Boko Haram: Are Northern Nigerians still at Risk?

If someone walked up to you ten years ago and asked ‘who are “Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad?” or in English,”’People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad,’’ I am doubtful you would be able to accurately describe this rising terrorist group, now known as “Boko Haram.”

The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria on the night of April 14, 2014, quickly allowed Boko Haram to become a household name across the world. The high-profile kidnapping caused an outburst of social media reaction, even from our First Lady, who posted an image with the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls.”

Before these kidnappings, Boko Haram was barely known, nor cared about by Americans. What many do not know is that this terror group has actually been around since 2002. The Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad were mostly opinionated Muslims gathering together to share their beliefs. Eventually, the expressed hated of western values became more prominent, which led to attacks on civilians. Once these attacks began, the group changed their name to “Boko Haram” which loosely translates to “western education is forbidden.” At that time, they were mostly controlled by Mohammad Yusuf. After his execution in 2009, it was commonly thought that it was also the death of the terrorist group. However, the following year, new and more sophisticated attacks began. The new leader who was thought to have been executed the year prior, Abubakar Shekau carefully spent his time underground planning new strategies for Boko Haram.

Since 2010, the group has devoted themselves to preaching their interpretation of the Quran, but this quickly turned to hatred of Western values and destruction of any disapproval. The number of members has increased exponentially, as well as the number of attacks. The governments in northern Africa have has no choice but to fight back. These circumstances created by Boko Haram set up a civil war type situation. Boko Haram is fighting for their extreme Islam view, while the government is fighting back to protect what has already been established in society. Boko Haram’s two main goals are to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled with no western influences. In order to accomplish this they implement violence and destruction to anything in its path.
However, Boko Haram’s structure is also similar to that of a gang. They have few, very successful people at the top, and many people to associate themselves with the group. Those who claim that they associate with Boko Haram may not actually be official members, but agree with what the group stands for, and they carry out attacks on their own. Gangs have this similar structure. The most successful remain at the top, while the rest are trying to prove themselves worthy.
This civil war of sorts has accomplished nothing except slaughtering thousands of people, and creating a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states: Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. The goal of Boko Haram is mostly to have their prisoners released and Islamic state to be created. The government has fought back to protect the country, although many innocent victims have been caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, neither side is willing to give up on their goals, so Boko Haram and the Nigerian government will continue to cause hundreds of casualties, for what looks like many years to come.

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