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According to the standard narrative, the explosion of Islamic extremism in Northern Nigeria is fueled by “Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and lack of economic opportunities for aimless young men who roam the streets of northern Nigerian cities at will,” and by an unresponsive, corrupt and weak central government. Boko Haram is, therefore, seen as a by-product, if not a product of poor governance, a venal political elite, and unequal development which has resulted frustration and anger in Northern Nigeria. According to this narrative, the solution to this problem is a fairly straightforward, albeit difficult one: Fix the failed state, rein in the corrupt oligarchy that rides roughshod over (Northern) Nigeria, jump-start the economy and create jobs, and Nigeria will back on the rails, and Islamic extremism will become a thing of the past, or merely a nuisance to national security and cohesion While this narrative paints a fairly accurate picture of the situation, it does not tell the complete story, and leaves out a critical element in understanding and addressing Islamic extremism in Nigeria. That will is what I will be talking about in this presentation.
Without doubt, socio-political and economic factors largely explain the emergence of Boko Haram. However, I argue that there is an insidious and generally downplayed element behind the militant Islamic in Nigeria of which Boko Haram is the drum major, i.e., the decades-long trickle of radical Islamic ideology into Nigeria, generated by factors internal to Islam, and by an increasingly hostile posture towards the secular nature of the Nigerian state. This has given birth to an uncompromising and violent strand of Islam. Thus, Boko haram did not emerge from a vacuum but was born and operates in an environment which has facilitated, in fact served as a catalyst, to the rise and entrenchment of Militant Islam in Northern Nigeria. Thus, while Boko Haram may be the most visible and most violent Islamic Fundamentalist group in Nigeria, and the greatest threat to national cohesion and stability, it is merely the tip of the radical Islamist iceberg. To best understand this phenomenon, it is necessary to take a step backwards to revisit the main ideological strands in Islam which have played a fundamental role in shaping the Islamic discourse in present-day Nigeria.
There are two main ideological strands or movements in Islam, Sufism and Salafism Salafism is “Associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islamic theology.” “ Salafis aim to eradicate the impurities introduced [into Islam] during centuries of religious practice. Interpretations not based on the original sources of the religion are viewed as distortions that lead Muslims to stray from the path of God.” Salafism has given birth to some of the most extremist and violent Islamist groups in the world today (radical, intransigent, violent, anti-West, anti-establishment Sufism represents a moderate, tolerant, adaptable ideology which “encompasses a rich array of traditions, practices, and beliefs that form a distinct stream of thought and actions within Sunni Islam.” It is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. It is very popular among Sub-Saharan Muslims since the 17th Century, because it “ incorporates indigenous African forms of worship, prayer, song and dance as vehicles to evoke a higher spiritual and mystical experience with Allah.” Salafism is highly critical of Sufi beliefs and practices which it considers heretical. Sufism is the dominant ideology in Nigeria as in most of West Africa. It is represented by mainly by two brotherhoods—the Qadariyya and Tijaniyya. Both brotherhoods practice a largely syncretic version of Sufism which has been adapted to the local environment, and draws extensively from local traditions and superstitions, for example using amulets, practicing divination. Rise of fundamentalist groups in Nigeria in the last 30 years has largely been a reaction to sufism.
Three major phases of Islamic radicalization can be identified in Nigeria, beginning in the 1970s, although the appearance of radical Wahhabi ideology can be traced back to the 1960s. It should be pointed out that these phases are not always clear-cut or linear and that there is significant overlapping as some events and actors straddle more than one or even all the phases.
The Sharia debate During debates leading to the Constituent Assembly of Nigeria’s 2 nd republic, radical Islamic groups argued that Muslims could only be subjected to Islamic law and not to the “pagan” or foreign laws of the republic. Other Muslim leaders called for the creation of a Federal Sharia Court of Appeal In the end, the secularists won the day and there were no provisions in the new constitution for a Federal Sharia Court of Appeal. The Sharia debate took place at a time when Nigeria was under military rule, and radical Islamist groups which defended the “Muslim Only” view during the debate were able to attract many adherents and quickly established themselves as the only viable space for Muslim unity and discourse and as an alternative to the military. This was the case of the Izala movement or the Muslim Students Society (MSS) both of which we will discuss in greater detail later. Equally significant is the fact that the Sharia discourse polarized the country, heightened Muslim identity, and paved the way for more radical Islamic groups determined to challenge the secular nature of the state. The Maitatsine Movement and Religious Conflicts in Northern Nigeria The Maitatsine sect was founded by Al Hadji Mohammed Marwa (also known as &quot;Maitatsine) an Islamic scholar from the Northern Cameroon who had been a torn in the flesh of authorities since the 1950s. The name Maitatsine was derived from a phrase that Marwa usually uttered in his fiery preaching: “Wanda ba ta yarda ba Allah tatsine,” meaning roughly, “May God curse whoever doesn't agree with me.” The Maitatsine sect is generally considered the precursor to Boko Haram because of its literal interpretation of Koran, it anti-establishment and anti-Western philosophy, and its penchant for violence. The Yan Tatsine believed that Islam had been corrupted by modernization (Westernization) and the formation of the modern state. He was opposed to most aspects of modernization and to all Western influence. He decried such technological commonplace as radios, wrist watches, automobiles, motorcycles, and even bicycles. Those who use these things or who read books other than the Qur’an were viewed as hell-bound ‘pagans’.” In December 1980, the Maitatsine Riots spread through Kano, Kaduna and Maidugari after the police tried to control the group’s activities. When it all ended, 4,177 people had been killed.
