May 16, 2014
When Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls last month, it sent shockwaves around the world and drew widespread condemnation.
The kidnapping on April 14th in the Nigerian town of Chibok even attracted censure and disapproval from fellow al-Qaeda-linked groups. But the incident did receive one rare show of approval: from al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab, which also has a tradition of forcefully abducting children and conscripting them to fight, voiced support for the Nigerian group's actions through its official Radio al-Andalus Facebook page.
In a series of postings starting May 10th, al-Shabaab argues that the abduction is justified as a result of the Nigerian government's abuses against Muslims and that Boko Haram "rescued" the young girls from these injustices.
As a pretext for its argument, al-Shabaab in one post shows a series of images which it claims are Nigerian policemen forcing injured or disabled Muslims to the ground as a "young Christian" officer appears to execute them. The post also notes that Muslims should argue against these actions and "seek blood" in revenge.
Al-Shabaab also attempted to justify Boko Haram's actions saying they are less inhumane than the government's mistreatment of Muslims in Nigerian jails.
"The mujahideen are treating the women respectfully," one of the statements on al-Andalus' Facebook page said. "[Each girl] will be given to one man who will make her his wife or sell her to another man who wants [her]. Later, they will be freed and married like [other] free women."
In another post, al-Shabaab asks its followers to chime in about the fate of the abducted girls, giving three scenarios:
1. Should they be released without conditions?
2. Should they be given freedom for a ransom?
3. Should they be given to other jihadists so that 200 more boys can be born to join the mujahideen?
The post claims that all three options are allowed under sharia if the girls are labelled as part of the "infidels" or "disbelievers".
Readers' responses were split between options 1 and 3 -- releasing the girls without condition and "giving" them to the mujahedeen to support the cause of jihad.
"I think they should be freed without condition. Muslim scholars have 100% agreed that the kidnapping is wrong," one reader said, adding that kidnapping non-Muslims who live peacefully with Muslims will tarnish the image of Islam.
Others condemned the group altogether.
"There are standards for jihad. Boko Haram did not even get a good word from jihadi scholars or al-Qaeda. Their actions are a transgression and they do not have enough Islamic knowledge," another reader posted.
"Al-Andalus, do not misguide people. The militants are not mujahideen," he said. "It is true that Muslims are being oppressed and killed, but what [Boko Haram] did is something that cannot be tolerated."
"[Boko Haram] are not mujahideen; they are devils," another reader wrote. "They are wrong and Islamic sharia does not allow marrying women forcefully. I pray to God to free the women that they have abducted."
Sheikh Said Sheikh Mohamud Sheikh Abdirahman, head of justice affairs for Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa in Guriel, said that anyone with true Islamic knowledge knows that Boko Haram's kidnapping of the girls is forbidden.
"Islam has given human beings special respect, especially [to] women whose rights must be safeguarded," he told Sabahi. "Therefore, what do you think [Islam says] of the person who abducts young girls who are going to school, whether the reason for the abduction is to seek money or not, or for reasons based on politics?"
"Every Muslim person understands and there are no questions about the illegality of the abductions," he said.
"The men carrying out kidnappings such as these are sinners far [worse] than what we have seen before "he said."[This] is something to be ashamed of in every sense."
Abdirahman said he was not surprised that al-Shabaab's media outlet would exalt the actions of other terrorist groups.
"It is to be expected from a group, to whom beheadings and suicide bombings are normal, to glorify the kidnappings of a terror group with their same ideology," he said, adding al-Shabaab has been responsible for even worse crimes than what Boko Haram is doing now.
Hassan Ali, a 53-year-old traditional elder from Mogadishu, said al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are cut from the same cloth.
"When terrorist groups similar to al-Shabaab, who have emerged strongly in the last ten years across the world and in African countries, are weakened, they are unanimous in the abduction and abuse against children and women," Ali told Sabahi.
"That is why I was really sad when I heard the group Boko Haram had abducted young female students," he said. "It reminded me of the actions al-Shabaab carried out throughout many towns across Somalia's regions when they controlled [them]."
The kidnapping of the schoolgirls has triggered a global uproar and sparked an international social media campaign using the hashtag -- #BringBackOurGirls.
US government officials on Thursday (May 15th) slammed Nigeria's "slow" response to the kidnapping and to the threat of Boko Haram in general.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Senator Robert Menendez said Nigeria had been "tragically and unacceptably slow" to deal with the crisis, despite offers of assistance from the United States and other countries.
"I have called on President [Goodluck] Jonathan to demonstrate the leadership his nation is demanding," Menendez said.
"In the face of this sophisticated threat, Nigeria's security forces have been slow to adapt with new strategies and new tactics," US Department of Defence official Alice Friend said.
The United States has sent a team of around 30 civilian and military personnel to help the Nigerian government hunt for the kidnapped schoolgirls. The US military also confirmed it is flying surveillance drones as well as manned reconnaissance planes over the country in an effort to locate the girls.
Asha Farah, a 26-year-old who studied public administration at Mogadishu University, welcomed the support offered by the US government and the international community in the search for the girls abducted by Boko Haram.
"I really view this as an ugly act by the Boko Haram group, which is claiming to be a group that fights in the name of Islam. This is an action that international terrorists are known for," she said.
"In support of the appeal made by Nigerian parents, I urge Boko Haram to release the children if they care about humanity at all," she said.
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