The militant Islamic group Boko Haram has increased its kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria. Incredibly, they have not only proudly claimed responsibility, they seem boastful and even gleeful about what they have done and promise to keep doing it and to use the girls as slaves and to sell them as brides.
The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” which pretty much tells you all you need to know about it but it is popularly known as Boko Haram which loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden”. These people hate education because they rightly fear that it undermines religious fanaticism and they also fear the education of women because advancement and equality for women leads to more democracy.
Boko Haram has committed many atrocities in the past (see here and here) but those were part of actions against Christians and the government. These earlier actions had tribal connotations and we know that tribal sympathies can prevent common action since people can easily be persuaded to line up along tribal lines instead of on general principles of justice.
But the parent-child bond is strong and universal and evokes strong feelings of empathy. It transcends tribal allegiances and this action by Boko Haram will likely create a universal visceral reaction of disgust and revulsion even among people who are not particularly political. The group and their leader seem to have lost their collective mind. Whatever short term needs may be met by this action, I think they are now doomed. This kind of atrocity is what leads to splintering of the group as some members will not be able to stomach this action.
It will also spur the Nigerian government, whose response has been sluggish so far, to take action because it cannot ignore this challenge that is now grabbing the attention of the world. They will have no choice but to mount a massive action to get the girls back and that means taking on Boko Haram directly.