Five things about BOKO HARAM

1) The founder of BK is Mohammed Yussuf. He followed the fundamentalist teachings of a 14 C cleric called Ibn Taymiyya, who is one of the forefathers of the Wahabi tradition. Other noted individuals who have been influenced by Ibn Taymiyya are Rashid Rida, Abul A`la Maududi, Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, Abdullah Azzam, and Osama bin Laden

2) The group started in 2002 with an objective to eliminate westernisation. The group’s name is Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad” (JASDJ; Group of the Sunni People for the Calling and Jihad) “Western education is forbidden.” Interestingly the word BOKO means book.

3) The group is not centralised hence the difficulty with stopping its development. It is also polycentric, segmentary and reticulate. It operates in more than one country through networks of associations, it has multiple cites of leadership and multiple issues of concern, not just one objective. Some of the group want closer links with Al Qaeda and International jihadism. A separate group want to focus on Sharia law in Nigeria. Not all members even follow the same branch of Islam. There is a splinter group called ANSARU who criticise the BK for its treatment of other Muslims.

4) Boko Haram is a trans-national non state actor. It also qualifies as a transnational social movement. This makes it, arguably, bigger than a terrorist group. As a non-state group its reach now exceeds the territorial boundaries of four states. It uses asymmetric warfare methods to create a revolutionary society through force. Its influence and effects have spread to Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Benin. Boko Haram has allegedly killed over 10,000 people.

5) Human security issues lie at the heart of the motivations of BK. This makes recruiting easier as local governance, economic disparity and ethnic tensions fuel their campaigns.

Would you like to know more ?

“Curbing violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram insurgency,” International Crisis Group, Africa Report No 216, April 3,


Esposito, John L. (2003). Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. Oxford University Press

Nettler, Ronald L.; Kéchichian, Joseph A. (14/02/2015). “”Ibn Taymīyah, Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics”. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Oxford University Press

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