Photo: AFP through BBC
By Jean H Charles
It will be soon one month since a group of radical Muslim militants abducted a group of 300 young Nigerian girls (53 of them have succeeded to escape) demanding the government of Nigeria to release of some of their members for liberating the girls. Failure to do so and the girls will be sold as slaves. In a very rare show of unity, African leaders have come together to build an international crusade that will crush Boko Haram and its grip on Nigeria and on some countries of the African Continent.
I remember in 2001, when a millennium-old shrine dedicated to the Buddhas of Bamiyan built around 595 AD was destroyed in Afghanistan by the Taliban government with strong attachment to Al-Qaida. The destruction of this World Heritage site was done without sanction by the world’s community. Al-Qaida had converged like cannon to strike the World Trade Center on 9/11, causing some 3,000 deaths in downtown Manhattan.
The world has changed since then; it has lost its innocence. The cost of security for the average traveller by air is almost equal to the cost of the travel. Billions have been spent in Iraq and in Afghanistan to contain Al-Qaida, almost to no avail.
Boko Haram the new gangrene
It is expected to cause harmful and irreparable damage to the world when it is metastasizes in a continent ripe with corruption, misery and ill governance. On 22 May 2014, the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee approved the addition of Boko Haram to its list of individuals and entities subject to financial sanctions and arms embargo as a terrorist organization.
The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has so far demonstrated poor leadership in dealing with the terrorist organization. His plan of war against a group that declared jihad against its established government is at best hollow and shallow.
Created in 2002 by Mohamed Yusuf, Boko Haram demands the strict application of Sharia law. It strikes not only Muslims but also Christians with the same viciousness. Western education, in particular the education of women, is seen as a mortal sin that must be confronted with the most lethal weapons.
Yusuf was killed in an attack by the Nigerian army in 2002. His successor Abubakar Shekan has demonstrated a complete disdain for human life. His ranting on live TV: “I love to kill anyone God ask me to kill like chickens,” demonstrated a mind filled with psychotic dementia.
Extreme religious intolerance in the past
It has been with the world since the beginning of times. Suffice it to start around 34 AD with the record of Saul converted into Paul. He was on his way to Damascus to spread Jewish religious intolerance against the new Christians, when he was stricken by God with the question why do you want to insist in persecuting my followers?
The Roman emperors, with Nero the cruelest one, refined their persecution of Christians, killing them with a sinister refinement that included crucifying Peter, the rock upon whom Christendom was built, upside down, to differentiate from the way Christ was crucified.
The Emperor Constantine, with the edict of Milan in 313, stopped the persecution of Christians and facilitated the spread and the hegemony of the Christian faith throughout the world. On the back of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church became arrogant and despotic.
Religious intolerance led to the 30-years war in Europe from 1618 to 1648 that caused the killing of half the male population in Germany. It was again religious intolerance that led the pilgrims to leave the British Isles to land in Massachusetts. The pilgrims’ legacy was imprinted on the United States, where the American Constitution is a shrine to “the free exercise of religion”, with America the best model of diversity and the protection of religious rights.
There were some dark moments of religious intolerance though in the United States, such as the prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Second World War for their refusal to support the war and salute the flag. There was also the internment of Japanese Americans, with religious intolerance against Buddhism and Shinto practice.
Yet America represents today one of the best example of a nation where religious tolerance is enshrined in the mind and the spirit of the people.
Boko Haram, the new despotic organization of religious intolerance on the block, has a better chance of being crushed by a coalition of the willing led by the Muslim countries like Singapore, Turkey and Malaysia that succeeded in creating a nation with a mission of being hospitable to all. The viciousness of the Boko Haram militants is fueled by the state of failed states that are the hallmark of not only Nigeria but the daily situation in most of the African countries.
Making Africa hospitable to its own people, through the support of reasonable leaders bent on making their nation good for their own people will wither away the uncivilized Boko Haram from the face of this earth. It will demand that the Western nations, in particular the United States, cease an international policy of hands off in the matter of nation building. It will demand also that the African countries in general, Nigeria in particular, cease its practice of a fake nation where the resources of the country are mobilized by the leaders and their cronies to the detriment of the needs of the general population.