Since publishing my essay, Toward a Better Understanding of Boko Haram, I have received some feedback, with respondents raising questions and issues they feel merit further exploration, explanation, context, and elaboration. One of these issues is the question of whether or not Boko Haram rose out of societal problems supposedly caused by Western education — corruption, poverty, and poor governance, or whether in fact these problems are traceable to Western education as Boko Haram claims. In this post, I respond to these and other issues.
Since they kidnapped more than two hundred schoolgirls from Chibok, Northeastern Nigeria, Nigerian Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, have become the object of global outrage. Anti-Boko Haram activism, although justified and commendable, is often animated by a facile understanding of the group and its entwinements in deeper societal realities. To understand Boko Haram and the foundations of its rage, one has to understand two phenomena associated with the group’s rise.
The basic logic governing the use of drones and of witchcraft accusations is not as different as many Americans might like to think. Why do so many of us accept the use of drones? Because we believe that people are plotting to harm us, and we do not want ourselves or our loved ones to get hurt. Why do some Africans kill people believed to be witches? Because they believe that people are plotting to harm them, and they do not want themselves or their loved ones to get hurt. However, in the US, many of us have the luxury of expecting violence to be distant and rare.
Mauritanian rapper, Hamzo Bryn, released a music video, “It started from Nouakchott” via his facebook page in September of 2013. The conversations that were sparked by the music video about correct Islamic practice, cultural norms, race, generational differences, and national identity were already happening in Mauritania but reached a new level of importance after the appearance of this video. As one Mauritanian blogger wrote forebodingly, this video signaled a moment when Mauritanian youth could decide what kind of future nation they want but, also, a time when the coming tensions would not be between Islam and the West but between Muslims themselves debating this future and this nation.