Boko Haram’s militant leader Abubakar Shekau’s radical behaviors have been drawing international attention. He is the new face of terrorism in Africa along with his jihadist group Boko Haram, showing up in many videos online only clothed in militant garb and often carrying a weapon. Many times he does things in the name of Allah, including killing people, burning buildings and torturing innocent lives. In a recent video, Shekau tells people that he will sell the girls he abducted to slavery because Allah tells him to.
An anonymous man who allegedly knows Abubakar Shekau describes him as a “fanatic” and someone who is very extreme in his views. According to an interview done by the BBC, this man states that his mentor was also afraid of Shekau because he was unwilling to bend in any of the radical Islamic interpretations of the Quran. Another former classmate described Shekau as a loner and someone who seemed to have mental or psychological problems.
Shekau doing things “in the name of Allah” is not uncommon around the world and Boko Haram is not the only terrorist group. Al-Qaeda, a prominent terrorist group formed in 1989 in Afghanistan by Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 in the name of Allah, using the Quran to encourage Muslims to attack Americans. Many of the original Al-Qaeda members have been tracked down and killed, including Bin Laden in 2011, but as a result, Al-Qaeda’s current members have dispersed across the Middle East to form subgroups of jihadist members.
Some of the major terrorist groups come from the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, and the Sahel. In Yemen, there is a group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Al-Qaeda group in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has control over some parts of Mali, Algeria and Libya. On the border of Syria and Iraq there is a jihadist group called the Islamic State of Iraq and AL-Sham (ISIS), who recently declared themselves as “the Islamic State” and is gaining more control over Iraq and parts of Syria. Their brutal tactics include killing those who do not agree or conform to their rule and version of the Islamic law. They are also one of the groups that is trying to gain control of Syria in its ongoing and brutal war.
In Pakistan, the Taliban terrorizes the people and promises to enforce their version of the hardline Sharia law when they are in power. In Somalia, there is a group called Al-Shabaab. In Egypt, there is a group called Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdia. In Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiah exists. In addition to Boko Haram, many of these groups also have links to Al-Qaeda.
Many of these terrorist groups are extremists who have a hardline view of Islam and believe that justice and peace is achieved when the state embraces God’s law. Therefore, many are fueled by this mission to Islamize secular regions. These terrorist groups often use tactics of violence or extreme measures to push their agenda. Acts of violence occur because some believe that it will be more effective in achieving their political, social or religious goals.
There are different reasons why jihadist groups may arise, including economic poverty, regional and national grievances, bad governance, a need for revenge and a belief that people need to be turned back to Muslim Sharia law. Some groups may turn to terrorism when they believe that there have been social or political wrongs that need to be made right and that these acts of violence will eventually bring the region to justice. Using acts of terror is not what many Muslims embrace, however, only jihadist and hardline groups like Boko Haram use force, fear and coercion in order to impose their agenda.
By Joyce Chu