The leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has said that more than 270 schoolgirls snatched from their dormitories were “slaves” whom he planned to sell in the market.
“I abducted your girls,” a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, said in a video seen by the Guardian. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. There is a market for selling humans.
“Women are slaves. I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam,” he added, in an apparent reference to an ancient tradition of enslaving women captured during jihad, or holy war.
Speaking in northern Nigeria‘s Hausa language during a rambling hour-long speech, he threatened further attacks on schools and warned the international community not to get involved in Nigeria. Shekau has previously called western education “a plot against Islam” and urged his fighters to kill students and teachers.
“I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine,” he said at another point in the video.
Is this truly what Boko Haram believe?
Most probably yes, there are of course many different strands of Islamic thinking – some is quite progressive and modern, but then there are also other strands that are firmly rooted in the 7th century and attempt to quite literally emulate the lifestyle of Mohammed.
In his time, Mohammed was a slave trader, and also conducted raids then resulted in him and his band of followers capturing “slaves”. There is an argument by some that Mohammed reformed slavery, but facts are facts, his supposed “humanitarian” reforms brought by Islam resulted in a vast development of the slave trade inside, and still more outside, the growing Islamic empire. The main reform was that the injunction against the enslavement of Muslims led to a massive importation of slaves from the outside. Islam by recognizing and codifying slavery did more to protect and expand slavery than the reverse – when it came to human rights, it was one huge leap backwards.
Humanity has moved on and left all that behind, but alas, religious thinking is often quite static and rooted in the past, and so once you embrace the idea of primitive islam being the ideal form, it does not take too great a leap of “logic” to then embrace violence as appropriate, and also think that slavery is a jolly good idea.
Well, if Mohammed was the ideal man, then his life must of been the ideal template to follow. Except of course it was not.
Now, let’s also get something clear … Boko Haram is not “Islam”, but rather is simply one of the many diverse variations that currently prevail. To assert that Boko haram is “Islam” and hence all Muslims are vile evil people would be as crazy as perhaps pointing at Westboro Baptist as the official representatives for all things Christian. Just as most Christians reject Westboro, so also do most Muslims reject Boko Haram. As a side note, even the KKK find Westboro too vile to stomach, and reject them.
Further thoughts on the situation in Nigeria
I have a few additional observations on things in Nigeria.
First, it is all very very odd
- Nobody appears to be able to come up with a precise number, figures such as 270 or more are cited, but there is a complete lack of precision here.
- Nobody appears to be able to come up with a verified list of names of the girls.
What on earth is going on, why can’t they come up with a precise list of exactly how many have been kidnapped and who they are?
I’m not suggesting a conspiracy, but rather a degree of complete and utter incompetence on the part of the authorities here.
Secondly, the kidnapping strikes me as a move taken by Boko Haram to provoke a violent response. Basically hit and run then hide (across the border), then issue one hour video’s boasting about the vile things you are about to do to all these girls. It increases the pressure on the largely unorganised authorities to respond, or at least to be seen to be taking decisive action, and so it is in all probability designed to trigger a violent response by the authorities that can then be utilised as propaganda by Boko Haram to win more minds and hearts.
This is not simply a random act by a brutal gang of thugs (well yes, they are thugs), it is also a rather complex game of chess. Given the degree of ineptness on display by the authorities in Nigeria, the rather frightening thought here is that Boko Haram know it and will leverage that to their advantage.