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memri
May 14, 2014 No.
5741

Reactions In Arab Press To Kidnapping Of Nigerian Girls: 'It Is Inconceivable That The World's Countries Should Take Action Against The Boko Haram Phenomenon While The Islamic States And Organizations Remain Silent'; The Muslim Nation Must Eliminate Boko Haram

About one month ago, the global jihad group Boko Haram, which operates in Nigeria, kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls, most of them Christian, from their secondary school in the town of Chibok in the northeast of the country. Initially the organization announced it intended to sell the girls into forced marriages,[1] but in a video released on May 12, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said that some of the girls had converted to Islam and that it would release the girls who had not converted in return for the release of Boko Haram prisoners.[2]

The kidnapping sparked outrage in the world, including in the Arab world. It should be noted that condemnations in the Arab world have come mostly from religious figures and institutions, such as Al-Azhar, the highest religious authority for Sunni Muslims, which demanded to release the girls and stated that the kidnapping "had nothing to do with the noble and tolerant directives of Islam."[3] The International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, likewise condemned the kidnapping, calling it a "crime" and an "act of corruption," and urged Boko Haram to "return to the straight path."[4] Saudi Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Sheikh called Boko Haram "a deviant Khawarij sect"[5] whose actions harm Islam and the Muslims.[6] The Organization of Islamic Cooperation called Boko Haram a terrorist organization whose actions are incompatible with Islam.[7]

The articles on the kidnapping in the Arab press condemned Boko Haram and claimed that its actions recall the Dark Ages and blacken the name of Islam and the Muslims. One article called on the Muslim clerics to "save Islam" from extremists like Boko Haram, and another urged the Muslim world to reform its curricula in order to inoculate the youth against this sort of extremism. Yet another called to crush organizations like Boko Haram in order to enable progress and development.

It should be mentioned that jihadi circles likewise discussed the kidnapping and debated its legitimacy, with some supporting and others opposing it.[8]


One of the kidnapped girls speaking on the May 12 video (source: memritv.org)

The Muslim World Must Denounce Boko Haram, Defend The True Islam

An editorial of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat condemned the kidnapping as a "heinous crime" having nothing to do with religion. It expressed puzzlement that the Muslims are not denouncing it enough and exhorted Muslims to defend the true Islam:

"World public opinion has become inured even to the ongoing Middle East tragedies and puts up with them, particularly as some people in the region still seek excuses for the most criminal actions and violations of human rights, including the right to live. But the despicable action that the Boko Haram organization in Nigeria committed a few days ago provoked the appropriate outrage from everyone.

"This is a despicable crime, and the most despicable thing about it is that they tie it to religion. However, we must admit that committing crimes in the name of religion has unfortunately become part and parcel of the diseased thinking and despicable actions [prevalent] in the Arab and Islamic world. Therefore, we must ask: why is world public opinion acting, while the "home team" [i.e. the Muslims], who are expected to know more about what is taking place in the home, are not demonstrating the necessary fervor, either in protecting innocents or in defending the true Islam, when almost every day crimes are committed in its name to which it bears no relation?

"In 2001, the world was shocked when the Taliban movement in Afghanistan destroyed the two giant statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan region. These were two ancient symbols that Muslim geographers and historians spoke of with wonder and no Muslim ruler treated as idols, including the great Muslim conqueror Mahmud of Ghazni.[9] Before the year 2001 ended, the world was shaken by greater and far more important events when on 9/11 the United States was subjected to an indiscriminate Al-Qaeda attack in New York, Washington and the state of Pennsylvania – this too in the name of Islam…

"What Boko Haram is doing today in Nigeria, and what similar organizations and gangs are doing in the Black Continent, poses an extremely great danger not only to Islam's global image but to the Muslims' very existence, stability and interests in all the places where they live alongside people of other faiths…

"Muslims everywhere must present the world with the true picture of Islam's tolerant essence, rather than compete [with each other] in extremism, which is alien to the moderate [Muslim] approach that prevailed for hundreds of years alongside the world's [other] cultures and faiths. Therefore it is inconceivable that the world's countries should take action against the Boko Haram phenomenon while the Islamic states and organizations remain silent.

