Top Islamic clerics condemn Boko Haram kidnappings; Girls converted

May 21, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

protestNigeria, May 15, 2014: Boko Haram has released a video showing some of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, saying they have converted to Islam, as leading Islamic clerics and scholars around the world condemn the militant group’s actions. Barnabas Fund was instrumental in securing the group’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

The footage released on Monday (12 May) shows around 130 girls dressed in full-length hijabs, reciting the first chapter of the Quran. Two girls interviewed said they were Christian but have converted to Islam. One of them said they had not been harmed.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says in the video:

These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with … we have liberated them… These girls have become Muslims.

He said the teenagers, most of whom are Christian, would not be released until all Boko Haram militants were freed.

The father of one of the girls told the Telegraph that he would rather she died than convert to Islam. He said:

I don’t want a prisoner exchange either – our daughters are not prisoners, and they should not be exchanged for anyone. Let the government try to rescue them. If they have a prisoner exchange, that will look like the government is giving in to Boko Haram, and it will just encourage them to take more hostages. They will never stop.

Nigerian Interior Minister Abba Moro said that no prisoner exchange would take place.

Boko Haram kidnapped around 270 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in the predominantly Christian town of Chibok, Borno state, on the night of 14 April. It has emerged that the security forces were given more than four hours of advance warning about the raid, according to Amnesty International, but failed to deploy reinforcements.

In an earlier video, Shekau used religious justification for the kidnappings, saying that slaves were permitted in Islam and that Allah had instructed him to sell the girls.

But this has been challenged by some of the world’s leading Islamic clerics and scholars. Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, said that Boko Haram was “misguided” and should be “shown their wrong path and be made to reject it”:

These groups are not on the right path because Islam is against kidnapping, killing and aggression. Marrying kidnapped girls is not permitted.

Al-Azhar, the prestigious seat of Sunni learning in Cairo, said that the kidnapping “has nothing to do with the tolerant and noble teachings of Islam”. And Islamic scholars from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 countries with large Muslim populations, denounced the act as a “gross misinterpretation of Islam”.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden”, has targeted schools as part of its bloody campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria. Alongside the kidnappings, the militants have also been murdering schoolboys.

US reconnaissance aircraft have been flying over Nigeria in search of the girls. Britain is also actively involved in the rescue efforts. Following the kidnappings, US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and other leading figures have urged the international community to condemn the group. While a welcome move, it is a major shift in US policy. The State Department was extremely slow to recognise the true nature of Boko Haram, designating it a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) only in November after a long campaign involving Barnabas Fund.

The group has killed thousands of people in its five-year campaign, directing much of its violence towards Christians, but Muslims who do not support their extremist agenda and members of the security forces have also been killed.

Our honorary director in the US, Bishop Julian Dobbs, worked with others to petition the State Department and other government agencies to designate Boko Haram as an FTO. On one occasion Bishop Dobbs was assisted by the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, who made the case in the corridors of power on behalf of suffering Nigerian Christians.

Bishop Dobbs, who is an Anglican missionary bishop of the Church of Nigeria, said the FTO designation was significant for three reasons:

Firstly, it shows that the US government has realised that it’s a serious situation and is concerned about it. Secondly, the FTO label enables certain US resources, such as military and intelligence, to be involved in circumstances like we are seeing now with the kidnapped girls. And thirdly, it helps us to heighten awareness about our brothers and sisters in Nigeria suffering at the hands of what we can now call a terrorist organisation.

He said that the US government continues to dismiss the religious motivation of Boko Haram, insisting that it is an ethnic and social issue:

The next step is to get all Western governments to recognise the clear religious motivation of Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia across all of Nigeria and rid the country of any Christian presence. Our brothers and sisters in the North continue to suffer on a daily basis as a result of the group’s atrocities.

– barnabas team

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