Religious Fundamentalism: Boko Haram

Boko Haram Insurgents. [Photo: Reuters]

Introduction

To fully understand the notion of religious fundamentalism one is required to breakdown the notion of fundamentalism as it is a complex term that requires context to be used appropriately. Fundamentalism is commonly used to describe Christian individuals who are adamant on engaging in activities in the name of their religion. This is true for parents who call for internet restrictions in schools and the aims of the global al Qaeda Muslims. Bruce (2000, p.117) defines “fundamentalism is the rational response of traditionally religious peoples to social, political and economic changes that downgrade and constrain the role of religion in the public world.” Boko Haram have been at the centre of many terrorist attacks in Nigeria, the extremist group was led by Mohammed Yusuf and is founded from conservative practices of Islam (Agbiboa, 2013). This essay aims to explore the extremist group that is Boko Haram and analyse its activities throughout Nigeria and Cameroon. Firstly, a brief history of Boko Haram’s insurgence will be examined. Secondly, Boko’s Haram’s fundamentalist activities such as the its use of female children and women for suicide bombings will be discussed. In summation, the notion whether humanity still possess common values will be explored in relation to the rise of religious fundamentalist groups and a conclusion will be provided.

The Rise of Boko Haram

Jamaiatu Ahlis Sunna Liddaawati Wal-Jihad; “People committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and Jihad”, is the group commonly known as Boko Haram (Ekanem, Dada, & Ejue, 2012). The name Boko Haram is derived from a combination of the Arabic and Hausa languages (Iyekekpolo, 2016). In the Hausa language ‘Boko’ refers to ‘Western Education’ paired with ‘Haram’ which in Arabic means ‘forbidden’. This then suggests that ‘Boko Haram’ means ‘Western education is forbidden (Ekanem, Dada, & Ejue, 2012; J. J. F, 2012). Boko Haram has been traced to have been established when Mohamed Yusuf assumed leadership in 2002 who steered away its non-violent history. Furthermore, it has been influenced by the 1804 insurgence headed by Uthman dan Fodio occurring in northern Nigeria whereby Fodio founded the Sokoto Caliphate in northern Nigeria by spearheading a violent political resistance and declared Jihad against the political authorities in his time (Iyekekpolo, 2016, p. 2212). Fodio’s legacy in the region influenced the likes of Muhammad Marwa; whilst he led the Maitatsine insurgency (Iyekekpolo, 2016, p. 2213).

As the leader Mohammed Yusuf rejected Western teachings and society thus condemning Muslims who participated in Nigeria’s political and social society and urged his followers to protest against the Nigerian government and its political and social sphere (Onuoha, 2016). Sequentially, Yusuf’s and his followers advocated for the firm instilment of Sharia Law with the goal to establish an Islamic Nigeria that is free from Western influence (Agbiboa, 2013). Incidentally, Mohammed Yusuf was publicly executed after sectarian conflict by Nigerian security forces in July 2009; an event that led over 1000 fatalities(Agbiboa, 2013; Abdulazeez & Oriola, 2017; J. J. F, 2012). Consequentially, the death of Yusuf resulted in intensified acts of indiscriminate and radical violence from the extremist group now led by Abubakar Shekau. Shekau’s alligence to Al Qaeda meant that Boko Haram became more firm in its violent in its actions, tactics and advocation for Sharia Law (Markovic, 2019; Iyekekpolo, 2016).

An examination of Boko Haram’s insurgent activities

Shekau advanced the tactics used by Boko Haram from poorly coordinated attacks against Nigerian security forces to carefully orchestrated drive-by shootings, assassinations, kidnappings, ambushes and the use of petrol bombs and improvised explosive devices (Onuoha F. C., 2014). The fundamentalists focuses its attacks against private citizens and properties as most casualties of its attacks stemming from such targeted entities, casualties include patrols, police stations and on or off duty policemen(Abdulazeez & Oriola, 2017; Agbiboa, 2013). Shekau leadership has been notorious for the group’s violent acts such as the slicing the throats of its victims. The main objective of the extremist group is to take control of secular Nigeria and replace it with an Islamic state ruled by Sharia Law (Agbiboa, 2013; Nnam, Arua, & Otu, 2018). The group is comprised of unemployed university graduates, and disgruntled youth predominately from but not limited to northerner Nigeria (Onuoha F. C., 2014). Furthermore, the group funds its operations through robbing local banks, funding from Its wealthy members, ransom from hostages and financial aid from allied terrorist groups (David, Onapajo, & Asuelime, 2015).

