called Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization, though some version of the group has existed since the 1990s.
Author and Professor, Dr. Alex Thurston, wrote a paper called, “The disease is unbelief”: Boko Haram’s religious and political worldview,” in which he said that Boko Haram’s whole deal is that they believe their approach to Islam is the only correct approach, and all who do not believe as they do are, essentially, the enemy. The group has no qualms about hurting and killing others who are not with them because they believe they alone are the “true Muslims” Thurston wrote.
Yet Boko Haram sees itself as the victim, feeling as though Muslims have been persecuted for decades so when they act out with violence, it’s in response to their own oppression. For context, Islam was spread throughout Nigeria as far back as the early 19th century, according to The Centenary Project. Then, in the mid-1800s, the British slowly started working to colonize the area, which they named Nigeria, imposing western education, Christianity, and the English language, among other things, per Britannica. The nation achieved independence in 1960.
Boko Haram justifies violence in the name of Jihad
The history of imperialism in Nigeria led to another important tenant of Boko Haram, which is “Western education is forbidden.” That’s actually what Boko Haram means, per the National Counterterrorism Center.
According to USNI News, Western education is considered “a fraudulent deception being imposed upon the [northern Muslim] population by a conquering European force.” But USNI News reported the anti-western education sentiment is a result of British imperialism that has long been held by politicians, rulers, academics and military officers. In the case of Boko Haram, the only acceptable education is one that is their interpretation of the Quran — its teachings and its laws. They believe their version of Islam is the only legit one.
All the perceived victimization, exclusivism, and righteousness of Boko Haram often manifests in self-justified violence. In the name of their brand of religion, they want to overthrow the Nigerian government and create a nation based on their version of Islamic Law, the NCC reported. Reuters reported that since Boko Haram and the Nigerian army have been in conflict over the last 12 years, 350,000 people have been killed.
They raid neighboring villages and countries. They often target women and children. They rape and inflict other sexual violence, according to Amnesty International. They loot, kidnap, and rob the poor of their few possessions and livestock. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the region, 2 million people are displaced, and Boko Haram even attacks aid workers who are trying to help the displaced. The conflict is ongoing.
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