NASHVILLE, TN – The Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has a new leader who has vowed to bomb churches and kill Christians while ending attacks on mosques and markets used by ordinary Muslims. Here are five facts you should know about one of Africa’s most dangerous extremist groups:
1. Boko Haram is the Hausa language nickname for Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad). The nickname, which translates to “Western education is sinful,” was given because of the group’s initial focus on opposing Western education in African countries.
2. Founded in 2002, the terrorist group is comprised of radical Islamists who oppose both Westerners and “apostate” Muslims. Based in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger, the organization seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law, putting a stop to what it deems “Westernization.” Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.
3. Despite the group’s nickname, Boko Haram’s agenda is much broader than just education. The group promotes a version of radical Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers, or receiving a non-Muslim education.
4. In 2009 the group launched military operation to create an Islamic state in Africa. The group carried out a number of attacks on police stations and other government buildings in Maiduguri. Nigeria's security forces were able to capture the group’s leader, Muhammad Yusuf, the group's headquarters, and many of its fighters. The Nigerian government thought the threat was suppressed, but the organization regrouped under a new leader, Abubakar Shekau.
5. Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out numerous attacks against Christians. (In Kano, a city of more than 9 million people, Boku Haram even threatened to kill any Christians living there.) On Easter 2012, 38 people were killed in a car bombing in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Kaduna lies on the dividing line between Nigeria's largely Christian south and Muslim north. During the night of April 16, 2014, dozens of armed men from Boko Haram captured over 300 Christian girls aged 12 to 15 who were sleeping in dormitories at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in northeast Nigeria. Some of the kidnapped girls have been forced into “marriage” with their Boko Haram abductors, sold for a nominal bride price of $12, according to parents who talked with villagers. All of the girls risk being forced into marriages or sold in the global market for human slaves. The kidnappings were the focus of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ social media campaign that garnered significant attention in 2014.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Bristow is Communications Coordinator for the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC). The Weekly is a rundown of news by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission highlighting the week’s top news stories from the public square and providing commentary on the big issues of our day.