There is a Mini Boko Haram in Every Muslim Community


Several Pakistani writers have recently questioned liberal "apologists" for failing to understand the links between Islamic sharia and incidents such as the abduction of more than 200 teenage girls from a school by Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram or the Pakistani Taliban's 2012 attack on liberal youth icon Malala Yousafzai and the sharia justification given for it.

In an article titled "There is a mini Boko Haram thriving in every Muslim society," columnist Murtaza Haider warned that such situations are inherent in Muslim societies and can be seen in the way girls are raised. The article was published by liberal daily Dawn.

In another article titled "Shameless apologia," journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid questioned the liberal Muslim apologists and Western leftists for describing liberal voices as "Islamophobia." In the article, published by Lahore-based liberal weekly The Friday Times, Shahid also stated: "Saying that Islamists are using the 'wrong' Islam uses the same logic that Islamists use to claim that the progressives are using the 'wrong' Islam. Playing 'true and false', while thousands continue to be under the Islamist gun is a very dangerous game to play."

Following are excerpts from Murtaza Haider and Kunwar Khuldune Shahid's articles: 

Murtaza Haider: "Boko Haram Has Taken Forced Conversions To Another Level; They Have Kidnapped Young Women, Held Them Hostage, Threatened To Kill Them, And Offered Conversion And Forced Marriage To Boko Haram Fighters"

"We know them as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban. Their branding may differ, but their misogynist ideologies do not. These so-called Islamists have promoted discrimination against women for centuries. Now, they abduct young women and threaten to kill them. Permitting these militants to pursue their misguided agendas will destroy whatever goodwill is left for Muslims.

"Last month, the Nigeria-based Islamic militants, Boko Haram (Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad), raided a school in Chibok, a small town in the north-eastern Borno state, and kidnapped more than 200 teen-aged girls. A recently released video by Boko Haram shows the abducted Christian girls clad in abayas. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, claims that the girls, while being in captivity, have embraced Islam.

"Boko Haram has taken forced conversions to another level. They have kidnapped young women, held them hostage, threatened to kill them, and offered conversion and forced marriage to Boko Haram fighters as the only way out. Muslim societies across the globe have been notorious for the poor welfare of women, especially the girl child. In several Muslim countries, determinants of physical and social well-being are much worse for girls than they are for boys.

"Despite the glaring discrimination, Muslim apologists argue that this has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims. They hastily blame the 'enemies of Islam' for propagating lies about Muslims. Scapegoating, however, will serve no purpose. Boko Haram and its ilk hurt all Muslims, but more so young women. Muslims must confront those who harm women in the name of Islam. Boko Haram may seem like a remote African tribe that abducts girls, threatens to kill them, and marries them off against their will. Some introspection should reveal that the same tendencies are alive and instrumental in all Muslim societies.

"Muslim fathers in the West have abducted their daughters and transported them back home to prevent their daughters from marrying for love. In the name of honor, Muslim fathers and brothers are known to have killed their daughters and sisters who married against family's wishes. In almost every neighborhood in Muslim societies, one will find women who were forcibly married to men chosen by their parents. There is a mini Boko Haram alive and thriving in every neighborhood in Muslim societies." 

"In Some Muslim Societies The Situation Has Worsened To The Extent That Young Muslim Women Have To Abandon Their Homelands..."; "Ever Wondered Why... Malala Yousafzai Is Unsafe In Pakistan, But Is Safe In Birmingham?"

"In some Muslim societies the situation has worsened to the extent that young Muslim women have to abandon their homelands and find refuge elsewhere. Ever wondered why Pakistan's most recognized young woman, Malala Yousafzai, is unsafe in Pakistan, but is safe in Birmingham? The forced migration of Malala and other young women like her sends a clear message to the young Muslim women; conform, and you can live a life of servitude; express dissent, and you are condemned to death or exile.

"While the British stepped up to save Malala, millions more like her need to be rescued. A quick look at the development statistics across Muslim societies reveals the not-so-hidden bias against the girl child, who is less educated and faces a much narrower set of options to develop and self-actualize. Given the scale of discrimination against Muslim women, one may feel overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin. One may be tempted to blame the government and ask of the legislators to enact even more laws to try to safeguard the welfare of young women. While it may help, it is not where the change really needs to take place. Instead, the change has to happen at homes.

"Alys Faiz, a social activist, knew what lay at the core of this issue. She grew up in England, but lived in Pakistan after marrying Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Urdu's most revered poets. She asked me, 'Why do Pakistanis serve the father first at the dinner table? Why are daughters served after sons, and why are mothers the last to eat in a Muslim household?' She could clearly see what the rest in Pakistan were blinded to. Women are subjected to institutionalized discrimination at homes because of the hierarchy that favors men over women. No wonder, the girl child in Pakistan, and in other Muslim societies, struggles to be fed.

"The discrimination and the neglect of the girl child in Muslim societies must not continue. Scapegoating is no longer an option, nor should it be tolerated. In the name of our daughters, we should stand up to safeguard the economic, emotional, physical, and social welfare of women. We can start this very evening by serving women, young and old, first at the dinner table."[1] 

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid: "[Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] Released A Seven-Page Open Letter On October 16, 2012, A Week After The Attack On Malala [Yousafzai] Justifying The Attack Comprehensively Through Sharia, Scriptures And Islamic Precedents"

"The Islamist group Boko Haram currently has around 200 schoolgirls enslaved in Nigeria. Not just kidnapped or abducted (any longer), [but] enslaved – the former terms would imply that they would be returned unharmed if the militants' demands are met. Reports of multiple rapes have already surfaced and this week Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has revealed that he considers the school girls his slaves who he will 'sell off' in marriage. He justifies his plan in a recently released video saying: 'I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam.' And here is Shekau's plan in his own words: 'I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.'

