History repeats, too often it repeats atrocities, and when they reoccur, remarks by world leaders outlining the severity of our times should also be repeated. Why? It helps with perspective.
Two months ago, on February 19, the Nigerian-based, Islamic terror group, Boko Haram raided the town of Dapchi and kidnapped over one hundred schoolgirls from the Government Girls Science and Technical College.
This kidnapping and the inefficient response by the Nigerian government reminded the world of Boko Haram’s 2014 abduction of over 250 female students from a Chibok girl’s secondary school. (To my understanding there are still close to 100 girls missing from this incident.) This is when, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown’s 2009 remarks should have been repeated.
Brown said, “The sustained degradation and subjugation of girls and women remains the world’s most pervasive human rights violation…The majority of the 2.4 million victims of human trafficking, which treat people as products, are female…Yet, in supposedly civilized and enlightened times, girls and women around the world suffer unimaginable atrocities: Forced marriages, rape, mutilation (in this case kidnapping)…Discrimination also means girls and women are more likely to be in poverty, denied schooling, deprived of health care, excluded from political and economic decision-making and die young…More girls have been murdered in the last 50 years simply because of their gender than all the people slaughtered in all the genocides. It is a conclusion which shames the modern world because, like slavery, this oppression is officially sanctioned. So, a great challenge faces humankind: To match the abolition of slavery with the global emancipation of girls and women.”
Recently, in an unprecedented act of benevolence, Boko Haram returned nearly all the Kidnapped Dapchi school girls. One of the free girls said, “We were freed because we are Muslim girls and they didn’t want us to suffer.” (She also said a Christian classmate remained captive.) Of course, the Nigerian government denied they made a prisoner swap or paid a ransom in exchange for a safe return of the Dapchi girls, but there might be some repetitive history of prisoner-swapping and ransoms that made this denial necessary.
But, Boko Haram’s benevolence has limits.
After the terror group returned the Dapchi girls Boko Haram left a warning that was repeated across Nigeria. It was, “Don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”
Now, Boko Haram means, western education is a sin (or forbidden), and when the explanation of their name is repeated I’m reminded of the historical questions posed by U.S. President Donald Trump during his speech in Poland in 2017.
Trump asked, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert or destroy it?”
But here’s the irony behind Boko Haram’s name and their warning against school.
Western education wouldn’t exist if Islamic scholars didn’t preserve Greek classics during, what the Europeans called, the “dark ages.” University of Colorado’s Robert Pasnau wrote, “For several centuries a series of brilliant philosophers and scientists made Baghdad the intellectual center of the medieval world.” During this pre-European-Renaissance era Greek knowledge and wisdom that would have disappeared was translated into Arabic and preserved.
So, when Nigerian Muslim girls receive a “western education” they are participating in an ancient act of Islamic preservation. But, when extremist groups like Boko Haram are accused of wanting to return the modern world to the “dark ages,” that’s an insult to the Islamic scholars that preserved the works of Plato and Aristotle.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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