Where has all the outcry gone? Last April, when the radical jihadist group Boko Haram kidnapped 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, politicians and celebrities here and abroad protested their treacherous act. “Where are our girls?” became the social media cause de jour, but this wasn’t the first time children had been abducted in reprisal for the Nigerian government’s attempt to stand up to Boko Haram. Nor would it be the last.
Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s first fairly elected President since the return to civilian rule in 1999, has lamented the kidnapping and warned of Boko Haram links to Al Qaeda. But he and his allies have spent more time campaigning for reelection than in trying to find the girls. Perhaps he is afraid that, if he unleashes the army, the military could take over his government too.
Following last spring’s abduction, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted her concern under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. But back in 2011 it was her State Department that had declined to include Boko Haram in its list of designated terrorist groups, despite pressure to do so from several members of Congress. Her successor, John Kerry, changed the State Department position in 2013.
If you think Boko Haram doesn’t affect us, consider that it, like the Islamic state, is trying to establish a caliphate, starting in oil rich Nigeria and spreading beyond. Consider also how this jihadist group threatened in 2012 to kill the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Terence McCulley, if the United States helped Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram. Think about Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ fate in Libya if you doubt the seriousness of such a threat and its implications for the United States’ position in the world.
Last week, Boko Haram killed 120 people at the Central Mosque in Kano, including Nigeria’s second most senior Muslim leader, who had called upon his people to rise up against Boko Haram. Such incidents are happening almost daily. Where is the world outcry now? Where are all those who protested last May’s kidnapping – Hillary Clinton, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, loudmouth Al Sharpton, U.K Prime Minister David Cameron, Michelle Obama, and more? Gone holiday shopping? How soon we forget. We have the attention span of a gnat! While we looked away, many of the young Christian girls were forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Boko Haram fighters or their supporters.
This is an all-out culture war. Boko Haram loosely translated means “Western education is sin” or “Western education is forbidden.” The movement’s unbridled violence is funded by ransoms, extortion and bank robberies. It creates the most paralyzing form of terror. The United States cannot be policeman to the world, and, even if we wanted to play a major role in Nigeria, we’re spread too thin elsewhere. But we can back others to engage in the fight. And we can sustain our sense of outrage – as in the BringBackOurGirls viral movement last spring. That’s the very least that human decency demands as we try to figure out how better to make our influence felt.
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