Boko Haram’s youth members have become willing to act out suicide bombings with the first incident occurring on 16 June 2011. Additionally, the group has been successful in the recruitment of young unemployed and illiterate individuals as they are prone to extremist views and radicalisation (Onuoha F. C., 2014). The kidnapping of women and female children has been recruited into its terrorism acts whereby women and children have been forced to carry out suicide bombings. Moreover, the frequency of such abductions and kidnapping allow for a selection of children and women to be exploited for its terror attacks, in example, in 2015 Boko Haram abducted approximately 400 women and children in Damasak, Borno State (Nnam, Arua, & Otu, 2018). The use of women and children in suicide bombings is due to their innocence and the sense of being less of a threat and easily approachable compared to men hence the it is less likely that they will be searched. Similarly, terrorist acts from women and children are perceived as a uncommon thus generating more news coverage and media attention (Nnam, Arua, & Otu, 2018). This strategic approach to its attacks aims to destabilise Nigeria’s stability by targeting ethnoreligious flaws. Additionally, such actions from the group have been successful as their consecutive occurrences of suicide attacks throughout the country have caused some panic amongst its population in the major cities of its northern region (Nnam, Arua, & Otu, 2018). This shift in its tactics has proved effective in instilling fear amongst the population in which it carries out most of its terrorist attacks.

Boko Haram has been militant in its call for Nigeria to convert into an Islamic state and steer away from Western methods. Its extremist approach in an attempt to reach its goals have been at the cost of many lives including its founder, Muhammed Yusuf. The appointment of Shekau has seen its ties with Al-Qaeda increase and in doing so it acts of violence evolved from poorly executed acts into carefully planned acts of violence against its opposers. This has brought up whether the humanity has lost its shared values and this is true due to the amount of fundamentalist groups that grown to prominence in the last decade. Humanity does not share common religious notions that will be universally accepted throughput the world.

Conclusion

Fundamentalism is the act of one acting in the name of their religious vocation. This allows for the term to be loosely used when describing religious groups aiming to instil its values and beliefs into its societal functions. . The name Boko Haram is derived from a combination of the Arabic and Hausa languages (Iyekekpolo, 2016)which translates to ‘Western education is forbidden (Ekanem, Dada, & Ejue, 2012; J. J. F, 2012)Yusuf rejected Western teachings and society thus condemning Muslims who participated in Nigeria’s political and social society and urged his followers to protest against the Nigerian government and its political and social sphere (Onuoha, 2016). Yusuf’s death resulted in intensified acts of indiscriminate and radical violence from the extremist group now led by Abubakar Shekau. Shekau’s alligence to Al Qaeda meant that Boko Haram became more firm in its violent in its actions, tactics and advocation for Sharia Law (Markovic, 2019; Iyekekpolo, 2016). The main objective of the extremist group is to take control of secular Nigeria and replace it with an Islamic state ruled by Sharia Law. The use of women and children in its terror attacks have increased its threat in the nation as this has caused panic in the nation.

References

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Agbiboa, D. E. (2013). Why Boko Haram Exists: The Relative Deprivation Perspective. African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, 3(1), 144–157.

Iyekekpolo, W. O. (2016). Boko Haram: understanding the context. Third World Quarterly, 37(12), 2211–2228.

Abdulazeez, M. A., & Oriola, T. B. (2017). Criminogenic patterns in the management of Boko Haram’s human displacement situation. Third World Quarterly, 39(1), 85–103.

Ekanem, S., Dada, A., & Ejue, J. (2012). Boko Haram and amnesty- a philo-legal appraisal. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science,, 2(4), 189.

Onuoha, F. (2016). Boko Haram use of female suicide bombing in Nigeria. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from Aljazeerah: http://studies.aljazeera.net/mritems/Documents/2015/3/ 18/20153189319985734Boko-Harams-Female.pdf

J. J. F, F. (2012). Confronting the terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria.Florida: Joint Special Operations University.

Markovic, V. (2019). Suicide squad: Boko Haram’s use of the female suicide bomber. Women & Criminal Justice, 29(4–5), 283–302.

Onuoha, F. C. (2014). Why Do Youth Join Boko Haram?Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Nnam, M. U., Arua, M. C., & Otu, M. S. (2018). The use of women and children in suicide bombing by the Boko Haram terrorist Group in Nigeria. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 42, 35–42.

David, O. J., Onapajo, H., & Asuelime, L. E. (2015). Evolution, Ideological Foundation, and Strategy of Boko Haram Terrorism in Nigeria. In Boko Haram The Socio-Economic Driver .Springer.

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