Two mass abductions of Nigerian school girls in recent weeks have rallied the international community to offer Nigeria assistance in finding its missing children. As reported by Fox News, the American, British and French governments have joined the search effort to recover the approximately 275 missing girls. Boko Haram says some of the girls have converted to Islam during their captivity, CNN reported.
Who is Boko Harem, and why is the group targeting Nigerian school girls?
Known by Nickname
The official name of the group responsible for the kidnappings is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, according to the BBC. Translated from Arabic, the name means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” The nickname “Boko Haram” stems from the Hausa description of one of the group’s key tenets, “Western education forbidden.” Alternate translations use the word “sin” in place of “forbidden.”
Founded in Protest
According to CBC News, Boko Haram was founded in 2002. The proscription on Western-style education may have more to do with rejection of a corrupt system operated by Nigeria’s kleptomaniacal government than philosophical disagreement with foreign cultures, senior Carnegie Endowment associate Sarah Chayes explained to CBC. But in rejecting Western education, the group, then led by founder Mohammed Yusef, set up its own school which promoted Islam and encouraged jihad, the BBC said.
Boko Haram aims to bring its interpretation of Sharia law to Nigeria. Nigeria’s Muslim citizens are the majority in the north, while its Christian citizens predominate the south, CNN explained. Boko Harem described its mission in an open commmunication to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan published on Youtube in 2012, saying the group has “no other duty to pursue on earth except the propagation and the fighting on the cause of Allah.” The group also professed to have “no intention in killing any one or maiming people indiscriminately; there may be some persons or group of persons that are going after people terrorising them or extorting them under our revered umbrella or name, but we want to tell the world that we are not with those people and we don’t know them.”
School Children Kidnapped
Abu Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, acknowledged kidnapping the Nigerian school girls and threatening to sell them in the markets as slaves and wives. CNN translated his Hausa statement as saying, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
He said Allah has instructed him to “soak the ground of Nigeria with Christian blood and so-called Muslims contradicting Islam,” Joe Carter, Senior Editor, wrote in the Acton Institute blog.
Shekau said Western education should end. He also said girls should go and get married. Various news reports described Shekau’s statement as “rambling.”
CNN said Shekau also expressed interest in trading the girls for Boko Haram prisoners.