Nigeria, Iraq, Gaza—The Threat is the Same
Over-analysing and under-analysing — are these not the two sins of thought which we are all meant to avoid? Believing a sniffle is a presage of imminent death. Not bothering about a pain in the chest. Thinking all the problems of the world are easy to solve. Deciding that most things are too difficult to solve. Over-thinking and under-thinking are the Scylla and Charybdis between which we all navigate. But there is one challenge at this moment in particular which the world would do well to understand a bit better and over-think a bit less. Our future depends on it.
Michelle's hashtag: Celebrity support warmed the heart but more than 200 Nigerian girls remain in captivity or have been sold as slaves
During the last few months the world has seen several varieties of the same evil stretch out, assert themselves and proliferate. Last April 276 schoolgirls were abducted in north-eastern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The translation of their name is usually given as "Western Education is Forbidden" but "Non-Muslim Teaching is Forbidden" is a more accurate rendering. The world ignored this atrocity until the human interest angle of the story spurred people to virtual action.
But no political leaders were keen to explain why the group had taken the girls. Few media outlets explained the simple but crucial detail that the terrorist group was made up of Islamic fundamentalists and that their captives were Christians. Fewer still mentioned that the formal Arabic name of Boko Haram is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad or "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad". Or that, as one of the group's leaders, Abubakar Shekau, explained for anyone who would listen, "This work that we are doing is not our work, it is Allah's work, we are doing Allah's work."
A Twitter campaign was started. Numerous well-meaning celebrities including Michelle Obama and David Cameron posed with the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Months later and, with the exception of a few dozen who had managed to escape, the girls remained either in captivity or had been sold into slavery. And so the world's attention moved on, touched but unenlightened.
Then in July the now biennial war between Israel and Hamas arrived for its latest round. The world once again looked with horror at an exchange whose pattern seems unresolvable. The status quo (Hamas and other jihadist groups firing rockets into Israel) was interrupted by Israel retaliating. As in previous rounds, limited operational success was achieved by Israel until the international community insisted on a return to the status quo ante — that is for Israel to stop firing and permit Hamas to resume firing rockets unmolested. Once again the world focused on what the Israeli response was, but missed the opportunity to consider what Hamas are, why they exist or why they keep trying to fire missiles into Israel.
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