"Under these circumstances, the defense of Islam's true [essence] constitutes a religious obligation no less than a political one."[10]

The Muslim World Is Not Doing Enough To Prevent These Crimes

Hamoud Abu Talib, a columnist for the Saudi government daily 'Okaz, stated that Boko Haram blackens the name of Islam and upholds principles that Islam has denounced, but that the Islamic institutions and sources of authority are not doing enough to prevent crimes like Boko Haram's from recurring. He wrote: "Let me note that [crimes like these] are a regular and recurring pattern among [the proponents of] the extremist, backward and inhuman ideology that dons the mantle of Islam in order to carry out the most heinous offenses and perpetuate the non-Muslims' negative view of Islam and of Muslim society. [Boko Haram leader] Abubakar Shekau is only one example among many of people who espouse [this kind of] ideology... which involves banning all elements of Western education, culture and discourse; employing murderous methods of persuasion, and sowing terror and violence. [It also involves] espousing perceptions that Islam, and all other human systems of laws and norms, have denounced, such as kidnapping people and permitting to kill them and harm their honor because [the kidnappers] consider them to be infidels and [see them as] tools to be used in their war against the infidel camp.

"Shekau is only another chapter in the rigmarole of crimes committed in the name of Islam, which the world has been witnessing for a long while and which include chopping off people's heads and hands and ripping open the bellies of women and children in Syria and elsewhere...

"What Boko Haram and organizations like it are doing is a problem for Muslim society and for the mighty [religion of] Islam, which has been hijacked by this criminal ideology that blackens its image. However, the institutions and sources of authority of of Muslim society, whatever their form or field of expertise, are not even doing the minimum to prevent further manifestations of such behavior, and are not making urgent and sincere efforts to dry up [the swamp of] this ideology that harms Islam."[11]

A Thorough Self-Examination Is Needed In Order To Save Islam From This Small But Dangerous Minority Of So-Called Muslims

An editorial of the Qatari London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi urged clerics, sociologists and psychologists to denounce the terrorists, clarify that religion in no way sanctions their actions, and save Islam from them. The editorial implicitly criticized the clerics and the Sheikh of Al-Azhar for not doing enough in this matter: "What we really need to do is not issue condemnations or even to send 'experts,' like others have done, or pay the kidnappers ransom, but rather examine ourselves thoroughly and honestly and debate [how to] save Islam from this handful of so-called Muslims who are scattered across the globe. Certain 'Muslims' have become the most bitter enemy and greatest threat to Islam, due to their depraved actions and their hateful religious discourse...

"Do the Wahhabi, Salafi-jihadi or Sufi schools, or any other Islamic or ideological school, have any 'religious evidence' that can justify cutting people to pieces and then eating their hearts, abducting children, burning peaceful places of worship, killing innocents, or other depraved acts that have become daily occurrences? Why don't clerics, sociologists and psychologists come together to remove any religious backing from these people, address the social and cultural roots of this disaster, and save Islam from those who have turned it into a weapon in their filthy war against humanity? What about the role of Al-Azhar, which is the highest [religious] authority in the [Sunni] Islamic world and an emblem of moderation and the middle way? Renewing, cleansing and reshaping the religious discourse has become an unavoidable necessity in order to save Islam and the Muslims...[12]

Boko Haram's Crimes Are Reminiscent Of The Dark Ages

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat deputy-editor 'Ali Ibrahim wrote that the kidnapping of the girls with the intention of selling them was an action reminiscent of the Dark Ages and incompatible with Islam. The following are excerpts from an English translation of the article posted on the daily's website: "...Boko Haram recently made its mark by abducting [over] 200 schoolgirls, who were in the middle of taking their exams when the kidnapping occurred. The operation is reminiscent of the Dark Ages...

