Why The West must stand with Nigeria in the fight against Islamists
The purpose of this article is to discuss the ongoing campaign by Islamist organizations to systemically eliminate Christians in Africa, and why this matters to The West. Significantly, the elimination of Christians at the behest of Islamic conquerors is not by any means a new phenomenon. In fact, Belgian historian Henri Pirenne (1968) argued that the Muslim invasion of Christian lands in North Africa, The Byzantine Empire (The Levant), and even Spain, supports this claim. Notably the Muslim conquest of Spain was not without greater ambition. “But why stop at Spain?” Pirenne asks. “No sooner was the Peninsula completely subdued than in 720 the Musulmans captured Narbonne, and then laid siege to Toulouse, thus encroaching on the Frankish kingdom” (Pirenne 1968 p. 156). According to Pirenne, the ability of the Franks to repel the Muslim invasions of what we now call France, is what in fact led to the creation of The West. This article will briefly discuss the modern Islamist attempt at conquest in Nigeria, and why this matters to The West.
First, the Islamist organization Boko Haram became a popular topic when it abducted 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria in mid-2014 (Cocks and Liffey 2014). Global awareness of the incident increased when a social media campaign was initiated to raise awareness of the kidnapping. #BringBackOurGirls was the hashtag used on Twitter and it was famously posted by President Obama’s wife, the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama (see video). While President Obama made a pledge to find the girls (Superville 2014) – as of January 2015 they remain missing and some claim that the abducted girls have been manipulated by the Boko Haram jihadist as the subjects of recent suicide bombings (Oakford 2015). In other words Boko Haram may be using the girls as suicide bombers. Author Mark Steyn brilliantly commented on Michelle Obama’s tweet, noting how the wife of the most powerful President in the world responds to a terrorist act 'with a hashtag' (Steyn 2014). In response to Michelle Obama’s tweet, Al Arabiya News reported that, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made a mockery of the U.S. first lady Michelle Obama through series of tweets accompanied by the hashtag: #bringbackourhumvee” (Staff writer at Al Arabiya News 2014). The jihadists are laughing at The West.
VIDEO DESCRIPTION: Mark Steyn criticizes The First Lady, Michelle Obama, on her hashtag campaign against Boko Haram's abduction of 200 schoolgirls.
Considering how Boko Haram is a land-locked organization geographically stranded within Central Africa, one might reasonably ask what threat does Boko Haram pose to The West? In response to this question one needs only to refer to their name. According to Blanchard (2014) writing for the U.S. Congress by means of the Congressional Research Service:
“Boko Haram emerged in the early 2000s as a small Sunni Islamic sect advocating a strict interpretation and implementation of Islamic law for Nigeria. Calling itself Jama’a Ahl as-Sunna Li-da’wa wa-al Jihad (roughly translated from Arabic as 'People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad'), the group is more popularly known as Boko Haram (often translated as 'Western education is forbidden'), a nickname given by local Hausa-speaking communities to describe the group’s view that Western education and culture have been corrupting influences that are haram ('forbidden') under its conservative interpretation of Islam.” (Blanchard 2014 p. 1)
As Blanchard notes, however, ‘Boko Haram’ is loosely defined as ‘Western education is forbidden’. For a thorough examination of the group’s name, see Murphy (2014).
Although there is a general misconception regarding what the exact definition of Boko Haram means in the form of its English translation, there is general acceptance as to the global threat posed by Boko Haram (Ogebe 2014). In fact, Boko Haram was clearly described as a global threat during a Congressional Testimony to the United States House of Representatives made by Emmanual Ogebe (Ogebe 2014). See the video below for an in depth discussion on the nature of Boko Haram by Emmanuel Ogebe.
VIDEO DESCRIPTION: In this video Emmanuel Ogebe speaks at a conference hosted by the Hudson Institute. Emmanuel went to Nigeria on a 'fact finding mission' to learn more about Boko Haram. He testified before the United States Congress on June 11. The link to his testimony can be found in the references: Ogebe, E 2014.
Boko Haram is an Islamist organization fighting jihad to reposition the Nigerian nation away from Western values and towards Islamic values. In this matter Boko Haram is no different from any other Islamist organization – contrary to reverse claims. By definition, therefore, the clash of civilizations between The West and Islam is occurring within Nigeria. On this basis alone a case can be made that The West must come to the aid of Nigeria. Afterall, Nigeria is a country which, by no direct fault of its own, is threatened for adopting the way of life merged with its traditional culture as a consequence of colonization. Without getting into a debate of colonization in and of itself, The West must support Nigeria in its defence against Boko Haram because, as a consequence of Boko Haram's conflict against Nigeria’s willingness to adopt Western values, Boko Haram is indirectly fighting The West. Femi Fani-Kayode states the case more accurately in the Nigerian Tribune (2014) where he writes:
“It is time to stand with the rest of humanity and with the civilised people of the world against all forms of homicidal, sociopathic, oppressive and deviant behaviour and the evil of religious fanaticism and Islamic fundamentalism. It is time to stand up against terror and those that believe in violent jihad and the establishment of a new worldwide Islamic caliphate. It is time to stand up against the misogynists in our midst who regard women as nothing but worthless chattel and who take pleasure in sleeping with infants and young children. It is time to stand up to those that delight in blowing up and maiming others and who honestly believe that that is the only way to heaven. It is time to stop sitting on the fence and to say that enough is enough.” (Fani-Kayode 2014).
