May 9 2014
Ayaan Hirsi Ali may not have been politically correct enough to speak at Brandeis University (here, here, and here), but she has a terrific piece on the meaning of the abductions of 276 Nigerian girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram:
The kidnapping of the schoolgirls throws into bold relief a central part of what the jihadists are about: the oppression of women. Boko Haram sincerely believes that girls are better off enslaved than educated.
The terrorists' mission is no different from that of the Taliban assassin who shot and nearly killed 15-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai—as she rode a school bus home in 2012—because she advocated girls' education. As I know from experience, nothing is more anathema to the jihadists than equal and educated women
How to explain this phenomenon to baffled Westerners, who these days seem more eager to smear the critics of jihadism as "Islamophobes" than to stand up for women's most basic rights? Where are the Muslim college-student organizations denouncing Boko Haram? Where is the outrage during Friday prayers? These girls' lives deserve more than a Twitter TWTR +4.24% hashtag protest.
Jihadist groups such as Boko Haram do not, according to Hirsi Ali, flourish in isolation. These organizations are often established by angry young men who at first function in a more moderate Muslim community but gain followers and eventually become as prominent as established Muslim leaders. In parts of the world where civic structures and the rule of law are absent, jihadist messages are likely to become popular.
According to Hirsi Ali, this was the script that Boko Haram followed. She concludes:
The kidnapping of these schoolgirls is not an isolated tragedy; their fate reflects a new wave of jihadism that extends far beyond Nigeria and poses a mortal threat to the rights of women and girls. If my pointing this out offends some people more than the odious acts of Boko Haram, then so be it.
It is interesting that Hillary Clinton, who made empowering women and girls more than foreign policy the goal of her tenure as secretary of state, refused to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. Such a designation would have made it easier to choke off funding and gather information about Boko Haram.