"Boko Haram justified the operation, whose target was neither a military nor a government institution, by saying it was wrong for young women to go to school when instead they should be married. Boko Haram’s leader appeared in a video recording – a product of the Western civilization which the group rejects – saying he deems the abducted schoolgirls to be spoils of war and [that they] will be either forced into marriage or sold. Attempts to use ideology as a cover for a criminal act betrays the perverse beliefs of these groups. In fact, by justifying their crimes by appeals to religion, these mad groups are damaging Islam...

"There is neither a future nor any hope for these groups in the political sphere. Any normal person anywhere finds such acts repellent. Even if these groups have problems or grievances, their terrorist activities prevent society from reforming itself and cause chaos. It is as though bloodshed and destruction are their only missions in life..."[13]

The Muslim Nation Must Eliminate Boko Haram

In an article in the government Saudi daily Al-Watan, columnist Fawwaz Al-'Ilmi called on the Muslim world to crush Islamist organizations like Boko Haram so as to enable progress in education and science. "Imagine how our Muslim nation could succeed if it established the best universities [in the fields of] nanotechnology and solar energy... and if we eliminated Boko Haram, which is a remnant of the [ancient] Khawarij [sect]...

"Today our nation needs active Islamic organizations that will strive to reunite [it] and heal the rifts [within it] and invest efforts in progress, science and knowledge... since our Muslim world, consisting of 57 countries, does not include even one that qualifies as a First World country... Imagine how Allah would reward us, and how much respect we could gain among the peoples of the world, if we attained accord among ourselves, achieved justice and condemned oppression worldwide. [We can achieve this] if we uphold human rights, respect all other religions, and treat all the oppressed and downtrodden with honesty and justice... and if we rely on our true da'wa... Imagine how successful our Muslim nation could be... if we founded an astronomical center to track the movement of the stars and the galaxy, [or] the best universities specializing in nanotechnology, solar energy, nuclear fission, economy and information technology...

"To achieve our goals, we must hurry up and crush the rebel armies like Boko Haram..."[14]

Modern Curricula Are Needed In Order To Inoculate The Youth Against Religious Extremism

Moroccan academic 'Abd Al-Haqq 'Azouzi, a columnist for the UAE government daily Al-Ittihad, wrote that the Muslim nation must fight extremism by drawing up a joint security plan but also by adopting modern curricula: "If the Muslim countries and other [countries] involved won't join forces on the highest level, the danger posed by the organizations [Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda] will steadily grow. In light of the globalization [and] open borders, and [various] geographical difficulties, violent organizations can become transcontinental terrorist [forces], and herein lies the danger.

"What we need is joint preventive action aimed at drawing a preemptive roadmap in the domain of security, but without forgetting [to draw] another preemptive roadmap in the domain of the Muslims' 'spiritual security.' To this end we must formulate modern curricula to be taught to [the children of] the entire Muslim nation from an early age. The quality of education in our countries has a significant role... in inoculating our sons against the virus that contaminates hearts and minds... and against the phenomenon of religious extremism, for extremism is extremely dangerous when it wears a religious mantle... Effective efforts to rescue the future generations starts here, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League must begin addressing this issue immediately, for it is our collective historic responsibility to do so."[15]

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 6, 2014.

[2] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 4271, Boko Haram Leader: We Will Not Release Kidnapped Girls Unless Our Brothers Are Released from Prison, may 12, 2014. The Internet - May 12, 2014 - 03:47

[3] Elaph.com, May 6, 2014.

[4] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) , May 8, 2014.

[5] The Khawarij were a dissident group that split from Ali's camp at the Battle of Siffin in 657; it is considered the first Muslim opposition group in Islamic history. Today its name is used as a derogatory name for dissident or deviant groups.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), May 9, 2014.

[7] Al-Hayat (London), May 10, 2014.

[9] The most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid dynasty, whose empire spanned today's Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 12, 2014.

[11] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 11, 2014.

[12] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 13, 2015.

[13] Aawsat.net, May 7, 2014.

[14] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 13, 2014.

[15] Al-Ittihad (UAE), May 13, 2015.