Thursday, July 7, 2016

What is Boko Haram and where did it come from?

At what point do you say, “Enough, already. That is not a religion, it’s just an excuse!” People engage in all sorts of behavior the rest of us see as ludicrous, and claim it is their religious “right.” Silly examples that may come to mind are marijuana- and peyote-smoking religions. But the one I’m thinking of is more sinister: Islam.
Several years ago I read an article in The Economist about where terrorists come from. In 1979 ‘godless’ Russia tried to annex Muslim Afghanistan. The Afghans were fighting Soviet Tanks and rocket launchers with muskets and horses. Reagan’s government via the CIA pumped millions of dollars worth of arms to the mujahideen to secretly assist them in bloodying the soviet’s nose.
When the Russians withdrew in 1988-1989, some in the U.S. government urged that the same money continue to flow to Afghanistan, to be used for roads, hospitals, schools, etc. Their argument could have been drawn from the Bible:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Or, at least Alexander Pope:
“As the Twig is bent, the Tree's inclined.”
They felt that if the next generation could be taught in American-run schools, they’d learn American habits and thinking; If they could drag the country into the 20th century, there would soon be a MacDonald’s on every corner, a TV in every home, and kids wearing Nikes and listening to Michael Jackson. And those kids would grow up to vote in favor of American air bases right in the soviet’s back yard.
But the majority view was that, with Russia licked, pumping more money into Afghanistan would be a waste. Afghanistan was dropped like a hot rock, and the country was left with no infrastructure and a stone-age government, and with millions of dollars worth of surplus 21st century armaments.
A dozen years later - the amount of time kids typically spend going from first to twelfth grade - Afghani kids were graduating from Islamic terrorist groups. And that’s when 9/11 happened.
With that background, let’s take a look at Nigeria:
Nigeria has become a religiously divided country: Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. Control of it has been fought over from outside by various international interests, and various greedy factions within, ever since oil was discovered there in 1956. After decades of coups and countercoups, corrupt officials looting the banks and shipping funds to their offshore accounts, rigging elections and executing opposers, the current president, Southerner (Christian) Goodluck Jonathan, seems like a nice guy by comparison. But he inherited a mess.
Back in 1999, a democratic election brought to power southerner Olusegun Obasanjo, a self-professed born-again Christian. While he was busy appealing to democratic countries for aid in cleaning up the fraud from the previous decades, he failed to notice that up north, Muslims were tired of being poor and oppressed. In 2002 a radical Muslim group formed that came to be called Boko Haram.
“Boko” is slang for ‘western education’ and “haram” means ‘forbidden.’ (Have you ever noticed how fundamentalist religions loves to “forbid” things?) In an environment where the government was too busy or corrupt or simply uncaring to make sure kids got a good education, Boko Haram found fertile ground, ‘persuading’ Nigerians to reject western education, and setting up schools of their own. In many cases, poor families saw the Boko Haram-run schools as their only option. Those schools, however, were in reality terrorist training camps.
Now, clearly, school is out.
In 2011, virtually unnoticed in the rest of the world, Boko Haram began an almost-weekly bombing campaign. In March, 2012, a dozen public schools were burned down in the middle of the night. During the day they kept busy bombing police stations, military facilities, and even the mosques of more moderate Muslims, and robbing banks. They have murdered over 4,000 people in the last five years.
A U.S. Institute of Peace report in 2013 naively said Boko Haram “poses little direct threat to U.S. interests in Nigeria at present” and proposed the U.S. do nothing to aid Nigeria in dealing with Boko Haram. But the same report acknowledged:
“Tactics employed by government security agencies against Boko Haram have been consistently brutal and counterproductive. Their reliance on extrajudicial execution as a tactic in “dealing” with any problem in Nigeria not only created Boko Haram as it is known today, but also sustains it and gives it fuel to expand.”
Due to wrong action and inaction, Boko Haram has continued to grow. In April they kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls. They now claim the girls are ‘war booty’ who will become married slaves. Since then, they have gone on to vicious bomb attacks all over Nigeria that have killed hundreds and injured thousands. In last week's bombing they set off a second bomb a half hour after the first one, timed specifically to target rescue workers.
How do Muslims excuse murder and kidnapping in the name of Allah? While the Koran condemns murder and kidnapping, it makes exceptions for killing and kidnapping enemy combatants. It pretty much had to; their founder and ‘holy prophet,’ Mohammed, spent most of his life conquering surrounding countries, enslaving their people, and taking many of them – more than a dozen – as his wives or concubines.
What is being done in the name of Allah should be shocking but, sadly, it is not surprising. Islam simply took a page from history. While their founder was carrying out his war crimes a thousand years ago their archenemy, the Catholic Church, was pulling the same sort of nonsense… using fear, threats, torture and murder to terrorize their enemies and keep their believers in line.
In fact, nearly every major religion, and a lot of minor ones, have skeletons such as these, and worse, in their closets. In the next few columns, we’ll examine some of those skeletons.
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