Iranian Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini successful Islamic revolution led to an Islamist in Northern Nigeria as many Muslims sought to replicate the revolution against the secular state in Nigeria and began embracing more fundamentalist Islamic ideas similar to those espoused by the Mullahs in Iran. The Muslim Brothers and Zakzaky At the forefront of this fundamentalist awakening were the Muslim Brothers, a pro-Iranian radical group led by Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky, who as “Secretary General of the ABU Branch of MSS in 1978, was one of those who championed the nation-wide demonstration in support of the inclusion of Sharia in the Nigeria constitution.” Fired by the success of the Iranian people, many joined his group in his struggle for an Islamic state in Nigeria to be constructed on the ashes of the existing Sectarian and communal violence The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a dramatic escalation of sectarian violence in Nigeria, triggered primarily by the age-old debate about the role of Islam and Islamic law in national life a debate that was exacerbated by events such as Nigeria’s controversial entry to the Organization of Islamic States which dismayed secularists and reinforced Islamists in their argument that Nigeria should be and Islamic state. This escalation witnessed an continuation of the Maitatsine armed insurgency with deadly riots in Kaduna (1982), Bulum-Ketu near Maiduguri (1982), Jimeta near Yola (1984) and Gombe (1985).
With the end of military rule and a weakened central government, Northerners decided to finally end the Sharia debate which had been going on since independence and which had previously reached its apex in the constitutional debates leading up to the constitution of the 2 nd Republic. The battle for Sharia was waged by a motely collection of politicians fighting local control, religious leaders trying to stay relevant, Islamist groups hoping for and Islamic state and citizens who believed that Islamic law would resolve the failings of the Nigerian state. The ball was set rolling on 27 October 1999, when Alhadji Ahmed Sani, the governor of Zamfara announced that the state would henceforth be governed by Sharia. 11 other Northern states soon followed suit. This is not the place to go into great detail about the structure, reach and key actors in the Sharia debate. However, from the perspective of this discussion, it is worth noting that Sharia led to the birth of even more radical groups “in response to (and in support of) the installation of Sharia law” – some of these groups became increasingly violent and turned against the state when Sharia failed to live up to expectations. The most prominent of these was Boko Haram.
When Boko Haram first appeared on the national scene around 2000, it was commonly referred to as the &quot;Nigerian Taliban&quot; due to its anti-Western ideology, its support for the strictest form of Sharia, and its willingness to use violence to achieve its goals. In 2000, the sect metamorphosed into the Al Sunna Wal Jamma (Followers of the Prophet ), seeking to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. According to one report, its members at the time “ predominantly Maiduguri university students from the northeastern part of Nigeria. In December 2003 its members took up arms in response to an attempt by the governor of Yobe to disband the group. About 18 people died in the ensuing violence. Mention should be made of a Boko Haram Splinter group called “Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan ,” meaning “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa,” which appeared on the scene in January 2012. Very little is known about the group apart from the fact that goal to restore dignity and sanity to “the lost dignity of Muslims in black Africa” and to bring back the dignity of Islam in Nigeria and the Sokoto Caliphate, founded by Othman Dan Fodio in 1804. Its motto is “Jihad Fi Sabilillah,” meaning it is fighting and sacrificing for Allah’s cause.
