x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Extremist groups like Boko Haram harm the image of Islam

What the Arabic press is saying about terrorist organisations. Translated by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni.

The abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls was the latest outrage by Boko Haram, a group that indulges in terrorist activities in Nigeria under the banner of religion, commented the Saudi author Hussein Shobokshi in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Boko Haram, which means “western education is forbidden”, has joined criminal organisations such as Al Qaeda, Taliban, Isil and Al Nusra Front, he said.

Meanwhile, the Muslim world continues to remain hesitant about “cleaning” the intellectual legacy that has led to this phenomenon, with some religious ideas regarded as sacred and some religious scholars revered beyond question. As long as this phenomenon persists, the Muslim community will continue to suffer from ignorance, bigotry and terrorism, Shobokshi said.

Nothing has harmed Islam more than extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIL, Al Nusra, Al Shabab and Champions of Jerusalem, wrote Atiyah Isawi in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram.

The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, boasted in a videotape that he abducted the girls and he would marry them off and sell them in the market as slaves.

These terrorists have not spared churches or even mosques. But the abduction of the girls has incensed the local and global communities. Such crimes repel non-Muslims and make them antagonistic towards the community, prompting some people even to believe that Islam permits them, Atiyah suggested.

However, the Nigerian government is also to blame for this tragedy. Dormitories used by girls should not be left unguarded in the volatile Borno state, the stronghold of Boko Haram. The government has also been criticised for arbitrary arrests, torture and murder of the group’s members. The former leader of Boko Haram, as well as its members, were handcuffed and killed in public by soldiers in 2009. These acts have infuriated human rights organisations and dissuaded countries from responding to Nigeria’s calls for assistance to fight the group. Those atrocities have also discouraged the population from co-operating with the government forces.

The government is responsible for the high rate of youth unemployment, as a result of which young people often join the terrorist organisation, while the country’s wealth is embezzled by corrupt officials. From 2000 to 2009, about $250 billion (Dh918 billion) was smuggled, according to reports.

The news website Rai Al Youm mentioned in an editorial that US and European forces equipped with advanced weaponry have started to arrive in Abuja to join the hunt for the kidnapped girls.

Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, which was established in 2002 and now has about 7,000 members, said he would marry two of the kidnapped minors. However, he might not have enough time for that.

The kidnapping has been condemned by scholars from across the Islamic world as an act that has nothing to do with Islam.

Yet, this atrocity must not hide three important things. One: a western plan has been in place to set up drone bases in the Sahel region to hunt down extremists. Two: the inequalities in the Muslim-majority northern states that are beset by poverty and hunger and where people live on less than $2 a day, although the country is thought to be the richest in the African continent as it has oil revenues.

Three: the inefficiency and corruption of the Nigerian government, which has a big army and does not need foreign troops to find the abducted girls. Like Libya and Iraq, Nigeria is an oil-rich country and the US military intervention, although for a noble cause, reflects economic ambitions. Valuable mineral resources, including uranium, were the reason for the French intervention in Mali, although France said its intention was to fight Al Qaeda and other militant groups.

Plans to interfere in Nigeria were already in place and the kidnappings had offered the perfect excuse, the paper said.

Writing in Jordan’s Addustour daily, Areeb Rantawi said that some prefer to call Boko Haram the “ISIL of Africa”. Hence the wave of condemnation.

Some comments have called for “understanding” the motives that prompt such organisations to commit atrocities. They justified ISIL’s actions as a reaction to the brutalities of the Syrian regime, terrorism in Egypt as a repercussion of “the coup” and Boko Haram’s acts as a result of the discrimination against Muslims in Nigeria.

Not only are such notions baseless, but they provide a direct cover for terrorists’ crimes and cast doubt on the power of “moderate Islam”, the writer said.

aezzouitni@thenational.ae