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Boko Haram: How Should Christians Understand It?

May 26, AD2014 18 Comments

The translation into English of the common name of this politicial/religious group in Nigeria has resulted in several iterations. “The People of the Book (Christians) are harmful”, “Non-Islamic education is a sin”, and “Boko…something (an idea or object) that involves a fraud or any form of deception” from a more academic source.

This group has gained world-wide notice recently with the kidnapping of over 200 school girls from Chibok, Nigeria. The raid and abduction has caught the attention of the world press and world governments when their localized violence, by a broad world view standard, has gone relatively unnoticed for several years.

NBC News has acknowledged in one story that the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, is fighting a religious war. “..he railed against Western education, music, and called for the imposition of sharia law, all now the tenets of Boko Haram.”

Al Jazeera reports that, “Boko Haram has released a new video claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted last month, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all of its prisoners held by Nigeria were freed.”

The BBC reports, “Boko Haram’s trademark was originally the use of gunmen on motorbikes, killing police, politicians and anyone who criticises it, including clerics from other Muslim traditions and Christian preachers.”

What of Nigerian Sources?

Ignatius Kaigama is the Archbiship of Jos, Nigeria. Jos is a city in the center of Nigeria that has suffered these terrorist attacks. He has said that it means, “Western educations is sinful”. This meaning is also given by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, a young Nigerian writer who has been published in the New York Times. She said in a different article for CNN that “…yet records its threats with hi-tech video equipment and employs advanced ammunition to destroy;”.

When the discussion about “true meaning” settles down and we realize that a literal definition can be difficult to translate and that meaning is what we are after, I don’t think that there is any doubt that this group has been assigned a name that is anti-Western, anti-Western religions, anti-Christian and anti-anything that is non-Muslim. That includes Hollywood and it’s reliance on an adolesent preoccupation with sex, nudity, fun, and rather contradictory – violence. Movies and television are a sophisticated technical achievement imported into Africa from the technically advanced West being used world-wide and as Western Christians are saying, promoting dubious moral values.

I suspect that what attracts the NYT or CNN to writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is her position on Islam reflected in this sentance, “…its (Boko Haram) conduct is as Islamic as that of the street preacher who kidnapped and raped Elizabeth Smart was Christian”.

Now We Have The Core Issue – What Exactly is Christian or Islamic Behavior?

What should concern Americans as well as the obvious just plain human tragedy of this kind of person-on-person violence, is how our government and media intends to face this not uncommon activity that has taken place here and around the world. We are flooded with headlines, stories and videos about this groups more recent activities focusing on the ranting of its’ leader and the violence of it’s conquests, declaring the non-religious validity of the motives behind this kind of warring is also just accepted without comment or analysis.

In closing arguments of the Elizabeth Smart case mentioned above, the prosecution said, “The defendant’s professed beliefs are highly consistent with fundamental extremists on what we might call the Mormon fringe — the belief that polygamy needs to be restored,…”.

To call Brian David Mitchell, the defendant in the Smart case, not a Christian adherent would be very accurate in my view, but, he claimed to be following Mormon theology as stated in his police interview. His kidnap and rape of Elisabeth though was based not upon a tenant of Mormon theology but a personal belief that she came into his custody “by the power of God”, even though the actual joining was involuntary on her part as she said and physically accomplished by him alone. He claims a gift direct to him from the one God or one Allah which is devoid of any particular religious affiliation. No theological argument can be offered to support the truth of his claim because it was a personal claim of a personal deed done by God and not mandated by any stretch of the theological mind. Even the Book of Mormon predates his birth. Further evidence was his excommunication “for activity promoting bizarre teachings….” before it was even known by the church that he had done a kidnapping. There might be disagreement among Mormons about the validity of polygamy in scripture but this was not a case arguing polygamy. It argued the validity of kidnapping and rape by one man – a false self-described servant of God.

So is Boko Haram just Brian David Mitchell reading Arabic?

I once asked a local imam why then do terrorists say that they are acting for Allah? He answered, “Because they are interpreting the Quran incorrectly”. There is an understanding here that differences in “street behavior” is a result of differences in interpretation of the dictated writings of Mohammad and later stories about him called Hadith.

Boko Haram claims to be acting in Allah’s interest and claims a theological basis, as do the other terrorist groups we see in the news and have had to deal with since the 9.11 tragedy. In contrast to Mitchell, they are not claiming a special deed done by Allah for their benefit. They clearly claim to be acting according to their understanding of Islamic beliefs.

