Not beyond Boko Haram’s reach
Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an executive editor at the Pretoria News. Follow him on
@fikelelom OULD South Africa have its own Boko Haram? The question has been troubling me for a while, and not just because the Sunday Independent reported that Islamic State had been recruiting South Africans for its unholy war.
What I know of the South African Muslim community is that, like every community in this country, it is diverse even in its interpretation of the tenets of its own faith.
So my concern about whether Boko Haram could find a home here is not based on an assumption that we have zealots among the local Muslim community.
As far as I am concerned, Boko Haram and associated outfits like al-Shabaab use Islam as a cover for their anti-social instincts. They use the Scriptures as camouflage for their racketeering schemes.
If you believe Boko Haram and its fellow travellers are inspired by the Qur’an, then you might as well believe the Sicilian mafia maims and murders in defence of the Catholic Church’s teachings.
That said, it is important to recall two aspects about Boko Haram that must make us, as South Africans, wary of creating fertile ground for this group or others like it who use religion as a decoy for nefarious intentions.
The first is that as a religious (even if only by name) project, Boko Haram promises believers a better life in the hereafter provided they do certain things in this life.
Second, its name is derived from what can loosely be interpreted to mean “Western education is bad”.
We have, in South Africa, at least two elements that have helped the rise of Boko Haram.
We have an education system that continues to fail its young people and an everincreasing feeling of alienation for those who hear about how a few wealthy continue being wealthier while they become poorer.
In South Africa, we have an increasing number of young people who, at the end of their school careers, realise they have been duped. We call them jobless graduates and their number increases with every graduation ceremony.
Some of the graduates are responsible for their plight as they seem to have crammed their way through college and are hopeless at bringing their learning to real life.
Others are simply unlucky and with time, should be able to find meaningful work.
For those who will not find any reward for their efforts as students, the question of whether “Western education” is of any
Cworth, will visit their mind.
The same question inevitably gets asked by their younger siblings, who have seen what they conclude is the futility of their brothers and sisters’ endeavours and begin to wonder whether there is any point in enduring 12 years of school and more of higher education if the only realistic prospects for them are as a petrol attendant or a domestic worker.
With regards to the religious allure of outfits like Boko Haram, it might be useful for those too ready to shout that religion is the opiate of the masses to adjust their language. They should remember that if an opiate at all, it is a crutch on which the marginalised seek to navigate a treacherous life.
Before we laugh at those who do seemingly strange things in the name of some heavenly promise, we must ask ourselves why we live in a society that crushes the human spirit so badly that sane people would end up believing that doing stupid things might bring them some salvation, and then ask what we can do to change this.
One just has to spare a thought for that youngster who, when the matric results are released early next year, will find themselves in what can only be called an education purgatory – where they have done enough to muster a pass, but not enough to make that result count anywhere, least of all at a tertiary institution.
Seeing that they are likely to continue the cycle of poverty, what is there to stop such a young person from seriously considering the options offered by religious zealots like Boko Haram and the criminal economy that does not seem to suffer economic downturns or job freezes?
So, to counter the threat of formations like Boko Haram, other religious fundamentalism organisations and criminal enterprises, South Africa has no option but to strike first.
Since formations like Boko Haram are like the Hydra that recreates itself when cut in half, the best way of eliminating them is to never give them room to flourish in the first place.
We can laugh at the fundamentalist Christians who eat grass and drink petrol because their pastor said they could, but we should not be blinded by our mirth.
As we have seen with Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, religious zealots are not always the stuff of ridicule. They can be deadly. We must save our youth before they even know they need saving.
TERROR OF TERRORISM: We must not be overconfident that a group like Boko Haram could not operate in our own country like it continues to do in Nigeria, says the columnist. Boko Haram has waged a terror war in Nigeria for over five years and has been trying to establish a caliphate in Borno since 2009.