In April 2014, Boko Haram became a global household name following the
militant Islamist group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school
in Chibok, a remote town in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Bornu. Although
Boko Haram had been unleashing terror on Nigerian civilians and state of-
ficials since 2008, this tragic event called world attention to the intense dan-
ger of Islamic extremism in Nigerian society. While it is true that this radical
group’s brutal activities do not represent the myriad role of Muslim groups in
Nigerian society, it would be shortsighted to dismiss Boko Haram as an aber-
ration in Muslim Northern Nigeria. Despite the unique context in which it
exploded on the Nigerian public scene, Boko Haram is another example of
militant Northern Muslim movements insisting on the radical transformation
of the state in Northern Nigeria, going back several centuries. In the context
of con temporary Nigerian politics, Boko Haram’s horrific attacks have put a
global spotlight on the deepening crisis of the nation- state, revealing the dam-
aging consequences of the sharia crisis, neopatrimonialism, and neoliberalism
in the context of the post-9/11 “global war on terror.” Interestingly, Boko
Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf— who was murdered in 2009 by Nigerian
security forces— had criticized the custodians of state power in a way that curi-
ously resembled critiques by previous militant Islamist groups analyzed in detail
in this book, notably neo- Mahdi in the early colonial period and ‘Yan tatsina
under military rule in the 1980s. These groups had fought Nigerian colonial and
postcolonial regimes, denouncing them as illegitimate and corrupt. However, at
the other end of the spectrum of the world religions— either challenging or af-
firming the legitimacy of the holders of state power—is the myriad of mainstream
Muslim and Christian movements that have sought to transform Nigerian so-
ciety through peaceful means since the imposition of colonial rule at the turn
of the twentieth century. For over two centuries, this broad range of po litical
and social activities by Muslim and Christian structures has consistently re-
flected the complicated role of these world religious movements in the making
of modern Nigeria.
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