Nigeria’s Boko Haram is “against Islam”
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Leading Muslim organisations in South Africa have denounced Nigerian terror group Boko Haram for having “nothing to do with Islam”.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and its affiliates has joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and held a rally in the Company’s Garden, central Cape Town, this weekend.
It aimed to raise public awareness and support for a campaign calling for the release of 223 Nigerian schoolgirls that Boko Haram has held hostage since April 14.
Anita Christiaans, a bookkeeper and “mother of a young girl”, is organising the rally. She contacted the MJC and others to gain signatures for a petition calling on the South African government to assist Nigeria free the schoolgirls.
“We want our government to send troops to Nigeria and help find the girls. We need to stop terrorism in Africa,” said Christiaans.
“I’m a Christian and I’m doing this in my personal capacity. I approached the MJC because there are so many people blaming Muslims for this. But this is a terrorist group. This is not Islam.”
She added: “I’m not Muslim but my sister turned to Islam and I know the basic teaching of the Qur’an. And this is not Islam.
“There is now a lot of fighting about religion on the Internet because of this. But that is taking the focus off the girls who are missing.”
MJC secretary-general Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie said Boko Haram has “an identity that does not conform to Islam”.
“It’s foreign to us. Islam does not condone what they do. The unfortunate situation is that in every denomination you find groups that violate their religious guidelines and scriptures. This is an extremist group,” said Allie.
“Islam stands for the principles of safety and security for all. This is a violation of the rights of these young girls. We want to see their safe release and return to their families.”
He added: “The MJC invites people of all religions and walks of life to support this call because this is a humanitarian response.”
Sheikh Fakhruddin Owaisi, chairman of the Western Cape branch of the national Sunni Ulama Council, also denounced Boko Haram as a “terrorist group tainting the message and image of Islam”.
The council is a group of theologians that aim to “preserve and promote an understanding of Islam” in South Africa. Owaisi has researched Boko Haram, reportedly involved in violent activities in Nigeria since 2009.
“They claim to be working for Islam and want to establish an Islamic state. But what they are doing is a wrong interpretation of Islam. This is a fringe, terrorist movement with a radical, extremist view of Islam,” said Owaisi.
“The majority of Muslims know this is not Islam. They have no right to do this in our name. They are committing a major crime. We condemn and reject this.”
Owaisi said he has spoken to Nigerian scholars who said Boko Haram “were even killing Muslims who speak against them”.
“They believe any Muslims who speak against them are not Muslim. They have even killed Muslim leaders inside mosques. They are a real danger,” he said.
“It gives us who are more safe and outside Nigeria the responsibility to speak out against this.”
Owaisi described Boko Haram as “takfiri, which is a fringe trend in Islam”.
“Takfiri is a trend found all over the Muslim world. It’s a minority trend but they are getting a lot of attention. They are terror groups all over the Muslim world,” he said.
“They believe others who don’t support them are not Muslim. They want to force people to be Muslim, but this is not Islam. They know nothing about Islam. The majority of Muslims are not interested in this because it is violent.”
Owaisi added: “There are socio-political reasons for takfiri’s existence. They are mostly from poor areas and are fed up with corruption and other social ills. But they have leaders that want power and have created enemies even of Muslims. They brainwash supporters with these ideologies.”
Owaisi said groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram all fell under the takfiri category, which has supporters that mostly use violence to enforce Islam.
Boko Haram reportedly carried out three attacks, killing at least 50 people, in Nigeria this past week. On May 13 it allegedly was behind a twin car blast in a central market in Jos, Nigeria, that led to 118 deaths.
It claimed responsibility for kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok, north-eastern state in Nigeria, on April 14. It captured another eight girls from Warabe, Nigeria, on May 5. Of this, 223 girls remain missing.
It demands the release of its members from Nigerian jails in return for the hostages. An international support campaign as well as military support has gained momentum in pursuit to free the girls.
The US has sent military officials to Nigeria and neighbouring Chad. West African nations Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger met in Paris earlier this month to plan a strategy to eliminate Boko Haram in the region.