An uprising by a radical Islamic sect in northern Nigeria may ostensibly have been about religion, but such bloodletting will recur unless underlying issues of poverty, unemployment and education are addressed.
West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate and northern Nigeria is home to a powerful political elite, yet militant cleric Mohammed Yusuf was able to establish a cult-like following. Yusuf’s sect, Boko Haram, wanted sharia (Islamic law) more widely applied across Africa’s most populous nation. Its name means “Western education is sinful”.
But the support Yusuf drummed up — from illiterate youths to professionals who quit jobs and families to join him — came as much from frustration with what is seen as a corrupt and self-serving political establishment as from pure religious fervour.
To see an analysis by my colleague Nick Tattersall, click here.
This whole situation — and I have seen frustrated and violent Nigerian youth in other parts of the country when I reported there in the past – is perhaps a classic example of how underlying factors, be they social, economic or even environmental, can exacerbate religious divisions.
It brings to mind a book we wrote and blogged about last year by historian Philip Jenkins entitled “The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia — and How It Died”.