--- Manoj Saxena
Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America, holds a sign in solidarity with the victims of the 2014 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group founded in 2002 in Nigeria. The group views all western culture as Haram or forbidden according to Islamic law, and it aims to establish an Islamic state free of western culture in Nigeria. It has lately shown greater ambitions by spreading its activities and message to other African countries such as Mali and Cameroon.
Since the death of its original founder Mohammed Yusuf in 2009 the group has been headed by the self styled Imam, or Islamic theological leader, Abubakar Muhammad Shekau. When Yusuf was killed by Nigerian security forces the Boko Haram insurgency was considered by analysts to have suffered a major blow. However, under the command of Shekau the group has continued to act against anyone seen to practice western culture and education with an unprecedented level of violence.
In a rather strange twist it seems that under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau the group has itself started to succumb to the charms of western education, science, and technology in a manner that contradicts its own stated position — that of considering all aspects of the west as Haram. A closer inspection of the day-to-day activities of Boko Haram reveals that not only does the group tolerate the use of western education, science, and technology among its own ranks -- it actually promotes and encourages it.
Consider the quintessentially Russian weapon AK 47, which is featured on the organization's very logo. The AK 47 has been a weapon of choice for the group in its many strikes on the Nigerian people and establishment. It was seen close to the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau as he delivered a statement following a Nigerian government declaration of a state of emergency in three provinces on May 14, 2013. However, the first antecedent to the AK 47 was conceived not in an Islamic empire or country but in the atheist Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The Communist State then used its vast industrial resources to manufacture a fully functional version of the weapon, and by 1949 the Kalashnikov rifle had become a mainstay of the Soviet military forces. The use of this gun requires advanced knowledge of Russian weaponry and thus far the Boko Haram militants against western education seem to have educated themselves well in its use.
Boko Haram's love affair with western weaponry does not end here. In another video the Boko Haram militiamen raid a Nigerian Army base and free a number of suspected militants before they can be taken for trial or interrogated by the authorities. The group's command of western technology in the video is evident as the fighters use sophisticated paramilitary automobiles, rocket launchers, and mounted machine guns in the raid. One can also reasonably assume that personnel well versed in operating and repair operations for this western equipment were required for sustainable maintenance prior to this raid. Needless to say that all of this technology was largely developed in the west and thus its use forms a part of the very western science and technology that Boko Haram opposes in its entirety. Many of the militants as well as the men they release in the video are even clothed in western style apparel.
It is also clear that Boko Haram enjoys reliable information technology support for it to have released a number of videos in which its leaders threaten all those who indulge in anything even remotely associated with the west. Computer hardware, the internet, and video editing software are technological innovations in which the west played a crucial role. It takes sophisticated knowledge of western information technology to make, edit, and upload the Boko Haram videos that we so often see. One can only assume that Boko Haram enjoys support of technicians — well educated to operate western video hardware and software — among its ranks to aid in their divine mission against all western knowledge.
After having kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls who had purportedly violated the Boko Haram code of not learning western education the organization's own leader Abubakar Shekau delivered a menacing video message to the world in Hausa and English. One wonders if Western education is indeed sinful then how does a man who speaks English become the leader of the pure? Not only is Shekau speaking in English — a western language most closely associated with western education — in which he is no doubt sufficiently educated, but he also shows some knowledge of American history by recalling former presidents Bill Clinton and Abraham Lincoln.
While the Boko Haram group shows a great penchant for practicing the very western culture that it opposes with violent means it seems to have neglected Islamic teachings and values by associating its xenophobic tendencies with Islam. During his lifetime the Islamic Prophet Muhammad reportedly told Muslims to seek knowledge during all stages of life and even advised that Muslims should travel to China to gain knowledge if the need arises. The first great breakthroughs in scientific and philosophical studies made by Muslim scientists under the Abbasid Caliphate during the Eighth and the Ninth centuries involved a critical study of foreign scholarly material originating from Greece, Persia, and India. Muslim scholars translated, preserved and expanded these works and then transmitted them to Europe, thereby contributing significantly to the advances made by western civilization. These aspects of history seem to be woefully lost on the Boko Haram movement.
In conclusion, the organization's own activities show that it has used and will continue to use western education, science, and technology for war and propaganda while violently denying even a peaceful English language based western education to the helpless civilian population. This is hypocrisy at its very worst since those engaging in western education for the purposes of learning and earning a peaceful livelihood are in no manner violating any principle of Islam but the Boko Haram militants using western technology for mass murder certainly are. In this way the Boko Haram movement appears to be a thinly veiled criminal enterprise aimed and intended to generate maximum wealth and power for those among its ranks rather than the ideological insurgency that it claims to be.