Why is the White House dragging its feet?
The Clarion Project has started a petition to designate the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram as—well, a terrorist group. The Obama Administration’s desire to end the war on terror and not pick any new fights is overriding common-sense and moral clarity. The United Kingdom has just branded Boko Haram as a terrorist group, so it’s up to American citizens to sign the petition and tell their government to stop dragging its feet.
Boko Haram, which loosely means “Western education is sacrilege,” just carried out an attack on the “sacrilegious” by massacring about 30 students and one teacher in a boarding school. The toll of the attack goes beyond the casualty numbers. Think about the parents who had to identify the scorched bodies of their children and the innocents that shiver in fear every school day. This is the third attack on a school this month, and we’re less than two weeks in.
In May, the Religious Liberty Director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Faith McDonnell, wrote that “Nigeria had a higher death toll from anti-Christian persecution and violence than the rest of the world combined.”
Boko Haram has carried out a bombing almost every week since August 2011. Churches are a frequent recipient of the group’s Islamism-fueled wrath. It is for this reason that the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans is demanding that Boko Haram be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization “for the umpteenth time.”
Although three of Boko Haram’s leaders were labeled as “Specially Designated Terrorists” in June 2012, the group as a whole is not labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The State Department says that a Foreign Terrorist Organization must obviously be foreign, engaged in terrorist activity and threaten the U.S. and its nationals.
There is no way to contest that Boko Haram meets this criteria. The reason it has not been designated comes down to the simple fact that the Obama Administration doesn’t want to. President Obama says that certain Al-Qaeda affiliates shouldn’t be on the target list because “not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al-Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.” He argues that Boko Haram and other African extremist groups are motivated by a frustration over poor governance.
Similarly, Johnnie Carson, an Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs, told Congress in July 2012 that Boko Haram shouldn’t be labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization because “our understanding is limited at best” and its violence is triggered by “social, economic problems.” He discredited his own thesis by referring to Boko Haram as a “terrorist organization” in his answer.
As McDonnell explains, “In their many publicly released statements and videos, Boko Haram has never declared poverty and marginalization to be a motive for their actions. On the contrary, they state clearly that their actions are a ‘jihad' (Holy War).”
In fact, Boko Haram leader Abubaker Shaker makes it clear that altering policy isn’t his objective. He said, “We will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees…we will only put aside our arms—but we will not lay them down. You don’t put down your arms in Islam, you only put them aside.”
Nor is Boko Haram’s goal limited to Nigeria. In November 2012, Shekau said, “O America, die with your fury,” and said the group supports jihadists in Afghanistan that are fighting U.S. forces, as well as jihadists in many other Muslim lands.
According to the State Department, if a group is labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization then it becomes illegal for anyone in the U.S. to provide material support to the group; any financial institution must freeze and report its assets; and members of the group are barred from entering the U.S. and ones that are already here could potentially be deported. It is shocking to think that these measures aren’t already in place.
Boko Haram’s connections with other Al-Qaeda affiliates considered to be Foreign Terrorist Organizations further highlight the absurdity of the exception made for the Nigerian group. A spokesman said in January 2012, “We enjoy financial and technical support” and that its leaders have met with Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Boko Haram has also been linked to Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
In February, a former Al-Qaeda chef in Mali said that hundreds of Boko Haram members had trained in northern Mali, and personally prepared food for 200. They “arrived in Timbuktu in April 2012 in about 300 cars, after al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) swept into the city.”
Amazingly, the campaign to get Boko Haram designated for what it undeniably is has received scant attention from the media. The petition was sent to major outlets with no response. The Premium Times of Nigeria and AllAfrica.com are, thus far, the only two news sites to pick it up.
The silence is even more surprising when you consider how clear-cut of a case this is. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah, Boko Haram doesn’t have eloquent defenders in the West. It doesn’t sit in a grey area to portray itself as “moderate.” It is, by its own reckoning, in Al-Qaeda’s ideological camp and acts accordingly.
Sign the petition now and send it to your friends. It’s time to let the White House know that the country will not be silent as Boko Haram slaughters Christians and rival Muslims.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
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