Sunday, 23 August 2009

Creating the name "Boko Haram" and other half-truths in the news

After the skirmishes in Bauchi town by the followers of Muhammad Yusuf's sect, their was suddenly a new term created by the International media; "Boko Haram". It's a Hausa statement which literally means "western education is a sin". Not quite sure but I think the name was created by the Hausa service of the BBC. As far as I know Muhammad Yusuf's sect never gave itself a name. They claim that they are the true sunni muslims and any non-member of their sect an infidel. This I know because we once asked a member "Don't you consider us to be muslims ?" his reply was "I don't". This is also shown in their action like not praying in any mosque that is not their sect's.
So because they do not have a name, the people of Maiduguri who are also sunni muslims call them the Yusufiyyah sect, after their leader's name Muhammad Yusuf. I was surprised when every International news agency that reported the incidence kept calling them "the Boko Haram sect" instead of the "Yusufiyyah sect". Later after Muhammad Yusuf was killed and calm restored in Maiduguri, I saw something that really surprised me on france24 tv. On the news bar at the bottom of the screen I saw a news item that reads "NIGERIA: Gun battle follows death of sect's leader". That is what you call a blatant lie. I have moved around Maiduguri on that very day (Thursday 30th July) and their was no gun battle anywhere in the town. A friend later told me that there were similar stories by other international news outlets. Before that, Radio France claimed that there was a lot of mayhem in the Bulumkuttu and Ngomari airport areas of Maiduguri while in reality nothing was going on at that time in those areas. Now I have learnt one important thing, never trust the International media.

"Boko Haram" A view from within Maiduguri

I think it is very important we set the record straight before it gets written in the history books in it's current twisted form. During the "boko haram" sectarian violence that took place in Maiduguri from Sunday 26th July 2009 to Wednesday 29th July 2009, the people of Maiduguri have been shocked not only by the violence but by the type of views expressed by people far away from the violence. One of such views was expressed on Bala Muhammad's column in the back cover of weekly trust of 1st August 2009. I was particularly attracted to the claim of a member of a certain discussion group that Muhammad Yusuf and his followers never terrorized the people of Maiduguri and that they simply go about their business without interfering with other people's businesses. That person also claimed to be a resident of Maiduguri since 2004.
The first claim is not true. Muhammad Yusuf and his followers have indeed been progressively terrorizing people in Maiduguri. Some of their acts of terrorism are given in the list below.
The claim that he has been in Maiduguri since 2004, I cannot disprove but I have been a resident of Maiduguri since I was born. And that's a little bit under three decades ago. I believe I know Maiduguri much more than he does.

1- Muhammad Yusuf and his followers have for a very long time declared all muslims that do not belong to their sect as infidels, particularly if you are working for the government.

2- They have broken many homes by making their followers chose either their families or the sect.

3- Muhammad Yusuf and his followers have drawn up a list of Islamic clerics to assassinate. This drama has been going on in Maiduguri for months before they finally started the war. In my neighbourhood, student's of a certain cleric who happen to be on the "Kill List" have to organize vigils to protect their mentor from Muhammad Yusuf's followers. Tell me that is not terrorism.

4- After starting the war and taking control of their section of the town the sect members started forcing commercial motorcyclist to submit their helmets and uniforms to be immediately destroyed. And if you are riding a "SAS" branded motorcycle that was distributed by the state governor Ali Sherrif, they take it away and burn it immediately. Tell me that is not terrorism.

5- Everybody knows about the kidnapping of young female students of Islamiyyah schools from across Northern Nigeria to be taken to Maiduguri for their so called Jihad. Tell me that is not terrorism.

While discussing the events on 2nd August 2009 with some mechanics at their workshop, one of them angrily said "How come nobody cares about what we think". It's really annoying when somebody living comfortably in Abuja, Kano or Kaduna starts comparing Muhammad Yusuf's sect with the Niger-delta militants (MEND). MEND never ask youth to chose between MEND and their families or draw up an assassination list of respected clerics or kidnap young girls from their parents in the name of freedom fight. In fact MEND is an armed agitation group not a religious sect. You can give MEND amnesty and hope to meet their demands but you cannot give a religious sect amnesty and hope they discard their beliefs.

One more thing, the people in Maiduguri do not really care that Muhammad Yusuf was killed extra-judicially by the security forces. Guess what ?, in this particular situation we trusted the "Jungle Justice" much more than we trusted the Judiciary. Don't blame us, we've seen what war is like and can't afford to take any chances.