Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is Education "Haram"?

Located in West Africa, Nigeria represents 7th most highly populated countries of the world with its 175 million population (2013 census). At the same time, recent Economist's issues emphasise the role of the Nigerian economy in the region, as the biggest with its $478.5 billion in 2013. According to the UN, majority (over 60%) of the population is youth under 25 year of age. In the survey led by a senior researcher for the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa, Mr. Atta-Asamoah, the Nigerian youth considers that young population is more of a risk than opportunity. And, the answer has its deep roots in the vulnerable conditions the Nigerians have been facing for decades now not since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1914, but rather since establishment of the terroristic organization, Boko Haram (nickname for meaning "Western education is forbidden"), in 2002. Currently, some of the reports state about over 320 deaths since March 2014 and thousands have been leaving their homes for seeking security in remote villages around the fragmented federal state. 

Originally, the armed attacks organized by country-wide spread Boko Haram were concentrated in poorer north-east states, such as Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Today, massive killings, according to journalists and local victims, unexpectedly occur anywhere, as Boko Haram finds new "targets". So far, the targets have been young men and women, attending state schools which the followers of Boko Haram's ideology consider "western". Initially, the U.S. Government raised concerns about the links of the Islamist militant group with Al-Qaeda and announced about the possible threat the organization might bring to the U.S.' national security. 

Under the religious mask, members (increasing in number due to continuous recruitment of youth in Africa) of Boko Haram seek to proclaim an Islamic state in Nigeria with enforced sharia law. Abubakar Shekau, the successor of the killed Muhammed Yusuf - leader of the group, aims at preventing the rise of non-Islamic motives in the Nigerian government and invites everyone to join the social and political rebellion against "harams", meaning "sins". Nigerian students have already been living in fear is massive slotters that have been taking place in educational institutions across the country for almost two months. Some are forced not to attend school, and their parents are worrying about the future of these young people.

Attempts to understand Boko Haram's Mission, leads to clashes between the essence of Muslim's Holy Book, the Qoran, and terroristic ideas and activities the militant group has been undertaking in Nigeria and its neighboring countries. "Haram", the sin, never was to refer to "education". Instead, just like any other religion, Islam promotes well-being and constant growth in people which is stipulated in Qoranic scripts (Meccan sura, 114. People). Besides that, it is against of killing and other wrongdoings which might cause harm to oneself and/or others. And, the holiest jihad (as the militants call it, referring to establishment of Islamic state/s in Africa) of the 10th century (when the religion was originated and started spreading from the Middle East) must, obviously, differ from the one in the 21st century. Highly educated Muslims that have studied across the world and accomplished own heights in science and art, highlight the importance of seeing the "will or strive within a human being (to be a better person)" under the notion of "jihad" (from an interview of a respected imam ['leader of community'] in Switzerland, March 2014), which prescribes constant education and cross-cultural tolerance. 

While youth in Africa is praying to live tomorrow, the militant organizations are using all possible means, with religious clash being the most clear-separating, to gain political power in the region and control oil or other natural resources. One could 'hear' that these militant/terrorist organizations want to redistribute the nation's wealth; however, it is obvious that only improving education and other socio-economic conditions will lead the African countries from the poverty trap. So, education cannot be "haram". And, the organizations (including Boko Haram), covered under religious vails and distorting the holy essence, must be declared as the causes of national threat to any country across the globe and sought to be eliminated. 


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