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Sunday, October 23, 2016

There was a method to this madness.

Meaning that night more than three weeks ago, when a caravan of trucks and buses descended on a boarding school in rural Nigeria and more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted from their beds. As is often the case with acts of terror, this mass kidnapping was accomplished with a theatricality and audacity designed to inspire awe.

But the act of terror was also an act of fear. What the 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan suggested, the mid-April taking of these Christian and Muslim children makes abundantly clear: Extremist Islam is scared of little girls. These big, bad men who claim the imprimatur of God himself for their actions, quake in their sandals at the intelligence and potential of girls — and the women they might grow up to be.

As well they should. A nation where women have access to education is a nation where Islamist extremists lose much of their power to cow and bully them. A little learning, as they say, is a dangerous thing.

The kidnappers concede as much in their very name: Boko Haram. It translates as, “Western education is a sin.” The group issued a video this week. “I abducted your girls,” says a man identified as group leader Abubakar Shekau. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah.” The video is said to ramble for an hour, filled with condemnations of Western education. “Girls, you should go and get married,” says Shekau.

The international response to all this can be characterized in a word: outrage. Protests and calls for action have risen from Dakar, Senegal to Los Angeles, CA, to Washington, D.C., to London, England. A cross-section of luminaries — Secretary of State John Kerry, singer Mary J. Blige, Senator Ben Cardin, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and musician Questlove — has demanded the girls’ return.

I wrote this column to add my voice to theirs.

But I wrote it also because I felt a need to do more about this atrocity than talk about it. Which is how I happened to find Albert Hannans online.

  • Buford2k11

    wow, that guy sounds like Pat Robertson, or Ted Cruz or, or, any number of extremists neo-christians…

    • Allan Richardson

      Same product, different brand name. And counterfeit in both cases.

  • jointerjohn

    We in the United States are raised to be tolerant of religions. We give too many disastrous behaviors a pass when they are done in the name of religion. It is time to mature beyond that simple policy and stand up for what is fundamentally right and decent. We should continue to defend everyone’s right to believe or not believe in anything they choose, but acting upon those beliefs in a way that brings inhumane or barbarous acts upon others should no longer be tolerated. I’m not referring only to Muslims here, but to all religions that sometimes become warped by their followers into hideous behavior.

  • imabrummie

    “These big bad men quake in their sandals at the intelligence and potential of girls – and the women they may grow up to be” It’s as well they should. The fact of the world being in such a mess goes only to prove the ineptitude of those who are in the positions of power, which are mostly the male of the species!!!!

  • Allan Richardson

    So far, the Christian extremists in America have not had to go to that extreme, but it is obvious that they are threatened by girls (or even boys) getting a truly comprehensive education, as opposed to merely job-related technical training: learning how to think for ONESELF rather than parrot the slogans of one’s ethnic, religious or cultural group.

    Remember the novel and film “A Handmaid’s Tale,” written by Margaret Atwood? It was the memoir of a woman who escaped to Canada from a very dysfunctional United States (renamed the Republic of Gilead) run by the most extreme fundamentalist Christians. The ruling elite’s wives had been rendered sterile because of some unnamed pollution, so women considered “sinners” were enslaved and, among other indignities, forced to be “handmaids” like Hagar, Bilhah and Zilpah in Genesis, bearing children of their masters in the names of their mistresses. And who were considered “sinners?” Women with education who were not fundamentalists, women who did not follow the “Christian” path of marriage in their teens and submission to a husband.

    There are many enlightened Muslims, Christians and Jews who honor women as human beings with the same rights as men, but there are also a small number of splinter sects in all three religions that want to keep women uneducated … partly so their MEN won’t have to be very smart to stay “on top” (in both the political and the “Biblical” senses). Among Jews they have very little influence; among Christians substantial indirect political influence; and in some countries, among Muslims they have a great deal of influence because everyone is AFRAID of them. The only difference between terrorist groups and the Mafia is that Mafia members KNOW they are only into crime for the money.

    • FredAppell

      At least the Mafia honors their women. Besides, the best way to avoid the mob is to avoid them altogether and they don’t make a habit of targeting children, in fact, their children are encouraged to follow their own path regardless of gender.

    • Douglas Johnson

      A while back I read a sig line that said “We consider ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ a horror story. Republicans consider it a ‘How-to’ manual”

  • FredAppell

    When is everyone going to wake up? What is it going to take for the good people of the world to finally realize that terror needs to be eradicated in all it’s forms? It doesn’t only effect the regions of the world where it occurs, eventually all of us are impacted one way or another. We all lose something very precious each time terrorists commit their atrocities on innocent people, our humanity, our ability to have empathy and our moral compass. America has a Foreign Policy to protect our interests abroad, well, I can’t think of a greater interest than that of protecting people from the monsters that would deny them of their human rights. The “War on Terror” is a lark, it’s a rich man’s war, pure and simple. If there isn’t some sort of financial gain, we don’t fight, why should we, there’s no profit in it, how pathetic. We need to stop trying to turn countries into a version of us and instead focus on turning them into much better versions of themselves. All the hand ringing isn’t going to make it happen, only action, real action with real consequences. I’m not suggesting that any of this will be easy, in fact it will be extraordinarily difficult, maybe even impossible but to not even try is tragic.

    • TZToronto

      Fred, you’ve hit the nail on the head. We should not try to make little Americas throughout the world. It doesn’t work, usually, because the people there don’t want to be like America. They simply want to live their lives well in a way that they are accustomed to.

      • FredAppell

        Thank you so much for your reply. I’m happy to see at least one of the regular posters from the NM taking an interest in this story. The lack of interest only goes to prove my point.
        That is, everyone would rather attack one side or the other
        over the sexy hot button issues when in fact this very topic has already become a world wide cancer. This is not an R vs. D problem, it’s hurting all of us and the terrorist are growing stronger by the day while we squabble and divide ourselves.
        Maybe it’s so complex that most people don’t want to think about it but it’s also more than a coincidence that most of the countries where terrorism is flourishing has it’s roots in former colonial states. Imperialism is the sole cause of terrorism and we still haven’t figured that out yet.

        • TZToronto

          Any cultural anthropologist would have been happy to tell the Bush-ites that Afghanistan is not a good place to try to plant democratic institutions. And the fact that the sectarian differences in Iraq would eventually lead to civil strife in the absence of a “strongman” should have been apparent after what happened in Yugoslavia following the death of Tito. Bringing democracy to the world may be part of America’s agenda, but it would be wise to find out if the to-be-democratized people want it before it’s forced upon them..