Birds are chirping in Brooklyn. The newly unfurled leaves are rustling in a hazy humid spring morning. You can feel the warmth itching to come back to this gritty city. But for now, the chill remains, the sleeping stay in bed, and I am up after the morning prayer, with the thought: Boko Haram needs to be crushed.
Yes, I am Muslim. Today, I am embarrassed to be Muslim, to call myself the same thing as these ingrates. Boko Haram is a group of militant men that have kidnapped and killed thousands upon thousands of people. Most recently, they stole 274 girls from a school in Northern Nigeria. There is no justification for their actions. They have bragged about selling the girls into slavery and/ or forcibly marrying them off. I do not care how scripture is interpreted (because we all know that any religious text can be interpreted to mean anything). The actions of Boko Haram are disgusting, evil, wrong, and they should be punished to the full extent of human capability.
As a father, I am sickened. I think what the parents of those 274 girls must be thinking and I am paralyzed. As a Muslim, I am outraged, sick, annoyed, angry, frustrated, and to a certain degree, I am questioning my faith and the community of believers to which I belong.
I have many thoughts about the situation. Here are 6:
1. A hashtag is not going to save any of those 274 girls.
I read an incredible piece the other day that called out American Imperialism and chastised people for participating in a campaign online that has little to no relevance on the ground for the girls being held captive – one that may hurt rather than help the situation. So, this is not a change.org moment. For the people that want to do something now, I say tend to your own community. Look around you. Are there people you know in danger? Is there abuse happening right under your eyes?
2. It’s times like these I wish I had military training.
Perhaps its not the USA’s responsibility to go marching into a sovereign African Nation to tell them how to handle their business. Perhaps the USA even has ulterior motives (it wouldn’t be the first time). But its hard for me to think and say that the girls should not be saved by US military intervention even if it means the US has other interests in mind.
When I was a junior in high school I spent ample time with a very persistent recruiter from West Point who nearly had me signing on the dotted line. Had I done so, I would have played football for Army and graduated from West Point just in time to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3. The anti-Christ.
A figure in Islam and Christianity that comes during the end of days to confuse, destroy, and maraud our faith. I’m not saying that Boko Haram is the anti-Christ; what I am saying is that Boko Haram is a taste of what the anti-Christ will do – give Muslims around the world who have a strong moral compass a loss of faith as they question, “Is this my religion?” A small loss of faith, if nurtured, can make the anti-Christ’s job much easier.
We religious types, the kind who pray and actually believe that the stories in the Torah, Bible, and Quran are more than bedtime fables but actual accounts of real people and real events, have an easy and neat way of dealing with this type of evil: Hell. A simple four-letter word with a not-so-simple meaning. This is where I believe Boko Haram will get what it’s due. But knowing they qualify for hell still doesn’t change the current situation.
5. On Kidnapping.
Kidnapping thugs have existed for a long time. Kidnapping requires little imagination and is pretty much guaranteed to get you some cash. That’s how Boko Haram makes their bread. We see similar thuggish behavior in the drug gangs of northern border Mexican towns or among Colombian rebels. In both of those instances they do their thuggery for the pursuit of money – they commit atrocities to win their battles and gain more market share for their products and services – they are exemplary capitalists.
Boko Haram does their dirt in the name of an ethical and moral framework, Islam, that is obviously more nuanced and more varied than some gun-aroused simpleton dancing around with a bandana on his face and a sign in Arabic. They are even worse than the 9/11 punks. In that instance, one can argue, they were committing an act of war on enemy soil. Boko Haram has local guys committing acts of war on local children. That would be like me, in Fort Greene, attacking Williamsburg because I hate hipsters and everything they represent, when I know damn well I want to go eat at Egg someday soon and that my buddy Pablo grew up and still lives there. Boko Haram is the worst because they have declared war not on some “otherized” enemy but on their own people!
They do it all in the name of religion, in the name of the same religion that compelled me to wake up before the sun rose today and wash my hands, face, nose, ears, mouth, arms, head, feet and lay out a prayer rug and pray while I held my almost-one-year-old baby. This is what sickens me. Some Muslims say our “faith is being hijacked.” But it is not. This type of activity happens far too much to call it that. Hijackings happen infrequently, irregularly. Right now, people calling themselves Muslims are regularly killing, raping, and attacking in the name of religion.
Seriously, from one Muslim to many others: What the Heck is Wrong With Us?!
For the record: I will not call out Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or atheists because I don’t identify as a member of those groups. I will say that people have done horrific things in the name of those traditions too, so don’t think you’re getting off scot free and don’t think you can just single out Islam as evil and your job is done. We all have some dirt on our fingers. But as a Muslim today, I am embarrassed and ashamed that people like Boko Haram exist.
6. What had to have happened in the lives of the Boko Haram leadership for them to delight in rancor?
What had to have happened in the lives of the boys they are brainwashing into becoming kidnappers, rapists, and sport killers. Hurt people hurt people. The historic (and current!) raping and pillaging of African Nations by every other country in the world is not to be disconnected from the kidnapping of these girls. The toxic environments in Africa created by African people originated somewhere. Self-hate originated somewhere.
The sun has risen. My wife and kids are still sleeping. My eldest is a little congested and the little guy fell asleep after waking up way too early. In an hour or so we will have eaten, dressed, and rushed out of here as a family, together and safe. If you are a human being who is preventing any other human being from being safe and with their family then you need to go on the side of Boko Haram and know that when the cavalry comes for them they’ll get you too. If you are a man who is abusing a little boy or girl, if you have some child trapped in a basement or locked in a cage, if you are beating your spouse, or robbing from an elderly person then I’m sorry you were never able to heal from whatever hurt pushed you to this but today, in this moment, I wish the same for all of you that I wish for Boko Haram – a bit of hell in this life and hell in the next.
And if you are one of the 274 girls or any of the other nameless abused children in the world… we’re coming.