When a fundamental Muslim declares takfir against a fellow Muslim, it is a declaration that the latter’s blasphemous behavior is so egregious that he has made himself into a kafir, a non-Muslim. Declaring takfir is common practice among radical Islamic groups, and is often directed at those secularized or lapsed Muslims that Westerners commonly refer to as moderates.
The following article, although not new, describes Boko Haram’s takfir-related attacks in Nigeria, which are still ongoing. Many thanks to JLH for translating this piece from Die Welt:
Nigeria’s Islamists Are Hunting Down Muslims
Forty-four of the faithful die after prayers. Terror group Boko Haram enforcing sharia
by Christian Putsch, August 14, 2013
The attackers came disguised as soldiers. Their victims were caught completely off-guard. Dozens of Muslims had just finished morning prayers in a mosque in the northeastern Nigerian city of Konduga, when the assassins opened fire without warning. Eyewitnesses reported that several of the victims were killed with machetes. On Monday, the authorities gave the number of deaths as 44. Twelve other civilians in the nearby village of Ngom also died. Reports of the incident were delayed due to the unusual circumstances resulting from the army’s battle against the terror sect in that region.
Boko Haram means approximately “Western Education is a Sin”, and the militia in northern Nigeria fights under this name for the expansion of religious law and the toppling of the government. The organization has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack. But the disguising of the gunmen is typical of attacks by the organization directed against Muslim citizens in recent weeks. Increasingly in Nigeria, citizen initiatives reaching beyond religion have been formed, supporting the army’s battle against Boko Haram.
“According to Boko Haram’s ideology, it is the duty of every Muslim to support a holy war such as Boko Haram is waging,” says Emmanuel Ogbunwezeh, advisor for the International Society for Human Rights. “By neglecting to do this, the peaceful Muslims of northern Nigeria have — in the eyes of Boko Haram — betrayed Islam and become the enemy.”
Since 2009, when the government began a great offensive against the terrorist organization, thousands of civilians in northern Nigeria have been killed in attacks. The targets at first were Christian churches, members of the military, and state institutions like town halls. Ultimately the selection of targets was expanded. Dozens of young people died in attacks on schools and universities. The battle against Boko Haram is one of the priorities of President Goodluck Jonathan. And according to analysts, the military’s offensive is increasingly supported by the population, which has endured not only the danger but also the regional economic crisis caused by the conflict.
Adam Higazi of the think tank Oxford Analytica said that such mass support against the group had not existed: “This is the greatest setback to the armed campaign against the Nigerian state.” Many young men in northern Nigeria see no alternative to becoming involved. The government has even officially registered several youth groups, and not all of them limit themselves to reporting Boko Haram members to authorities. They are not being armed, but the army often sanctions the use of machetes and other weapons. “If we don’t act, we will all be killed by Boko Haram sooner or later — or by the army, which is suspicious of all young men,” Ba Lawan, the 25-year-old founder of one of these groups, said to Reuters. Sagir Musa, the spokesperson for the Nigerian army in the northeast of the country, regrets that the support did not set in sooner: “We would have been able to do much better in the fight against this uprising.”
The actual support and the rejection of Boko Haram are difficult to evaluate. The imposition of martial law limits access for media, analysts and NGOs in the north of Nigeria. And communiqués from Boko Haram are almost exclusively in the form of irregular video messages by their leader Abubakar Shekau.
One such video was played for several journalists on Monday. There was no explicit reference to Sunday’s attack. Boko Haram fighters had carried out several attacks in recent weeks, in which “soldiers fled the fierce fire of our heavy guns,” said Shekau. He contradicted the administration’s description of Boko Haram as nearly beaten. “The military is lying to the world about this struggle.” The army had long since been outmatched. “We can take on the USA with no problem.” He appealed to the nation to follow the “way of Allah — Forget the constitution and accept sharia.”
Shekau’s presentation is bellicose. For some time, Boko Haram has followed Al Qaeda’s model, using professional videos showing destroyed army vehicles and whole arsenals of weapons. “Let the world know that we have been directed by Allah to kill all unbelievers,” he said in his recent message. “Furthermore, we kill any who stand and against the will of Allah by rejecting sharia.” His fighters do not fear death, said Shekau. It is “actually a blessing for us to die for this cause and gain entry to paradise.”