The translation of “Boko Haram” is “Western Education is sinful” or “forbidden, taboo”. An interesting side note is that this word “Haram” is also the root of “harem”—that place where it was taboo for anyone to go except the man of the house. Now Boko Haram is making a name for itself creating harems for its fighters. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, has indicated that the 219 schoolgirls who were stolen in Nigeria have now converted to Islam, memorized two chapters of the Koran and been married off. He also indicated that he is not negotiating a cease fire with the Nigerian government because “God said we should not.”
So Shekau claims to have a direct line to God. It would be valuable to poll different parts of the world, or even focus on our own country to find out what people think of this statement. Should we turn to Boko Haram for all future decision making? I mean this is God we’re talking about. Or is this the reason Richard Dawkins wrote the book The God Delusion, a form of mental illness so powerful it can move armies and ruin not just the lives of individuals, but of entire provinces, or even nations. It’s one or the other.
There can be little doubt about what it means to be married off. Others might call it “forced into sexual slavery” and many of these poor girls must by now be carrying children of Boko Haram members in a breeding program to produce future fighters and wives, loyal to the cause.
If you had Mr. Shekau alone in a room without his guns, could you ever convince him that what he was doing was wrong? Or convince any of his followers? Do they in fact believe they are in touch with God? Or are they simply thugs, bent on taking whatever they want and using Islam as a cover? Or does it even matter which? Isn’t the point that they are still out there, doing whatever they want with impunity. No one seems to know where they are headquartered, where the girls are, where they get their supplies and ammunition. One of the most arresting points about this whole sorry story is that there seems to be nothing our technologically-focused militaries can do to root these people out, unless it’s a case of not wanting to harm the innocent. We look helpless in the face of these killers. Or is it that Nigeria doesn’t want us involved? So many unknowns.
We’re at a major crossroads in world history. One of these two propositions is wrong, and wrong for all people, not culturally, not relatively, but absolutely wrong.
1) women and men have equal civil rights
2) men are superior to women, and women must do what their husbands and fathers and religious leaders tell them
If no. 1 is correct we have to figure out how to convey that to the part of the world that doesnt accept it. That’s the road to peace for half the world’s population. But if no. 2 is correct, then women were made for men to take at will, useful only for breeding up new warriors, there to be herded together and sold off. Boko Haram are cattle rustlers, and the cattle are women. Sadly, with proof from a viral video, we know that walking down the street of any major city in the US can make a woman feel like they’re living in a hell that resembles northwestern Nigeria.