By Patrick Larsen
The Elon Politics Forum curated a panel of one professor and three students to discuss issues surrounding terrorist group Boko Haram’s actions in Nigeria, Niger and other countries. The discussion was held on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist organization that is allegiant to the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, or ISIL. According to the Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram was the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world as of 2015.
EPF’s discussion was based mostly on questions about Boko Haram and those affected by it.
The panelists included Elon political science major Bridget Smith, Elon African Society treasurer David Olatidoye, Elon Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Ariela Marcus-Sells and Elon student Mohammed Musah, who worked as a journalist in Nigeria for eight months.
“Why aren’t international terrorist organizations like Boko Haram being covered by the news media?”
“I think, if you were to ask me, we don’t see the direct connection between Boko Haram and the War on Terrorism,” said Musah.
Olatidoye continued: “Americans can’t really relate with a lot of the attacks going on there, that’s why it doesn’t get a lot of coverage.
Marcus-Sells and student Smith were in agreement.
What can the regional government and the United Nations do to promote female
equality and women’s rights in the region?
“There’s an environment of mistrust and persecution towards these women,” said Smith. “So it’s important to help their integration back into society and help people to see them for them.”
Marcus-Sells used the question to address Boko Haram’s use of sharia law.
“Boko Haram’s understanding of sharia law is really idiosyncratic and pretty rare among Muslims around the world and throughout history,” said Marcus-Sells. “This is not how Islamic law works in most parts of the world or through history.
What measures should the domestic governments of these affected areas take to prevent the spread of a radical religious group like Boko Haram in the future?
“There have been strides that have been made,” said Musah. “A lot of the territories that Boko Haram took from Nigeria have been reclaimed and a lot of insurgents have been driven out of Sambisa Forest, but at the same time, I think this has to be an international effort.”
“Boko Haram is really ingrained inside Northern Nigeria and it’s really hard for domestic governments to attack them when they don’t have the weapons, don’t have the resources that Boko Haram has,” said Olatidoye. “Boko Haram has funding from all around the world, so I would say international efforts are probably needed.
“One necessary precondition for peace in a region is a self-sustaining economy,” said Marcus-Sells. She continued by explaining that oil in Nigeria has long been the roadblock for economic development. Foreign companies have largely claimed it and also left arable land in the country ruined by oil spills, effectively cancelling the possibility of an agricultural industry.
In what way can increasing the literacy rates in these prospective nations help the current situation?
Musah did not seem hopeful.
“Education leads to nothing in Nigeria… In a country like Nigeria, if you’re not connected to power you’re not gonna touch money.”
Marcus-Sells was similarly downbeat.
“Although education might lead to stability, it does not, in this region, lead to jobs. So you have to explain to people why they should put their eight-year-old in school for ten years and lose their labor, when at the end of that ten years they’re gonna be an over-educated person with no job.”
What ways can we as citizens help the people that have been persecuted by Boko Haram?
“One way that would really help is looking at Nigerian media every once in a while,” said Musah.
“Just in general, spreading awareness,” said Olatidoye. “Letting people know what’s going on in Africa and showing people that it’s important.”
“You should look up a new organization called Give Directly,” said Marcus-Sells. “Their idea is to find out what happens if you just give money to people. Instead of donating to Unicef…why don’t you just give somebody who’s poor $10,000 and see what happens?”
According to Marcus-Sells, Give Directly has seen remarkable success in helping the people who received money and to their surrounding area.
More information on Give Directly can be found here.