The world is still in shock over the abduction of about 200 girls by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria. The good news is that the government of Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja has finally woken up to the seriousness of the issue and is working vigorously to trace the girls. The western governments, led by the United States, have offered all kinds of support to the government and have initiated a series of measures to trace the girls first and rescue them later.
It’s not clear what Boko Haram is aiming at with this inhuman and dastardly act of kidnapping innocent girls. It will in no way advance their cause, and on the contrary, will only result in an erosion support for them from other Islamists. Even Al Qaeda, known for killing innocent civilians and unleashing deadly violence, would shudder at the heinousness of this crime and wouldn’t attempt anything of this sort themselves.
The girls were abducted from a tiny village in northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram has waged a horrific war against schools and their students. The government was accused of not doing enough in the beginning. But the international outcry piled pressure on Jonathan and a social media campaign was launched inside the country in support of the girls. A #BringBackOurGirls campaign was launched on Twitter in outrage over the seeming indifference of the government of Jonathan.
Boko is demanding the release of its supporters from prison in exchange for the release of girls. But Goodluck Jonathan has ruled out any such exchange. But a door appeared to have opened to discussions about the girls on Tuesday when special duties minister Taminu Turaki indicated that the teenagers’ freedom could up for discussion. The president has at the same time expressed willingness to discuss wider issues with the militants.
Experts have also said that Nigeria’s response to Boko Haram has been self-defeating. Human rights groups have documented secret detentions, extortion, burning of homes and extrajudicial killings. After Boko Haram attacked a barracks in March in an attempt to free detainees, a government counterattack killed hundreds, including many of the prisoners.
At the same time, though the world has condemned the kidnapping, the Islamic states need to be more forceful in their condemnation. In an age of Islamophobia and Islamic terrorism, the action of Boko Haram is likely to be transferred into the account of Islam by some Islamophobes and mavericks. Muslim states need to offer unconditional support to the Nigerian government to trace the girls and exert pressure, if they can, on Boko Haram to release the innocent victims. Islamic clerics and scholars bodies too need to speak up.