The Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said that there is no point trying to negotiate with Boko Haram militants, as they are “ideologically bankrupt”. I would beg to disagree- Boko Haram do have an ideology- it is merely a fascist one. Fascism over centuries has taken different guises. It has in past cloaked itself in a caste system, at times in racial supremacy but at present it has shrouded itself in religion.
A deconstruction of the Boko Haram ideology is presented herein to better understand their viewpoint. For only if they are understood properly, they can be dealt in the right manner. Engagement with them is needed on two fronts, physical and ideological.
Elements of Boko Haram Ideology
Following features are the essential components of every fascist ideology:
- Sense of injustice
- Perception of being the chosen one
- Discriminator of being with us or against us
- Impression of right to have the right to rule
- Methodology of end justifying the means
- Reign of terror
While other movements may have one or more of these features, it is the cocktail of all six that makes any ideology dangerous.
A prevalent sense of injustice is the foundation of every fascist movement. The followers are constantly reminded of their grievances. All their failures, political, social or financial are associated with them being been wronged by others while their own shortcomings are ignored. Their reading of the world is based on either conspiracy theories or distorted facts. Coining one conspiracy theory to explain the other is a self-perpetuating viscous circle that ignores the bare facts, dismisses conventional wisdom and develops a siege mentality.
Once the siege mentality is created, seeds of self-supremacy are sown. It is drummed that order, peace, prosperity and justice can be only achieved by them, the chosen ones. They are the custodians of what is true and right. World is portrayed corrupt and it dwellers are classified sub-humans, non- Aryans, gentiles, infidels, hell fodders or in this case “Kafir”. This does not just merely lead to drawing of lines but rather elevation of plinths. Being on higher side psychologically nudges them to look down on others, in such a manner that their existence is deemed inferior if not entirely worthless. And because the “others” are part of the corrupt system, they can be taken out.
“Either you are with us or against us” is an expression that reverberates in memory of the recent past. It was notoriously used by the American president, ironically for war against terror. It is no surprise this is the modus-operandi of fascist movements. No one is allowed sitting on the fence, be a spectator and remain impartial. A fascist movement operates efficiently as long as there are no “grey areas” for the foot soldiers to deal with. This is exactly what their leadership’s task is. They root out pragmatism and replace it with idealism which knows no compromise. It eliminates the need for analytical thinking, interpretation, articulation and deliberation from its followers. And thus these movements are military in every sense on the word.
With a sense of moral supremacy comes the desire to reach out, to expand. Even a cursory look in history suggests that all fascist movements were intrinsically expansionist. The motivation comes from the mantra that only right has the right to rule and darkness must be expelled. This is at odds with the way the prophet of Islam(P.B.U.H) dealt. The “Treaty of Hudaybya” is prime example where position of power was not used to gain leverage, magnanimity instead was exercised.
Lastly, ascension to power by any means possible is deemed acceptable no matter how noble the cause. For these movements, end justifies the means. And so mass massacre, suicide bombing and mass kidnapping of helpless girls does not matter as they are merely necessary steps one has to take to bring eventual order. Furthermore because it is insecurity at the core of their ideology they try to ring fence it with a reign of terror.
It is the thought process that is founded on the six mentioned elements that gives rise to Boko- Haram’s vision of the world.
The Boko Haram ideology helps them recruit the impoverished and those wronged by society. It emancipates the barbaric crimes conducted by those with a criminal bent of mind (which are the majority in such organizations). It exonerates them in pursuing their perverse lust, it legitimizes their adverse actions.
Boko-Haram claim’s of getting guidance form Quran and Sunnah cannot be further from the truth. While they have extracted portions of the Holy Scripture to support their worldview and modus-operandi, they have only done so by being non-judiciously selective. Leave alone the context; they don’t even appreciate the whole text. In some cases they follow just half a verse from the Quran/ Hadith when it suits their objectives while ignoring the other half. And so it would be grossly unjust for them to be linked to religion.
The seriousness of the crimes by “Boko-Haram” are such that it seems they are getting abandoned by the very own organization (Al Qaeda) which bore them. When they came out with the statement of selling the kidnapped girls, they received a severe back lash from all corners. This certainly put them on the spotlight, but in light that was bad. Not that they cared, but Al-Qaeda did, who saw their popularity waning and since have distanced themselves. Fearing isolation, they have released their video that shows the girls being converted to Islam and thus trying to portray their cause was rather noble and missionary. They could not have done a better job in exposing their idiocy.
Fascist movements have the tendency to go rogue particularly if they are asked to retreat or step back. Even the slightest hint of de-escalation or taming turns them against their masters. Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein perhaps is a great example that sheds light on this phenomenon. Boko-Haram are Al Qaeda’s Frankenstein.
Unfortunately we live in a world in which global justice is dispensed by those who fall on their own standards. Often criminals are dealt with but not the crime. Any serious effort against Boko-Haram must look beyond taking the perpetrators to task. The grievance that is steeply settled in the minds must be addressed and any addition to it must be curbed. Thus one has to look at the root of injustice and how it was created. Is it due the philosophy of “protecting and furthering interest” at cost of others? Is it due to the methodology of “Pre-emptive strikes”? Is it the false flags, the Coup d’état or the unlawful drone strikes? We need to think deep before we act.