Boko Haram

Boko Haram flag


Boko Haram

A terrorist group in Northern Nigeria, "Boko Haram" means "Western Education is Sinful" in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, which accurately reflects the terrorist group's core ideology.

According to Boko Haram's leaders, Western education corrupts Islamic morals and perpetuates Western hegemony. Therefore, it must be replaced with Arabic-language Salafist-Islamic education. Boko Haram's leaders also believe that Christianity, democracy and service in Nigeria's secular government are all haram, or religiously prohibited (according to Islam), and that Salafism is the only true interpretation of Islam. Boko Haram's founder, Muhammed Yusuf, said that the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are the only true Salafists that Muslims should follow. Boko Haram was also nicknamed the "Nigerian Taliban" when it was a fledging Salafist community under Yusuf's leadership in the early 2000s.

The full name of the group ("Jama'atu Ahlisunnah Lida'awati Wal-Jihad") is Arabic and means "Organisation of Sunnis for Preaching and Jihad." Before 2009, Boko Haram was primarily a religious group engaged in preaching the Salafist belief system to the group's more than 10,000 followers in north-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon and Niger. After Nigerian security forces killed Muhammed Yusuf and 800 of his followers in July 2009, Boko Haram's new leader, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and launched a "Jihad" in Nigeria to destroy schools that teach the sciences or English language, churches, and secular and democratic government institutions in Nigeria. Approximately 5,000 people have died in Boko Haram-related violence in Nigeria between July 2009 and January 2014.

Jacob Zenn, Analyst of African and Eurasian Affairs, The Jamestown Foundation