Jama’atul Izalatul Bid’ah Wa’ikhamatul Sunnah (or Izala for short)— is the largest and most influential Wahhabi group in Nigeria and its name means the “society for the removal of innovation and reinstatement of tradition.” It is an anti-Sufi movement created to fight against the bid’a or innovation practiced by the Qadiriyya and the Tijaniyya brotherhoods which it considers non Islamic. These include practices such as naming ceremonies, celebrating the birthday of the Prophet or visiting tombs of Saints The group first emerged in the 1960s as an informal scholastic movement promoted by Sheikh Abubakar Gummi who became its spiritual leader. It was only in 1978 that Izala was transformed into a formal movement was formally under the leadership of Sheikh Ismaila Idris a student an protégé of Sheik Gummi who still loomed large over the organization and was its de facto leader. The Izalas do not regard the creation of an Islamic state as a primary concern and are mainly concerned with returning to Islamic faith as described in the Koran. Their conflict is therefore primarily against other Muslims, although this has invariably resulted in numerous violent clashes with the state. During the 1970s and 1980s Izala was the catalyst that began the systematic drift from traditional Nigerian Islam of the Brotherhoods to the externally-inspired fundamentalist brand of Islam. In the vein, the Izala served as a springboard for the introduction and spread of Saudi-funded Wahhabis ideology in Nigeria. By the early 2000s, it was observed that there were local flavors to radicalization in Northern Nigeria and these can sometimes be complex to untangle. Abiodun Alao
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria is led by Mallam Yahaya El Zakzaky, whose brand of fundamentalist radical Islam is modeled after the Iranian revolution. Its goal it to create an Islamic Republic in Nigeria. To this end the IMN has systematically attacks national and local political and religious authorities in Nigeria who are either beholden to the modern secular state or practice a deviant form of Islam. Violence and confrontation with the state Throughout the 1990s, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and its breakaway faction, the Movement for the Islamic Revival [MIR], used violence to promote their Islamist agenda. Some their notable acts of violence include: Beheading Gideon Alakuta, an Igbo trader accused of desecrating the Koran in Kano in December 1994 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/beheading-stirs-nigerian-tension-1596448.html The Islamic Movement of Nigeria is the first major Islamist group in Nigeria which celebrates the concept of martyrdom: The movement celebrates an annual Martyr’s Day during which the movement’s martyrs are honored in huge public events. The most recent Martyr’s Day was celebrated on June 16, 2012. In 1992, the movement established the Shuhada Foundation to take care of the families and dependents of those persecuted and martyred for their faith. Breakaway faction Dismayed by the IMN’s increasingly Shiite leanings, a faction led by Abubakar Mujahid, who broke away from Zakzaky to establish the Ja’amatu Tajidmul Islamia, the movement of Islamic Revival in 1990. Both groups are what are commonly refer to as the Muslim Brothers.
Like the Maitatsine, the Kala Kato believe that Islamic jurisprudence can be derived on from the Holy Qur’an and reject the sayings and actions of the Prophet Mohammed considered by many other mainstream Islamic movements as legitimate sources of Islamic legislation – this distinguishes it from Boko Haram for example, which believes in Quranic teaching and prophetic sayings. In fact the name Kala Kato is derived from Arabic and Hausa meaning “a mere man [i.e. Muhammad] said it.” Like Boko Haram, it rejects Western education and laws and modernity. http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=49842 Like the Maitatsine, it is a product of the system of traditional Islamic education and its adherents have no formal education in the Western sense and they live in the margins of society even in Northern Nigeria. The first major confrontation between the Kala Kato and security forces occurred in December 2009 in Bauchi which resulted in the death of about 70 persons. The group has been lying low since then but like many other Nigerian radical Islamist groups, it may be simply bidding its time, waiting to emerge at the appropriate time…
Almajiri system consists of traditional Islamic schools where young children are taught to read and memorize the Koran. Although the Almajiri schools have been described as an “alternative educational system” in Nigeria they are schools in name only. Students, some as young as three years old, leave their families in the rural areas to stay with the Mallam who teaches them nothing else but the Koran. The education consists of “learning the Qur`an by heart (Tilawa), memorizing it (Hafizi) and perfecting his ability to write the whole Qur`an devoid of errors on sheets of paper or slate off-hand (Darasi).” The almajiri survive on their own wits; they have to beg to survive and are a common sight across Northern Nigeria It is estimated that there are about 7-10 million almajiris in northern Nigeria. There are widespread fears about the so-called “terrorist potential” of the Almajirai because they are easy prey to Islamist groups. As we saw earlier, the Maitatsine and Kala Kato sects emerged from the Alamajiri school system. In fact, since 1999, Almajirais have played frontline roles in the sectarian violence that has engulfed Northern Nigeria for example, the Sharia riots in Kaduna in 2000 which left about 2000 people dead or the Miss World Pageant riots of 2002 that left over 100 dead. Today, it is widely believed that the Almajirai provide Boko Haram with an unending supply of willing foot soldiers ready to die for Allah.
