By:  I. K. Gyasi

In the eighties, a Muslim zealot, known and called Muhammadu Marwa, rose up in Nigeria.

Muhammadu Marwa’s nickname was ‘Maitatsine’, a Hausa word which, literally translated, means “The Owner of Curses.” He was so nicknamed because, in addition to his fiery preaching, he also cursed people.

What made the man dangerous was that he also had armed followers who engaged the Nigerian Army in bloody battles. Muhammadu Marwa’s men were eventually defeated. However, the Nigerian Army acknowledged the fighting prowess of the militants.

Indeed, the authorities stated that if the troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces could fight the way Muhammadu Marwa’s men fought, there was no army anywhere in the world that could defeat the Nigerian Armed Forces.

The new insurgents, commonly known as Boko Haram, are far more dangerous than the men of Muhammadu Marwa ‘Maitatsine’. By the way, I understand that the official name of Boko Haram is HAMA’ATU AHLIS SUNNA LIDDA’ AWATI WAL-JIHAD, said to be the Arabic for “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” It is said that the term, “Boko Haram”, was given to them by residents of Maiduguri where the movement had its headquarters, after its formation in 2002.

It is said that the term “Boko Haram is Hausa, which, freely translated, means “Western education is forbidden.” This name arose from the fact that the Boko Haram people are against what they term as “Western education.” It is said that they are also against voting in elections, the wearing of trousers and shirts, etc.

Though Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigeria’s security forces, the movement has continued to flourish. With lethal and fatal results, Boko Haram has attacked police stations and military barracks. Churches have been attacked, and hundreds of innocent persons have been murdered, all in the name of establishing an Islamic State in the whole of Nigeria.

For political and administrative convenience, the colonial power, Britain, had ruled Nigeria as three separate countries, namely, the North dominated by the Hausa-Fulani people, the West controlled by the Yoruba, and the East with the Ibos in power.

As is well known, Nigeria is not just a country of Hausa-Fulanis, Yorubas and Ibos. There are several ethnic groups within these areas. When Britain had to leave, it hastily put together these states (Northern, Eastern and Western).

Unfortunately, the British political welding had been so badly done that independent Nigeria was like a house of cards ready to collapse at the touch of even the weakest wind. It is a big credit to the people of Nigeria that, today, Nigeria is still in one piece, despite the Biafra attempt at secession.

Boko Haram has spread alarm, fear, despondency, and ethnic, as well as religious hatred by asking people from other areas to leave the North, and by bombing churches filled with worshippers.

Nigeria is, internationally, too big to be allowed to collapse under the terroristic anarchism of a group of people still living in the Stone Age. Those of us in the Sub-region of West Africa cannot sit and watch while this virus, known and called Boko Haram, invades the body politic of the region.

There are people who can easily be attracted to what Boko Haram stands for, not to talk of the horrifying atrocities committed in the name of Islam.

Let me repeat the part of the speech delivered by the Fifth Head of the World-wide Ahmadiyyah Community in Islam, Harzrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, when he inaugurated a Mosque in Norway on September 30, 2011.

He deplored the attempt by many opponents of Islam “to defame its pure name.” But, he also admitted, thus, “With great regret, I must add, at this point, that certain Muslim groups have, time and again, given the opponents of Islam the opportunity to defame the religion, through their erroneous and hate-filled terrorist activities.” (See THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS. Vol. 106, December 2011).

That is how Boko Haram has defamed Islam as a backward, blood-thirsty, intolerant religion that seeks to impose its will on others through violent means, including murder and destruction. Is Boko Haram presenting the true face of Islam?

If the Boko Haram people do not want to wear trousers and shirts, because there is alternative clothing, that is fair enough. But, if they refuse to wear them, because of a mistaken belief that it is anti-Islam to wear them, then they are grossly mistaken.

By the way, do the Boko Haram people manufacture the fabrics they use to make clothes? And are those cloths sewn with “Western” manufactured sewing machines or not?

When they preach their hate-filled sermons in their mosques and address their people, do they use “western” invented and manufactured microphones or not?

Do the Boko Haram people use television, telephones and the Internet? When they wash their clothes, what soap do they use? And after washing their clothes, do they iron them? If so, with what? Their own manufactured pressing iron?

Since the formation of the movement, I believe some of the members have performed the Hajj (the Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca). Did they go on foot, or did they travel by camel or by an aeroplane invented and manufactured in the West? In short, have they managed to be so self-sufficient that they have never used “Western-invented” devices like vehicles, guns, bombs, etc?

The irony in Boko Haram’s rejection of so-called Western education is that the traditional politico-religious leaders of Northern Nigeria, the Emir, have had “Western” education.

The Saudana of Sokoto, recognised as the Spiritual Leader of Nigeria’s Muslims, has had the benefit of “Western” education, in addition to his “Islamic” education. He speaks English, the language of the “infidel” white Christian.

Their modern political leaders such as the State Governors, party leaders and the rest have also acquired “Western” education. That is why they control the political apparatuses of state.

These leaders should consider it a crime for them to encourage these Boko Haram people in their ignorant, zealous and fanatical rejection of so-called Western education.

What is “Western” about the study of mathematics, the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences and languages? What makes them think that in the modern world, the be-all and the end-all of learning is the ability of reciting the Holy Quran? Are they not aware that in purely Islamic countries governed by Islamic Law, there are educational institutions that provide courses in so-called Western education?

The grave danger posed by Boko Haram is that, as reported, they have managed to infiltrate, not only the security services, but also the highest reaches of political structures that govern Nigeria.

These faceless individuals are hiding behind Boko Haram and using the organisation as a smokescreen for their selfish political ends. Boko Haram must be defeated, because it poses a clear and present danger.

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