Mr. Fani-Kayode’s article is useful not only for its depiction of Boko Haram as a threat to civilized societies, it is useful because it is an emotional appeal to the global community directly from Nigeria. It is worth nothing that Mr. Fani-Kayode’s appeal against Boko Haram also involves a stand against Hamas and all other forms of Islmist groups. In other words, Femi Fani-Kayode’s article is a Nigerian appeal to the global community, while this article is a Western appeal to assist Nigeria – and answer their call in defence of an Islamist threat. Taken in this context, the fight against Islamism has truly become a global struggle.
The purpose of this article has been to describe the struggle against Islamism currently being fought within Nigeria in the form of Boko Haram's war against Nigeria. This article began with an acknowledgement that the history of The West is a history of a struggle against Islamist aggression. The reason for making this acknowledgement has been to argue that, regardless of Nigeria being an African nation in terms of history and geography, by means of colonization Nigeria was introduced to Western values, and the Nigerian state has willingly transitioned towards adopting Western values. Therefore, wherever these (Western) values are threatened (regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture), the Western community has a responsibility to aid those in their fight. Before concluding this article it is worth recognizing that Boko Haram is not alone in its mission impose the Islamist ideology on African societies. While al-Shabab and AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) are perhaps the most recognizable in terms of popular reference, recent research suggests that the Islamists pose a ‘growing threat’ to African nations (Pinto 2013). The intent of this article has been to argue that due to the West’s historical fight against Islamism, in addition to its colonial heritage, The Western community has a responsibility to aid independent African nations in their defence against Islamism.
Blanchard, LP 2014, ‘Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions’, Congressional Research Service, 10 June 2014. Also available in PDF at: http://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R43558.pdf.
Cocks, T & Liffey, K 2014, ‘Nigeria’s Boko Haram claims abduction of over 200 schoolgirls – AFP’, Reuters, 5 May 2014 available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/05/05/uk-nigeria-bokoharam-idUKKBN0DL0MO20140505.
Fani-Kayode, F 2014, ‘The time to say no more’, Nigerian Tribune, 3 August 2014, available at: http://www.tribune.com.ng/quicklinkss/opinion/item/12359-the-time-to-say-no-more.
Murphy, D 2014, ‘’Boko Haram’ doesn’t really mean ‘Western education is a sin’’, Christian Science Monitor, 6 May 2014, available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2014/0506/Boko-Haram-doesn-t-really-mean-Western-education-is-a-sin.
Oakford, S 2015, ‘Attacks raise fears that Boko Hara is using kidnapped schoolgirls as suicide bombers’, Vice News, 13 January 2015, available at: https://news.vice.com/article/attacks-raise-fears-that-boko-haram-is-using-kidnapped-schoolgirls-as-suicide-bombers.
Ogebe, E 2014, ‘Congressional Testimony of Emmanuel Ogebe’, The Ongoing Struggle Against Boko Haram: Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations’, United States House of Representatives, 11 June 2014, available at: http://jubileecampaign.org/nigeria-working-group-letters-and-documents/congressional-testimony-of-emmanuel-ogebe-2/.
Pinto, TN 2013, ‘Islamist extremist groups pose a growing threat in Africa’, World Review, 5 March 2013, available at: http://www.worldreview.info/content/islamic-extremist-groups-pose-growing-threat-africa.
Staff writer, 2014, ‘ISIS mocks Michelle Obama with new hashtag’ Al Arabiya News, 20 June 2014, available at: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2014/06/20/ISIS-mocks-Michelle-Obama-with-bringbackourhumvee-Twitter-hashtag.html.
Steyn, M 2014, ‘#BringBackOurBalls’, Steyn Online, 9 May 2014, available at: http://www.steynonline.com/6326/bringbackourballs.
Superville, D 2014, ‘Obama: U.S. to do ‘everything we can’ to help Nigeria find abducted girls’, Associated Press (AP), 7 May 2014, available at: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/obama-u-s-to-do-everything-we-can-to-help-nigeria-find-abducted-girls-1.1808768 and http://news.yahoo.com/obama-us-help-nigeria-kidnapped-girls-210036844--politics.html.