"So what was the crime of these schoolgirls which has led to them being enslaved and treated as war captives? Chibok's Government Girls Secondary School, from the dormitories of which these girls were initially believed to be kidnapped, teaches 'Western education.' And the name Boko Haram, which in Hausa translates into 'Western education is sinful', gives us all a comprehensive answer. Boko Haram believes that Western education is haram [forbidden], even more so for girls, who according to their ideology should not be allowed to do much without their male guardians. Attacking girls' schools has been high on Boko Haram's Sharia-enforcement agenda, in a bid to prevent these girls from being 'Westernized'. And for Pakistan, Boko Haram's antics should ring very familiar alarm bells. 

"Muslim Countries Burn Themselves With Rage Owing To Cartoons But There Is A Complete Lack Of Outrage For Heinous Acts Like These

 "Following the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack on Malala Yousafzai in October 2012, girls' education came into the spotlight. But along with that came superfluous apologia that has resurfaced amidst the latest manifestation of Boko Haram's bestiality. When Muslim countries burn themselves with rage owing to protests against cartoons or videos, the lack of one [protest] against the most monstrous of acts resoundingly sets up our order of priorities. Most progressive Muslims' efforts – just like in the case of most Islamist maneuvers – have been dedicated to cooking up apologia for their religion, and claiming how Boko Haram is blatantly misinterpreting its scriptures. Whereas the fact of the matter is, whether or not Boko Haram's actions are compatible with Islam, or if Abubakar Shekau's claim that Allah permits slaves holds any credence or not, is totally and utterly irrelevant.

"The then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan released a seven-page open letter on October 16, 2012, a week after the attack on Malala [Yousafzai] justifying the attack comprehensively through Sharia, scriptures and Islamic precedents. The content of that letter, which reiterated a point the TTP has made in countless press releases, has been echoed by Abubakar Shekau and Boko Haram. That two terrorist organizations in two different continents are 'misinterpreting' the Islamic texts identically – mirroring a millennia-and-a-half of same interpretation – to wreak havoc in their respective regions, connotes that highlighting the 'misinterpretation' isn't quite as important as highlighting the fact that the text can be interpreted to such devastating effect. Because the former might win you some religious (and maybe academic) brownie points, while the latter will showcase a security concern that has engulfed various parts of the world, the most conspicuous of them being our very own neck of the woods." 

"Stating The Obvious Fact That The TTP And Boko Haram Are Driven By Their Religion – As The Militants Proclaim Themselves – Is Dubbed 'Islamophobia' In Unison By Both The Progressive Muslims And Overwhelming Parts Of The Liberal Left In The West"

"Stating the obvious fact that the TTP and Boko Haram are driven by their religion – as the militants proclaim themselves – is dubbed 'Islamophobia' in unison by both the progressive Muslims and overwhelming parts of the liberal left in the West. It would make all the sense in the world to shield one's ideology if iterating that it is leading to terrorism precedes the defense. The focus unfortunately however is on how the ideology shouldn't, or doesn't (bizarrely), lead to violence. Political correctness continues to trump effective counterterrorism strategy, lest one is dubbed 'culturally insensitive', or an Islamophobe.

"All Western reports highlighting Islamist terrorism are brimming with disclaimers, stressing upon various versions of Islam. While a debate on various interpretations of any ideology is an academic necessity, what is the immediate relevance of these disclaimers in a report narrating terrorists' acts and their own justification for said attacks? Why is there reluctance in using the term 'enslaved' in the mainstream media ever since Abubakar Shekau stated that his religion sanctions slavery? If it's about safeguarding the sensitivities of the Muslim world – 22.74 percent of the global population – why weren't the ideological sensitivities of the communists – almost an identical percentage of the global population – catered to by the Western mainstream media during the Cold War?

"It is ironic that all the endeavor of progressive Muslims is dedicated to shielding their ideology from criticism, when it's actually this critique that would lead to necessary reform, which at the end of the day is their much touted agenda. By claiming that criticism in unjustified, and denying the rather obvious influence of religion on religious extremism, one contradicts the 'progressive' and 'reformist' labels. While there is no denying that an irrational phobia of Muslims exists all over the world – considerably less than irrational phobia of people belonging to all other religions in the Muslim world, one might add – the term 'Islamophobia', used to shield the ideology, not the people, from scrutiny – and hence reform –, again, becomes a self-defeating misnomer.

"Saying that Islamists are using the 'wrong' Islam uses the same logic that Islamists use to claim that the progressives are using the 'wrong' Islam. Playing 'true and false', while thousands continue to be under the Islamist gun is a very dangerous game to play. Anyone who claims that the terrorism that is brewing owing to Islamism needs to be countered and condemned should focus on ensuring that no punches are pulled in condemnations for the acts. Whether or not the Islamist ideology is a blatant misinterpretation of 'true' Islam is tantamount to needless apologia in the immediate aftermath of an Islamist attack."[2]


[1] (Pakistan), May 14, 2014. The original English of the articles used in this dispatch has been mildly edited for clarity and standardization.

[2] (Pakistan), May 9, 2014.


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