By Dr. Ujogi Egbujo
Boko haram insurgents are immature Talibans. Developing, inchoate, yet endowed with the same sharp-toothedness and a carnivorous appetite, a penchant for violence and intolerance. Driven by the same passion. To loath Boko haram but think fondly of the Taliban is to be pathetically conflicted. And many are. These confused, mutually inconsistent feelings, betray carefully hidden religious chauvinism.
The Taliban is extremist religious fundamentalism. Scant regards for human rights and humanitarian laws recognized by humanity. Insistence on earth scorching religious intolerance. The crude interpretation of women in the most misogynistic of ways. At the peak of their reign, they didn’t let anyone dance to pop music. A few days ago, adverts on Kabul streets that have images of women had been wiped off. They say it’s holiness to do so.
To be certain, nobody elected the Taliban. They came to power through the barrel of the gun, and those who think they derive their legitimacy from majoritarianism are only desperate to associate the Taliban with democratic theocracy. Funny concept, isn’t it? But Democracy is not a free-floating simple majority rule.
Otherwise, villainous Hitler would have passed for a democrat. Democracy is underpinned by the values of freedom, the rule of law and moral equality. So the argument that the Taliban is legitimate because it’s what the majority wants is the kind of argument that could make Kim Jung Un a democrat too. The majority is often not free of evil. The majority in Rwanda once wanted all of the minority slaughtered.
The Taliban is the symbol of extremism, and it is rightly recognized as a terror group. It’s wrong to think fondly of them because they espouse radical Islamism. Boko haram espouses radical Islamism too. They think of moderate Islam as corrupt and compromised, and sinful. They believe in the Jihad expressed by forceful enthronement of Islamic rule wherever possible. That’s Talibanism right there. Both groups do not subscribe to a Johad that means personal conviction and spiritual perfection.
They see religious perfectionism as a common good. The only existing difference between them is that Bokoharam kills civilians and destroys livelihoods much more indiscriminately. Well, the Taliban can overrun the lousy afghan army with its eyes closed. So they need not engage the civilian population with any nihilistic malevolence in their quest for power. They need not throw the temper tantrums of toddlers.
On the other hand, Boko haram cannot confront the mighty Nigerian army. So they choose soft targets in their diabolical quest to show strength, to seize power. They both claim to be soldiers of God. So they are comrades.
Boko harm and the Taliban share an identical ideology. The supremacy of Islam. While they are not the best exponents of the faith, they are fixated and united on the exclusion of other religions. Shared brand of radical religious fundamentalism. The institution of extremist Islamic rule over a defined territory. The recourse to violence to achieve the acquisition of power. The dislike for western lifestyle, including women’s rights. The disregard for international laws and treaties. The subjugation of human rights to atavistic whims.
Those who cheer the Taliban lend justification to Boko haram. They might even be unaware they might cheer a victorious Boko haram. But that’s the path they are threading, consciously or otherwise. Perhaps their only grouse with Boko haram is the inauspiciousness of that insurrection, its foolhardiness and the humungous toll on poor people.
In one of those his controversial lectures, Pantami had said he believed in Jihad but disagreed with Boko haram because the jihadist must weigh judiciously his chances of making the theocracy happen. So he said he disagreed not with the ideology but with the methodology of Boko haram. But Pantami has repented.
He is now a government official. He can no longer hold such one-eyed reactionary opinions in public. But many of those who feasted on his fiery lectures and others who didn’t have remained unrepentant. And they include many loud patriots. Perhaps Pantami doesn’t know that repentance obligates him to call on them to denounce the Taliban.
It could be deemed rude, but one would have loved to ask repentant Pantami what his position would be if Boko haram finds an overwhelming military advantage and can overrun our army the way the Taliban packed aside the Afghan army. Yes, that question would go to Pantami on behalf of the lovers of the Taliban in our midst.
Folks must search their hearts. And purge themselves of these tendencies. When Yerima started this naked flirtation with religious fundamentalism, he didn’t know he was seeding radicalism that would birth monsters like Boko haram.
We must preach and live tolerance and inclusiveness. We must be united on our condemnation of all traces of radicalism and extremism. We can’t pick and choose. If we hesitate or validate radical extremism anywhere, we justify the radical extremism ravaging us.