Since the 1970s, Northern Nigerian universities have been breeding grounds for Islamic extremism. University students have over the years provided intellectual cover or foundation to the different fundamentalist ideologies. At the forefront of this phenomenon has been the Muslim Students’ Society, which was created in 1954 as a counterweight to the perceived negative effects of secular and Christian education on Muslim students – http://nigerianwiki.com/wiki/Muslim_students_society In the 1970 for example, a &quot;hard-core extremist leadership“ inspired by the Iranian revolution, took control of the MSS in Northern universities in Zaria (Ahmadu Bello, Kano (Bayero) and Sokoto (now Usman Dan Fodio). This leadership was at the forefront of the Islam-Only campaign on many Nigerian campuses during the debate about the place and role of Sharia in the 2 nd Republic http://www.giga-hamburg.de/openaccess/afrikaspectrum/2003_3/giga_as_2003_3_gwarzo.pdf This stranglehold continued well into the 1980s In the same vein key actors in the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Nigeria learned the ropes at various university campuses. El Zakzaky, the radical Shiite leader, developed his radical ideology while a student at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Ahmed Yerima, the governor of Zampfara state who was the first to impose Sharia was a major Islamic radical while a student at Bayero university in Kano. Some narratives claim that Boko Haram’s origins can be traced back to 1995 when a certain Abubakar Lawan established the Ahlulsunna wal‟jama‟ah hijra sect at the University of Maduigiri, Borno State, which morphed into Boko Haram when Mohammed Yusuf assumed leadership in 2002. Members of the Al-Sunna Wal Jamma, an early iteration of Boko Haram which took up arms in 2003, were predominantly Maiduguri university students.
A s we have seen throughout this presentation, the role of external forces in the spread of radical Islam, particularly of the Wahhabi and Shiite variety cannot be overstated. Foreign influence is not merely limited to ideological support, but extends to other actions that have facilitated the spread of these fundamentalist ideas. These include: Funding for social programs through charities and NGOs Creation of Micro-financing schemes Building of mosques and schools Scholarships for study abroad Training of new generation of scholars preachers steeped in radical vision of Islam The result has been two-fold: The emergence of a more radical, more confrontational, less tolerant and puritan Islam which is less disposed toward compromise and conciliation, and A penchant for the violent challenge of less radical forms of Islam and the Undermining of secular foundations of the Nigerian state. http://www.securityanddevelopment.org/pdf/ESRC%20Nigeria%20Overview.pdf The Iranian revolution, among other developments in the Islamic world, heightened fundamentalist Islam. Northern Nigeria was affected based on links between these movements and local organizations like those of the El Zak Zacky, and Shiite Movement in Northern Nigeria (Tamuno, 1991, Best, 1999). Essentially, the violent methods employed by fundamentalist Islam in Northern Nigeria were further enhanced following increased contacts with external players.
Economic and political underpinning of the rise of fundamentalist Islam and the ongoing extremist violence in Nigeria cannot be denied. However, there are equally important elements that have led to the spread of fundamentalist Islam in Nigeria beyond Boko Haram Fundamentalist groups have emerged and operate in an environment that has facilitated, and even served as a catalyst for the entrenchments of militant Islam in Northern Nigeria. We ignore this at our peril!
Boko haram rise and spread of fundamentalist islam in nigeria final
Threats to Nigerias Security: Boko Haram and Beyond Washington, DC June 19, 20-12 Beyond Boko Haram:The Rise of Fundamentalist Islam in Nigeria Dibussi Tande
Classic Narrative about Religious Violence and Emergence of Boko Haram• Social inequality, political marginalization, economic neglect the driving force behind the birth & growth of Boko Haram.• Tackle these issues and militant Islamic groups such as Boko Haram will lose their appeal. 2
Boko Haram – An Alternative Narrative “Boko Haram emerges from a tradition of intense and often violent religious fervor among Nigerians” Comfort Ero • Boko Haram a product of an age-old tradition of Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria fuelled by: – Increasingly puritan views about Islam, and – Increasingly intolerant views about the role and place of Islam in a modern secular state • Nigeria would still be an outpost of Islamic fundamentalism even without Boko HaramPhoto source: AP 3
Nigeria Within the Context of Leading Islamic Ideologies• Sufism – A moderate, tolerant, adaptable movement popular among Sub- Saharan Muslims since the 17th century.• Salafism – A radical and intransigent movement with a literalist, strict, and puritanical view of Islam • Sufism vs. Salafism in Nigeria – Sufi dominant group represented by Qadariyya and Tijaniyya brotherhoods – Rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Nigeria largely a reaction to Sufism Picture source: Nigeriamuslims.com 4
