Boko Haram: Defeating The Ideology, By Mahmud Abdullahi
When President Muhammadu Buhari declared December 31, 2015, as the deadline for the final defeat of the terrorist group Boko Haram, some wondered if the deadline was ever feasible, or, if it is at all possible to defeat Boko Haram. In these past months however, the Nigerian Military has recorded some significant progress in this war, although it is still safe to say we have not seen the last of the terrorists.
In warfare nothing is written in black and white as situations and dynamics are perpetually changing. However, dealing with groups such as Boko Haram is particularly problematic and that has little to do with the battlefield. Modern warfare is based on rational calculations and material objectives. Boko Haram, on the other hand, is a conflation of extreme emotions and little knowledge. As a group, Boko Haram are not motivated by victory or demoralized by defeat per se. Rather, they are driven by a self-contradicting conceptualisation of Islam, and as such they may not necessarily be “defeated” on the battlefield, because that is not where the conflict is in the first place. The real conflict is in their own ideology – the inconsistency of their philosophy, their absolute reliance on fear, and their shallow, literal and disjointed interpretation of the Sharia.
Essentially, Boko Haram purportedly aims to establish a state that is guided by Orthodox Islamic law by absorbing or eliminating the “disbelievers” – anyone, anywhere, who has a contrary opinion. As far as defeating the enemy goes, all is acceptable, and whatever or whoever is destroyed in the process of destroying the “disbeliever”, is a fair game. In other words, they will stop at nothing until they establish God’s kingdom on Earth.
At a glance, this ideology may appear to be compact and logical, if crude and barbaric. But on closer scrutiny, it will be discovered that it is the height of illogical thinking and an embodiment of contradiction. Firstly, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups of their ilk, break up from the mainstream Sunni Islam because they believe the latter’s reliance on the propagation of Islam through da’awah (proselytising) is a weak, slow and hypocritical approach. So they resort to “jihad” in order to establish the Daulah (Caliphate) here and now. The question is, how soon can they convert, subjugate or eliminate all the “disbelievers” and establish God’s kingdom? How many years will it take them to “reconstruct” the Caliphate? Similarly, do they ever ask themselves if they were bombed and slaughtered before they accepted this ideology themselves?
Indeed, the fact that Boko Haram is relying on fear as a means of getting attention means their message is not convincing enough; and Islam in its pure form is naturally convincing. Ask Malcolm X or Arnoud van Doorn, the Dutch parliamentarian who converted to Islam while researching for an anti-Islam motion in the Netherlands. The crux of the Boko Haram message, “join us or die” has never been a guiding philosophy of statecraft in Islam. The Daulah which they pretend to revive was not built on absolute fear, but rather, like all other great states throughout history, it was an outcome of years of application of first class political skills, negotiation, diplomacy, respect for diversity, co-operation and conflict (only when necessary).
A classic case in point is the development of the Constitution of Madina (Mithaq al- Madina) which laid the foundation of a plural Islamic Caliphate that thrived for a better part of a thousand years. Or the Opening of Makkah (Fathu Makkah) which sealed the position of Makkah as the spiritual nerve centre of the Islamic world without a battle. That Boko Haram plans to reconstruct this great legacy through sheer brutality is the greatest indicator of their shallow understanding of what the Caliphate was in particular, and the essence of Islam in general.
The reality is that the group’s reliance on fear and violence stems from the superficiality of their message. They are emotional and nostalgic about a past they hardly understand. Therefore, rather than calling on to the Right Path, they just maim and kill without any religious or spiritual message for others. Every time they strike a random soft target, their message is clear: “We are upright and you are sinners that deserve to die”. But then, how does one become a (good) Muslim? Well, they don’t care if we know. Rather, they are more concerned with unleashing pure unbridled violence supposedly aimed at building an Islamic state even if there is little Islamic knowledge.
Therefore, it is pertinent for Islamic scholars to openly and critically expose Boko Haram for what they are. If the cold-blooded murders of Sheikhs Jafar Adam and Mohammad Auwal Albany have taught us anything, it is how they (Boko Haram) cannot stand an intellectual battle, and that is why it is the duty of other scholars to pick up where these two martyrs stopped, and hit the terrorists where they are weakest: calling unto the path of Allah with wisdom and glad tidings.
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