By Faith J. H. McDonnell
The “Islamist apologist choir” described in Cinnamon Stillwell’s recent story “Profs on Boston Bombing” doesn’t sing solely on behalf of Chechnya and Cambridge. Some of that choir’s most dreadful caterwauling today is in support of Nigeria’s yet-undesignated terrorists, Boko Haram. The choir stalls are located in the U.S. State Department, which not only refuses to designate the jihadists as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), but maligns and defames Boko Haram’s Christian victims, as well.
Boko Haram’s latest attack, killing at least 42, took place on Tuesday, May 7, in the already battle-worn town of Bama, in Nigeria’s northeast Borno State. Borno, one of 12 states under Sharia, has suffered heavy losses under the Islamists. Some believe that Boko Haram has taken over northern Borno State much as Islamists took over northern Mali. At least 277 had been killed by Boko Haram in Borno State in 2013 before this attack. According to an AP story the Tuesday event involved “coordinated attacks by Islamic extremists armed with heavy machine guns” in multiple locations around Bama. The jihadists also raided a federal prison, freeing 105 inmates.
Military spokesman Lt. Colonel Sagir Musa told AP that “some 200 fighters in buses and pickup trucks mounted with machine guns attacked the barracks of the 202 Battalion of Nigeria’s beleaguered army.” Musa, who said two soldiers and 10 insurgents died in the attack, revealed that the attackers “came in army uniform pretending to be soldiers.” The Islamists killed 14 prison guards. They also attacked and razed a police station, a police barracks, a magistrate’s court, and local government offices, according to Lt. Col. Musa. Bama police commander Sagir Abubakar reported that at least 22 police officers, three children and a woman were killed in the attacks.
Boko Haram frequently attacks Nigeria’s police and military forces. In 2012 as documented by the Facts on Nigeria Violence website, there were at least 67 attacks, almost exclusively by Boko Haram, against military barracks, police stations, prisons, and other government facilities, as well as against individual soldiers, policemen, and civil servants. But Boko Haram’s main targets are northern Nigeria’s Christians and churches.
The official name of Boko Haram, Jama’a Ahl al-sunnah li-da’wa wa al-jihad, can be translated “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Its goal is to establish a pure Islamic state in northern Nigeria, removing the Christian presence – either by conversion, expulsion, or extermination. Boko Haram appears to prefer the third option. According to the World Watch Monitor (WWM) report on global Christian persecution, Nigeria had a higher death toll from anti-Christian persecution and violence than the rest of the world combined. WWM concluded that Nigeria is “the most violent place on earth for Christians.”
In a recent Front Page Magazine article, Daniel Greenfield exposed the unfortunate moral equivalence found in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) 2013 report on Nigeria. While much of the report is very good and condemns Boko Haram, impunity, and the forced imposition of Sharia, USCIRF appears to have developed the same pathological impulse that afflicts the rest of the federal government, to never blame Islam. As a result, portions of the report mischaracterize certain acts of violence by both Boko Haram and other Islamists targeting Christians, and criticize northern Nigerian Christian leaders for calling the situation what it is: persecution.
USCIRF’s egregious observations and recommendations are actually State Department policy. For instance, USCIRF parrots former Asst. Sec. of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, who declared in a congressional hearing, “It is important to note that religion is not the primary driver behind extremist violence in Nigeria” and that “the Nigerian government must effectively engage communities vulnerable to extremist violence by addressing the underlying political and socio-economic problems in the North.” USCIRF reports that “The U.S. government consistently has urged the Nigerian government to expand its strategy against Boko Haram from solely a military solution to addressing problems of economic and political marginalization in the north,” says USCIRF, “arguing that Boko Haram’s motivations are not religious but socio-economic.”
Responding to Carson’s testimony at a House Subcommittee on Africa hearing in July 2012, Subcommittee Chairman, U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), remonstrated that poverty alone does not drive people to violence. And in any case, Boko Haram is well funded by outside Islamists. “Heavy machine guns” and “buses and pickup trucks mounted with machine guns” are just the latest examples to show that Boko Haram is not just a motley crew of impoverished, marginalized local Muslims. In February 2013 it was revealed that hundreds of Boko Haram members had trained for months in terrorist camps in northern Mali with the local “Ansar Dine” al Qaeda of Mali. Their former chef, explained that he cooked for over 200 Nigerians who had “arrived in Timbuktu in April 2012 in about 300 cars, after al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) swept into the city.”
In its 2013 Nigeria briefing, human rights group Justice for Jos +, a project of Jubilee Campaign USA, remarked, “Ironically, in northern Nigeria, it is Christians who are totally disenfranchised politically, economically, and socially in their own states and by their own ethnic groups due to their religious identity.” This is worse than just “political marginalization,” Mr. Carson! Justice for Jos + continues, “Christians are regarded as inferior to Muslims and suffer ongoing, systematic and comprehensive discrimination even by local and (Sharia) state governments.”
As in many Islam-dominated regions, the northern Nigerian Sharia state governments require permits to construct new churches or repair old ones. But churches are disappearing from the northern Nigerian landscape because the permits are not granted and the existing churches are being demolished or burned in anti-Christian riots and Boko Haram attacks. “The Muslim community is so determined to prevent Christians from having churches to meet in, that when selling land to Christians they commonly include the proviso ‘Not to be used for a bar, a brothel, or a church’ on official deeds,” Justice for Jos + reveals.
Thanks to pressure from the U.S. State Department, Nigeria’s Christian President appears more concerned with demonstrating that he is not biased in favor of his fellow Christians than seeing justice done for those who have suffered (even to the point of considering offering amnesty to Boko Haram). The State Department has pressured President Jonathan to give more federal resources and create a special ministry for “northern affairs.” Justice for Jos+ reports that at the same time that federal resources have provided the northern states with “millions in public funds on forced mass weddings for widows, pilgrimages to Mecca, rams for sacrifice at Islamic celebrations, and payments to terrorists’ families,” there has been no compensation to the families of Christian victims.
In their many publicly released statements and videos, Boko Haram has never declared poverty and marginalization to be a motive for their actions. On the contrary, they state clearly that their actions are a “jihad (Holy War).” They said that “Christians in Nigeria should accept Islam, that is true religion, or they will never have peace,” and that they “do not have any agenda” other than working to establish an Islamic Kingdom like during the time of Prophet Mohammed.”
Could this be the reason why, in the disapproving words of the USCIRF report, “a number of prominent Nigerian Christian leaders . . . believe that Boko Haram has a significant sectarian dimension, and in particular, seeks to eradicate Christian communities in central and northern Nigeria”? USCIRF, again echoing the State Department policy worries, “This chasm in perspective is a serious concern. If Nigeria’s most prominent Christian leaders view the ongoing violence as sectarian, the faithful communities who follow their lead may also embrace this view, adversely affecting tolerance and respect across religions.” This is offensive not just in casting the Christian community as the villain of the piece, but in its lack of acknowledgement of the unbelievable restraint that Christians have shown in the face of the slaughter of their family, friends, and co-religionists.
In April 2012, former Asst. Secretary Carson told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the US would soon open a consulate in Kano, one of the full-Sharia northern states, to join the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and the existing consulate in Lagos. Three months earlier, Boko Haram had carried out numerous simultaneous attacks on the security agencies in Kano – police stations, army barracks, intelligence headquarters – leaving some 200 dead. What a great place to build a new U.S. consulate. Kano is about 200 miles from Abuja. About half as far as Benghazi is from Tripoli.