Two aspects about Boko Haram must make us wary of creating fertile ground for them or others like them, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.
Pretoria – Could South Africa have its own Boko Haram? The question has been troubling me for a while. It is not just because the Sunday Independent reported that the Islamic State has been recruiting South Africans for its unholy war.
What I know of the South African Muslim community is that like every community in this country it is diverse even in their interpretation of the tenets of their own faith.
So my concern about whether a Boko Haram could find a home here is not based on an assumption that we have zealots among the local Muslims.
As far as I am concerned, Boko Haram and associated outfits like al-Shabaab use Islam as a cover for their anti-social instincts. They use scriptures as camouflage for their racketeering schemes.
If you believe that Boko Haram and their fellow travellers are inspired by the Noble Qur’an then you might as well believe that the Sicilian Mafia maims and murders in defence of the Catholic Church’s teachings.
That said, it is important to recall two aspects about Boko Haram that must make us as South Africans wary of creating fertile ground for this grouping or others like them who use religion as a decoy for their nefarious intentions.
The first is that as a religious (even if only by name) project, Boko Haram promises believers a better life in the hereafter provided they do certain things in this life. Secondly, their name is derived from what can loosely be interpreted to mean “Western education is bad”.
We have in South Africa at least two elements that have helped the rise of Boko Haram.
We have an education system that continues to fail its young people and ever increasing feeling of alienation for those who hear about how a few wealthy continue being wealthier while they become poorer.
In South Africa we have an increasing number of young people who at the end of their school careers realise that they have been duped. We call them jobless graduates and their number increases with every academic year end and graduation ceremony.
Some of the graduates are responsible for their plight as they seem to have crammed their way through college and are hopeless at bringing their learnings to real life.
Others are simply unlucky and with time should be able to find something meaningful for their talents and hard work.
For those who will not find any meaningful reward for the efforts as students, the question whether “Western education” is of any worth will visit their mind at some stage.
The same question inevitably gets asked by their younger siblings who having seen what they conclude is the futility of their brothers and sisters’ endeavours, begin to wonder whether there is any point in enduring 12 years of school and more of higher education if the only realistic prospects for them are that of petrol attendant or a domestic worker.
With regards to the religious allure of outfits like Boko Haram, it might be useful for those too ready to shout that religion is the opiate of the masses to adjust their language.
They should remember that if an opiate at all, it is a crutch on which the marginalised seek to navigate a treacherous life.
Before we laugh at those who eat grass and drink petrol in the name of some heavenly promise, we must ask ourselves why we live in a society that crushes the human spirit so badly that sane people would end up believing that doing stupid things might bring them some salvation and then ask what we can do to change this.
One just has to spare a thought for that youngster who when the matric results are released early next year will find themselves in what can only be called an education purgatory – where they have done enough to satisfy pass muster but not good enough to make that result count anywhere else, least of all at a tertiary institution.
Seeing that they are likely to continue the cycle of poverty what is there to stop such a young person from seriously considering the options offered by religious zealots like Boko Haram and the criminal economy that does not seem to suffer economic downturn or job freezes.
So to counter the threat of formations like Boko Haram, other religious fundamentalism organisations and other criminal enterprises, South Africa has no other option but to strike first.
Since formations like Boko Haram are like the hydra that recreates itself when cut in half, the best way of eliminating them is never to give them room to flourish. We can laugh at the fundamentalist Christian who eats grass and drinks petrol because the pastor said he/she could but we should not be blinded by our mirth.
As we have seen with the Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, religious zealots are not always a stuff of ridicule. They can be debilitatingly deadly. We must save our youth before they even know they need saving.