Hundreds (?) of mostly Christian (?) girls are kidnapped in Nigeria by an organization that the U.S. State Department didn’t classify as a terrorist organization. The group threatens to sell the girls into slavery. A new low in American foreign policy is reached when the wife of the president of the U.S. poses with a placard calling for the terrorists to “bring back our girls.” The previous question marks are used because this is a developing story, and despite this being “the information age,” sometimes good information is hard to come by.
In a post at the Middle East Forum, Mark Durie delves into more detail than most Americans are probably getting through the old media, and he addresses an aspect of this news story that needs to be heard by more people:
It is a common refrain of pious Muslims in the face of atrocities done by other Muslims in the name of Islam that Islam must not be shamed. Whenever an Islamic atrocity potentially dishonors Islam, non-Muslims are asked to agree that ‘This is not Islamic’ so that the honor of Islam can be kept pristine. The real issue, however, is not what would be good or bad for Islam’s reputation; Islam is not the victim here. The pressing issue is not to get people to think well of Islam, but how, for instance, in the case of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls, the girls can be rescued and, above all, how Boko Haram’s murderous rampage can be halted.
Qasim Rashid, an American Muslim, recently published on FoxNews.com a heart-felt expression of deep distress at the kidnapping of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram (‘What would Muhammad say to Boko Haram‘). He declared that Muhammad himself would not recognize this group as acting in line with his teachings:
Boko Haram’s claim that Islam motivates their kidnappings is no different than Adolf Hitler’s claim that Christianity motivated his genocide. This terrorist organization acts in direct violation of every Islamic teaching regarding women.
Qasim Rashid is not the only Muslim who has been speaking out in support of the kidnapped girls, while denying that their plight has anything to do with Islam (see here).
Qasim Rashid is a member of the Ahmaddiyah community, which is regarded as unorthodox by most Muslims. Indeed Ahmaddiyahs are often severely persecuted for their beliefs in Islamic nations. Although Qasim Rashid does not speak for mainstream Islam, he is nevertheless to be commended for speaking up against Boko Haram’s repugnant acts.
But does the claim that Boko Haram is not Islamic hold up to scrutiny?
What counts as a valid manifestation of Islam? Ahmaddiyah beliefs can be considered Islamic, for those who hold them do so on the basis of a reasoned interpretation of Islamic canonical sources, even if the majority of Muslims reject them as Muslims. By the same token, the beliefs of Boko Haram must also be considered a form of Islam, for they too are held on the basis of a reasoned interpretation of Islamic canonical sources.
It needs to be acknowledged that Boko Haram has not arisen in a vacuum. As Andrew Bostom has pointed out, violent opposition to non-Islamic culture has been a feature of Nigerian Islam for centuries. Today this hatred is being directed against Western education and secular government, but in the past it was indigenous Africa cultures which were targeted for brutal treatment, including enslavement and slaughter. The modern revival of absolutist Sharia-compliant Islam in the north of Nigeria is a process which has deep roots in history. It has also been in progress for decades. Khalid Yasin, an African American convert to Islam and globe-trotting preacher, waxed lyrical about the advance of Sharia law in Nigeria on Australian national radio in 2003:
“If we look at the evolution of the Sharia experiment in Nigeria for instance. It’s just a wonderful, phenomenal experience. It has brought about some sweeping changes, balances, within the society, regulations in terms of moral practices and so many things. …What did the Sharia provide? Always dignity, protection, and the religious rights?”
Read more: Middle East Forum
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