Trinidad and Tobago is morally summoned to add its voice to the international expressions of abhorrence directed against the kidnapping of some 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist Boko Haram group. That such an act could be perpetrated in the 21st century undermines the very idea of human progress. Boko Haram’s outrageous position against the education of girls offends every ideal of enlightened living and should be denounced without reservation.
Having experienced our own brush with Islamic extremism in 1990, we can claim some familiarity with the self-righteous mindset of those who don the cloak of religion to pursue their ambitions of power. This is hardly a new chapter in the history of the world, or of the Caribbean itself where widescale atrocities were committed in the name of Christianity. The fact that such thinking still endures in parts of the world shows how difficult it is to break the stranglehold of the old order.
Boko Haram’s mass abduction of schoolgirls, and the threats to sell or work them as slaves, force them into marriage and use them as human shields, mark the pestilential character of the terrorist organisation. Claiming identification with a perverted version of Islam, Boko Haram has employed the bloodiest means to disrupt the education of girls as part of its violent ideological opposition to “Westernisation” in Nigeria.
This ultimate resort to using children for the purposes of terrorism has drawn military support from the US along with other forms of support from the UK and France for the embattled Nigerian government. While T&T’s anti-terrorist resources are unlikely to be required against the group, we have the power of progressive-minded Muslim communities who can signal their unreserved distaste for and denunciation of the ideas and actions of Boko Haram, while affirming its solidarity with anguished parents, relatives and others in Nigeria.
However, the kidnapping of the Nigerian pupils is not an issue for just Muslims alone but for all people who believe in the right of everyone, including girls, to an education and the right of all children to safety, care, protection and love.
The venom spewed against girls and women by groups such as Boko Haram and the Taliban is a reminder of the hold that old despotic regimes have had on society and the extremes to which they are prepared to go to retain what little power they can hold on to in a time of change. Change is what most scares them.
In addition to raising our voices again Boko Haram, we must do our part to push President Goodluck Jonathan and the Government of Nigeria to step up their plan for rescuing these girls. Too much time has already been allowed to pass without an effective response.
In today’s global world of information, opinion is rapidly mobilising on the side of the distraught parents of the kidnapped girls who have been leading the charge for action. In their moment of need, we must not let them or their daughters down.