It is indeed sad and worrying reading from citifmonline.com a news item captioned ‘Boko Haram reflects flaws in Islam’ published on Saturday 10th May, 2014 4:43 pm. The alleged bigotry is attributed to Mr. Sydney Casely-Hayford, a Ghanaian financial analyst.
It might be true that Mr. Casely-Hayford has not heard any leading Muslim cleric in Ghana to have publicly condemned Boko Haram. But for him to use that as basis for his conclusion is simply a case of selective analysis at best and a deliberate hypocrisy at worst. Has he bothered to research the number of Muslims and Islamic establishments that have condemned Boko Haram in no uncertain terms in the general media? We have all done so using social media. Muslims worldwide, including the cream de la cream of our scholars have cited several verses from the Quran to declare Boko Haram as clearly unislamic. I am therefore surprised a person of Casley-Hayford calibre is not privy to what is going on around him. Is he clearly holding this kind of view deliberately? Is it to whip up sentiments against Muslims? Whatever his motive is, I personally find his pronouncement to be very unfortunate. It has the potential potency as that of the actions of Boko Haram, to cause disaffection within our society
For the benefit of the doubt, these are some reactions by the Muslim community across the world to the crisis:
— SAUDI ARABIA: The grand mufti has condemned Nigeria’s Boko Haram for its kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls and described the group as “set up to smear the image of Islam”. Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said the movement, which says it wants to establish a pure Islamic state in northern Nigeria, was misguided.
“This is a group that has been set up to smear the image of Islam and must be offered advice, shown their wrong path and be made to reject it”. “These groups are not on the right path because Islam is against kidnapping, killing and aggression,” Sheikh told the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat in an interview published on Friday. “Marrying kidnapped girls is not permitted.” – Reuters; theguardian.com
— JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia: Top religious scholars working under the world’s largest bloc of Islamic countries said Thursday they strongly condemn the kidnapping of more than 270 Nigerian school girls, calling for their immediate release.
The Islamic Fiqh Academy, which is based in Saudi Arabia and dedicated to the advanced study of Islam, said that this “crime and other crimes committed by the likes of these extremist organizations contradicts all humanitarian principles and moral values and violates the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah,” or teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Also on Thursday 8th May, the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission said Boko Haram is misguided to claim that the abduction of the girls and the threat to sell them off as slaves is in conformity with the injunctions of Islam. The rights body described the abduction of the schoolgirls as a “barbaric act”. “Right to education is a fundamental human right, and is in consonance with the basic tenets of Islam,” the rights body said. – The Associated Press; CTV News
— DUBAI: Islamic scholars and human rights officials of the world’s largest Muslim organisation on Thursday denounced the mass kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by the militant group Boko Haram as “a gross misinterpretation of Islam”. – Reuters
— EGYPT: Religious Endowments Minister Mohammed Mohktar Gomaa said “the actions by Boko Haram are pure terrorism, with no relation to Islam, especially the kidnapping of the girls.” Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of the Cairo-based Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institutions, said the abductions “completely contradict Islam and its principles of tolerance.” – The Huffington Post
Importantly, it is commanded in the Holy Quran that “..whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind” (Quran 5:32).
In the light of these developments, the question that still bother on the minds of many is who is Boko Haram and what do they stand for? Heidi Schultz, National Geographic News provides us some answers to these questions:
What is Boko Haram?
Boko Haram—which means Western learning is forbidden—is a Nigerian Islamist militant group made up of dispersed cells and factions in the northeast of the country. It began with a group of young Islamic radicals in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, more than a decade ago, and its current incarnation as a violent insurgency dates to 2010.
What are its objectives?
Boko Haram aims to make northern Nigeria an Islamic state. Although it has ties to other African terrorist groups, it has few jihadist ambitions beyond Nigeria. Western interests are rarely targets of its attacks.
Why did Boko Haram arise in northern Nigeria?
Bad governance, corruption, persistent economic hardship, and rising inequality have fostered the growth of radical extremist groups. A Nigerian bishop characterized Boko Haram as “a resistance movement against misrule rather than a purely Islamic group.” According to a recent USIP and CLEEN Foundation study, the three major reasons young men join Boko Haram are unemployment and poverty, manipulation by extremist religious leaders, and a lack of awareness of the authentic teachings of Islam.
Whom does Boko Haram target?
At first it attacked institutions of the Nigerian government: police stations, security officers, and military barracks. The first large-scale attacks were in 2010, intended to exact revenge for the state’s killing of leader Mohammed Yusuf and hundreds of his followers in July 2009. Since then, the militants have moved on to civilian targets: churches, schools, bus stations, and mosques. The group doesn’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims in its attacks.
What effect has Boko Haram had on the population in northeastern Nigeria?
More than 5,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict associated with Boko Haram, at either the hands of insurgents or of government security forces. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes because of the violence, and fear permeates the air. As James Verini wrote in a November 2013 article for National Geographic, “Boko Haram has become something more than a terrorist group, more even than a movement. Its name has taken on an incantatory power. Fearing they will be heard and killed by Boko Haram, Nigerians refuse to say the group’s name aloud, preferring instead to ‘the crisis’ or ‘the insecurity.'”
Does Boko Haram have links to other terrorist organizations?
Although most of Boko Haram’s attacks have been on Nigerian targets and most of their objectives have been national, its leaders do have connections to other African Islamist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Somalia’s Al Shabaab, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
As the Nigerian bishop rightly observed, Boko Haram is morethan a purely Islamic group. Hence, crimes and other crimes committed by the likes of these extremist organizations contradicts all humanitarian principles and moral values and violates the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah, or teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. It is observed that, a terrorist is like a witch. She will not spare you just because you are minding your own business. Indeed, the group doesn’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims in their attacks. Terrorism, is a crime, Casely Hayford should direct his concern to those who have the mandate to prevent and punish crime. The least, Muslim scholars can do is to preach against it as irredeemable sin. Muslim clerics may have no power of arrest and punishment of crimes. Let’s all condemn Boko Haram actions.
Based on the above my wise counsel to Mr Casely-Hayford is that if speech is ever considered silver but silence, gold, surely it is especially on those occasions when one do not have any idea of what s/he is talking about. Just like Boko Haram, it is not acceptable for any person uses them as a pretext to show an innate hatred for Islam and Muslims.