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BOKO HARAM: Investigating the Ideological Background to the Rise of an Islamist Militant Organisation

BOKO HARAM: Investigating the Ideological Background to the Rise of an Islamist Militant Organisation

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The following report – Boko Haram - Investigating the ideological background to the rise of an Islamist militant organisation – analyses the historical and doctrinal underpinning of the Nigerian Jamāʽat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Daʽwā wal-Jihād (JAS). Given the focus of its more popularly known self-denomination – ‘Boko Haram’ (‘Western education is sinful’) – the study examines the rationale and the doctrinal background to this apparent rejection. More importantly, by investigating the religious authenticity to which the Boko Haram spokesmen make claim, the Report also casts light on the following conundrum: How is it possible for Islamist militants to engage in brutal violence and consider this to constitute an act of worship? For how this question is answered has deep implications for understanding the position of radical Islamist militancy on the spectrum of Islamic doctrine, for interpreting its message, determining its objectives and evaluating its resilience to challenge. Not least, a study such as this holds implications for the future of political science, which the author concludes must get to grips with the religious dimension of Islamist violence. It must learn to take the religious motivations of the perpetrators seriously, and study the authenticating texts that point to the workings of a mental universe that has yet to indigenize modernity, and one that consequently considers itself to be under siege.
The following report – Boko Haram - Investigating the ideological background to the rise of an Islamist militant organisation – analyses the historical and doctrinal underpinning of the Nigerian Jamāʽat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Daʽwā wal-Jihād (JAS). Given the focus of its more popularly known self-denomination – ‘Boko Haram’ (‘Western education is sinful’) – the study examines the rationale and the doctrinal background to this apparent rejection. More importantly, by investigating the religious authenticity to which the Boko Haram spokesmen make claim, the Report also casts light on the following conundrum: How is it possible for Islamist militants to engage in brutal violence and consider this to constitute an act of worship? For how this question is answered has deep implications for understanding the position of radical Islamist militancy on the spectrum of Islamic doctrine, for interpreting its message, determining its objectives and evaluating its resilience to challenge. Not least, a study such as this holds implications for the future of political science, which the author concludes must get to grips with the religious dimension of Islamist violence. It must learn to take the religious motivations of the perpetrators seriously, and study the authenticating texts that point to the workings of a mental universe that has yet to indigenize modernity, and one that consequently considers itself to be under siege.

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Published by: Westminster Institute on Oct 24, 2013
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06/06/2014

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Boko Haram
عجهأنساعلاونم
 
ىعسا
 
 Investigating the ideological background to the rise of an Islamist militant organisation
Stephen Ulph
 
Boko Haram
 –
 
Ideological background 
2
Contents
-
 
Boko Haram
 –
 
Ideological background 
3
Methodology
Narratives on the rise of Islamic radicalism and the emergence of Boko Haram tend to focus onclassic analyses on social inequality, political marginalisation and economic underdevelopment.While these factors are clearly highly operative in the admixture of drivers of radicalism there hasbeen to date insufficient focus on the doctrinal ingredient underpinning the movement.In order to increase knowledge of the socio-cultural dynamics explaining the drivers of Boko Hara
m’s
growing appeal among youth, the aim of the present off-site contribution to the project is to providesome ideological contextualization for the movement.This is of particular importance since there is to date no single authoritative analysis of Boko Haramas opposed to several competing theories about its origins, and possible future strategies. Given thegrowing threat that Boko Haram presents to Nigeria and the region, and its potential impact furtherafield, filling this analytical gap is now a matter of some urgency. Failure to provide an accuratediagnosis of the rejectionist ideology that underpins the rebellion of Boko Haram and like-mindedgroups leaves room for the cyclical re-manifestation of militant expressions of this rejection,manifestations no less violent than the present phase is witnessing.It should be said, however, that responses that are exclusively security-focused in conception runthe risk of deepening and embedding Muslim rejection of the Nigerian state, not only in the northbut wherever the message of this rejection finds sympathetic ears.There has also been a tendency either to seek out some specifically local determinants of Islamicextremism in Nigeria (or even West Africa more generally), or to discern the influence of someparticular extraneous deviations. This type of approach can be seen in the following analysis:
On the whole, it can be seen that the nature of Islamic radicalisation in Nigeria, as indeed other partsof West Africa, is distinctly different from that of some other parts of the world when there have been
cases of terrorist activities, including suicide missions. Indeed … there has not be
en a single case of 
suicide mission in Nigeria, despite the extent of religious instability in the country ... the people’s
socio-
cultural perceptions to life and violence … makes issues like embarking on suicide mission an
issue that is largely unthinkabl
e. Indeed, the sacredness of one’s life is something that many people inthe country hold very important … However … the coming into the country of foreigners brings in
another dimension into the equation and unless this is checked, it may open a completely newdimension to the politics of Islamic radicalization in Nigeria and, indeed, in the entire West Africansub-region.
1
 
Events over the last two years have demonstrated the limitations of such a standpoint.The ultimate aim of the study is to establish a clearer understanding of the
ideological agenda
of Boko Haram and contribute to the Field Study that is seeking to deepen the understanding of themovement
 –
who they are, what they want and why and how they are becoming increasinglysuccessful at radicalizing youth. Understanding in this way the key ideological and cultural drivers tothe movement will facilitate the identification of its points of tension and weakness
 –
elementswhich will be of use in the construction of a potential counter-radicalization strategy.To do this the study will analyse the relevant open-source documentation and examine how far the
movement’s
ideology and doctrine compares with the global picture of militant Islamist groups.
1
Abiodun Alao,
Islamic Radicalisation and Violence in Nigeria
, Country Report, p.86.

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