What is it that causes people to discount this religious motive or insist that it is an incorrect one in this case and others usually without some analysis or at the lest a hint of a reason. One would expect scholars and imams to offer argument for a conclusion but governments can only pick a favored side for some self serving purpose. Is legitimacy of interpretation a matter of which group is the most populous, or more peaceful, or the most powerful and influential? Is not interpretation of Quranic writing a matter for Quranic scholars? I was told once by a Muslim student that I would understand the correct meaning if I read the Quran in Arabic and read it correctly! More of an argument for slavishly accepting temporal authority without question.

How Our Government Views It.

Boko Haram’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” according to the BBC.

In a recent Senate hearing we get a closer look at our State Department’s view of what they are.

Senator Marco Rubio quoting a statement by from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau:

This is what I know in Quran. This is a war against Christians and democracy and their constitution. Allah says we should finish them when we get them.

Then Rubio asks:

I don’t think there’s any doubt about what’s motivating them, one of their leading motivators here is this is not simply — and there’s no doubt that this is a part of it, but this is not just about girls going to school and it’s not just about raising money. There is a strong anti-Christian element of this organization and of this activity. Am I right in saying that?

Testifying and representing the Executive branch of our government is Robert P. Jackson Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs:

Senator, there is a strong anti-Christian element, but I would offer that more of the thousands of people who have died as a result of Boko Haram’s activities are Muslim than Christian.

Senator Rubio:

I am not claiming that this is somehow driven by legitimate teachings of Islam. What I’m arguing is that there is a strong anti-Christian element to this and that it is part of a broader anti-Christian persecution that we are seeing repeatedly throughout the world. Would you disagree with that statement?

Robert P. Jackson:

I do not disagree, but I continue to want to emphasize that Boko Haram terrorizes all people.


Senator, I respectfully suggest while anti-Christian sentiment is a strong motivator, the fact of the matter is that Boko Haram is trying to portray its philosophy as being a Muslim philosophy, and that’s just not accurate.

So it Seems That Our Government is Now Deciding the Truths of Islam!

When we note the claim that the kidnapped children had accepted Islam, it seems that Mr. Jackson has failed to understand that “all people” does not appear to include those that agree with the groups religious views, especially regarding war against infidels. Senator Rubio seems to be overly fixated on trying to pin the unpinnable and slides right by this global question of true belief. The State Department responds automatically without fear of questioning with what has become common a knee-jerk reaction to a legitimate question. Why is not the violent activity of an increasing number of Islamic followers and governments in many countries not a legitimate continuation of the death and violence that Mohammad pursued as a military leader during his life, claiming to only be following what God has commanded?

Our government has in the past declared it’s position when dealing with the governments of Iran or Pakistan or Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan when actual or potential violence comes through them. Do we now have an insight into it’s thinking process and should understand that it considers the question of the legitimacy of others beliefs when debating what the reaction should be to their actions?

It seems just as our government has decided to become the dictator of Christian morality and force what Christians must do regarding contraception and abortifacients via an unnecessary free handout called the HHS mandate, it has decided to become the dictator of Islamic beliefs instead of staying out of theology and continuing it’s rightful role as the protector of life and liberty. It has decided to now also try and control what Muslims think.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

H.L. Duncan is a senior citizen widower in his 8th decade of life (70s) who was married for 36 years to his only wife Jill. He lives on 40 acres of the Great Basin Desert in an owner built solar powered home. He has three children who have left the nest and are now too far away. After an Episcopalian childhood, his teen years brought on the disease of agnosticism with occasional bouts of atheism. He entered the Church in 2010 and says he has felt at home ever since. His working life included Forest Fire Truck Driver, Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa building schools, Motion Picture Cameraman in industrial films and while in the U.S. Army, production assistant to a Producer in Hollywood, Professional Still Photographer, Photo Lab Technician, Postal Service Letter Carrier, Computer Systems Analyst in business and government, Computer Consulting, Owner of an Internet business, Web site creation. His educational background is mostly self directed reading and experiential but does include; A graduate of the London School of Film Technique, London, England, AA degree in Business Data Processing with an additional course in accounting, Seminars and technical classes. He now spends his days in local parish church work and Right to Life groups, Internet conversations with new friends and old enemies of the Church.

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