Phases of Islamic Radicalization in Nigeria• 1970s – The Sharia debate in the 2nd Republic – The Maitatsine Riots – Increasing Influence of the Wahhabi• 1980s and 1990s – Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution – Continued debates over role of Islam in national life and Nigeria’s place within the Muslim World – An upsurge in sectarian violence• Post-1999 – The 4th Republic and Sharia – Creation of Sharia-inspired extremist groups – Arab Awakening and emergence of Jihadist ideology 5
Phase 1 (1970s) Radicalism on the Rise• 2nd Republic and the Sharia debate – First concerted attempt by Islamic fundamentalists to challenge secular nature of Nigerian state – Effort spear-headed by the Izala movement and the radical fringe of the Muslim Students’ Society (MSS)• The Maitatsine Movement – Obsessed with purifying Islam from Western influences – Considered the Koran as the only source of Islamic jurisprudence – Rejected the Sunna/Hadiths (Sayings, acts or acknowledgments of Prophet Muhammad – In 1980 launched an armed insurrection, the Maitatsine Riots, in Kano that left nearly 4200 dead 6
1980s Rise of Fundamentalist Violence• The Iranian Revolution and Islamic radicalization. – Birth of radical pro-Iranian Shiite group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)• Continued religious polarization & escalation of sectarian violence – Maitatsine riots continue – Controversy over Nigeria’s entry into Organization of Islamic States 7Picture source: Mohbloggs.com
Post 1999 – Fundamentalist Drift Under the 4th Republic• Zamfara State adopts Sharia in October 1999. 11 other Northern States soon follow suit.• More radical Islamist groups emerge to ensure full implementation of Sharia.• Global Jihadist ideology as a source of inspiration 8Picture source: The Guardian
An Overview of Some Radical Islamic Groups in Nigeria “There are local flavors to radicalization in Northern Nigeria and these can sometimes be complex to untangle”• A complex web of radical Islamic groups across Northern Nigeria with a local, regional, and/or national reach• Group evolution and metamorphosis sometimes difficult to follow• Common thread among groups is a fundamentalist view of IslamIsawa Movement Yan IzalaIslam in Africa Organization Islamic Movement of NigeriaHezbollah Movement Nigeria Nigerian TalibanTablib group Al Sunna Wal JammaKala Kato Boko Haram 9
Major Radical Sects – Izala “There are local flavors to radicalization in Northern Nigeria and these can sometimes be complex to untangle”• An anti-Sufi-movement established to fight against the bid’ah (innovation) practiced by the Sufi brotherhoods• Officially known as Jama’atul Izalatul Bid’ah Wa’ikhamatul Sunnah – Name means “society for the removal of innovation and reinstatement of tradition”• Goal to strip Islam of all impurities, of all alien ideas and practices• Receives funding and training from Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia• Involved in anti-Sufi violence in the 1970s and 1980s 10
Major Radical Sects – Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN)• Predominantly Shiite organization dedicating to promoting Islamic revolution in Nigeria similar to Iran’s.• Contempt for symbols of statehood, legal system, and law enforcement agencies.• Noted for street-level violence in the 1990s – EX: The beheading of Gideon Alakuta in 1994 for desecrating Koran.• First Nigerian Islamist group to celebrate MartyrdomPicture source: france24 11
Major Radical Sects – Kala Kato or the Reincarnation of the Maitatsine• Considered an offshoot of Maitatsine and rooted in traditional Islamic education.• Believe Islamic jurisprudence derives solely from the Qur’an.• Share Boko Haram’s rejection of the Western education.• Responsible for the Kala Kato Riots of December 2009 in Bauchi which led to the killing of 70 people. 12
Factors Promoting Islamic Extremism – The Almajiri System• Almajiri schools form the primary level in traditional Islamic education, – focus on Arabic literacy and memorizing the Qur’an• Students support themselves by begging for alms• About 7-10 million Almajarai in Northern Nigeria• Vulnerable and easy prey to Islamist groupsPicture source: Sourthworld 13
Factors Promoting Islamic Extremism – Universities as Hotbeds of Islamic Radicalism• Northern Nigerian universities campuses bastions of Islamic radicalism and violence.• Muslim Students Society – active in spreading radical Islamic views.• Many fundamentalist leaders and groups have roots in, and strong ties to Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. 14
End Note – Boko Haram the Tip of the Islamist Iceberg• Economic and political factors behind rise of fundamentalist Islam cannot be denied.• Fundamentalist groups operate in an environment that facilitates entrenchment of Islamic extremism in Northern Nigeria.• We ignore this at our peril! 16 Picture source: (AP/Schalk van Zuydam
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