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Jihadists look for material benefits

Muslims and Christians in Africa, United Kingdom, Stefanos Foundation, Nigerian Christians  

Counterterrorism

Jihadists look for material benefits

Such jihadists in groups such as Boko Haram, and sharia agendas more broadly, in Africa or elsewhere stand in stark contrast to Hilsum’s materialist outlook. Jihadists are only willing to embrace material benefits as long as they do not jeopardize faith dictates, which in turn place their own limitations on progress, such as women’s education. Like other believers, jihadists do not live by bread alone.

Relations between “Muslims and Christians in Africa on the whole, it’s been absolutely fine…for many, many years,” unrealistically stated Channel 4 international editor Lindsey Hilsum in an April 16 podcast. Focusing on recent jihadist attacks in Mozambique, she suggested that such violence throughout Africa resulted largely from socioeconomic deprivation, but Nigerian Christians, with centuries-long experience with jihad, long ago refuted such hackneyed arguments.

The United Kingdom’s Channel 4 introduced Hilsum as someone who “explains how attacks like these are on the rise across the African continent; a consequence of poverty, domestic grievances new and old.” While she noted that in modern times “stricter forms of Islam from Saudi Arabia have gone everywhere” in Africa and the Middle East, she focused on “Muslim youth, who felt marginalized.” “A new ideology is laid on top of it, but it all comes down to the same thing, people are poor,” therefore the “only way you deal with an insurgency like this is if people have prospects, if there is development” and a “way out of poverty.”

By contrast, Hilsum should consider Religious Intolerance: A Threat to Nigeria’s Unity, a book published by the Stefanos Foundation, a Nigerian Christian aid association, in 2009, the year that Boko Haram emerged as a jihadist group. This book examines the oppression and violence Christians suffered in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria in the context of state governments applying sharia law. Beginning with Zamfara in 1999 (which as of 2017 had Nigeria’s highest poverty rate), 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states have enacted sharia in a country divided between a Muslim-majority north and Christian-majority south.

“Islam is not only a religion; rather it is a complete totalitarian system of life,” appears starkly in the book’s text. Thus, sharia manifests that jihadists have a “universal supremacist ideology” and “demand conquest…by conversion, domination or death” in an “IMPERIALISTIC WAR FOR OUR MINDS AND SOULS.” “All other systems and governments must be supplanted,” as jihadists “project perfection when it is a Muslim leading or ruling.”

The anonymous book authors wrote of a “palpable threat to supplant our system,” for the “Nigerian Constitution, in unambiguous terms, guarantees freedom of religion” and prohibits the “adoption of any religion as a state religion.” Given jihad’s history, including Usman Dan Fodio’s 1812 establishment of a caliphate with its capital in what is now Nigeria’s Sokoto state, the authors considered themselves “constantly confronted by history.” They noted that once Christian Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey now all have Muslim majorities, while Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan likewise have lost their Buddhist, Hindu, and Zoroastrian cultures.

The book documented how precisely Christians suffered as “second class citizens” under sharia in states such as Zamfara because of discrimination in areas including education, employment, and religious freedom. In Bauchi, for example, Muslims “openly quote and criticize the Bible with impunity but when Christians make any reference to Islam or the Qur’an, the Muslims chant their war cry ‘Allahu Akbar’” before attacking. Accordingly, Muslims

go into every part of the state to preach unhindered and unmolested. Christians, however, on many occasions face stiff resistance, molestation, threats to life and physical attacks on their persons by Muslims while trying to propagate their religion through preaching.

Long before Boko Haram atrocities seized world attention, fear gripped northern Nigerian Christians, the authors noted. “Islamic fundamentalists in Yobe need no sign of provocation before unleashing terror on their victims and that they are very skillful in inciting crisis.” Here Christians lamented that “while Christians in other parts of Nigeria sleep with their eyes closed, the Christians in Yobe State sleep with one eye open.”

The authors warned that often peaceful-appearing Muslims “have no or little love for non-Islamic religions.” The authors gave an ominous premonition of how some Muslims would betray their longstanding Christian neighbors to jihadist ravages when the Islamic State invaded Mesopotamia in 2014: .

Each time when Christians are attacked, their reaction has always been an expression of surprise on the ground that persons they know, eat together and live together with would all of a sudden attack them. This position is based on some Christians’ ignorance of the practices of Islam.

Subsequent to the Stefanos Foundation publication appeared the undated, post-2009 booklet Boko-Haram: Inciting Messages of Intolerance against Christians. This contained English translations of speeches and interviews given by Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau and its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, killed by Nigerian police in 2009. Video and audio recordings of these statements by Boko Haram leaders came in an accompanying video CD.

Shekau left no doubt about his bloody cause. For Boko Haram jihadists, “our creator has commanded us to war against any person that refuse to accept or acknowledge ISLAM after we have invited him to the faith.” Boko Haram’s fight “is not an ethnic war, it is not ignorant war, it is not a war for money, it is not a war for any other reason. No, it is a religious war!”

Contrary to Hilsum’s Western progress ideals, Yusuf proclaimed that “what is of the West and the white man brought is ungodly and we’re not interested in it.” “It is democracy that we are against,” he added, the “democracy that came from the west.” Similarly “it is paganism, the football that is played is corruption to the good morals of our children.”

Yusuf indicated the origins of Boko Haram’s name (“Western education is sin”), as “western education is cooked with hidden issues that contravene the doctrine and teaching of Islam.” The theory of condensation, for example, contradicts predominant Islamic doctrines about a God unbounded by fixed scientific laws, such that natural events such as rainfall occur anew merely through God’s will. Yusuf also rejected coeducation.

Yusuf delineated the ideal Boko Haram member. “If anyone wants to be part of this movement he must have a thorough knowledge of the Quran, must pray in the night and fast fervently, must repent and stop blasphemy.” Contrastingly, “it is unheard-of that a Muslim should die for either ethnicity or patriotism.”

Such jihadists in groups such as Boko Haram, and sharia agendas more broadly, in Africa or elsewhere stand in stark contrast to Hilsum’s materialist outlook. Jihadists are only willing to embrace material benefits as long as they do not jeopardize faith dictates, which in turn place their own limitations on progress, such as women’s education. Like other believers, jihadists do not live by bread alone.

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Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School.

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