West & Central Africa

Radical Muslims feel their “religion is under threat” and are “willing to die” for it

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa, report has declared that “‘religious ideas’ was the factor that attracted the largest number” to join terrorism. Their study indicated “the significance of religious ideology in one way or another
as a determining factor informing decision to join.”

The report showed that those who, on their own volunteered to join terrorist organizations “are more likely to express a willingness to die for religion over other causes.”

The two-year research included 495 individuals who voluntarily joined violent extremist groups and 78 individuals who were recruited by force. A
 secondary reference group included 145 individuals
with no affiliation to violent extremist groups.

The report said, “with regard to recruitment, there is consensus in much of the analysis of violent extremism that religion serves as a catalyst,” and though there are other factors like low literacy and government bullying and poverty, “ideological appeal is nonetheless compelling to those susceptible”.

The UNDP report, titled ‘Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and
the Tipping Point for Recruitment’ released 7 September looked at the “‘tipping point’ that triggered particular individuals to take the step of joining a violent extremist group.

The research showed that Muslims who became extremist say, ‘willingness to die for your religion’ ranks
the highest when compared with other causes” for joining radical sects. The report also found out that 60 per cent, of these Muslims interviewed, feeling that their “religion is under threat was a common perspective among
all respondents, which sounds a warning that the potential threat of further recruitment by violent extremist groups using religion as a touchstone for other context-based grievances is very real across the African countries under review.”

The survey focused on key Islamic terror groups including: Al-Qaida in
the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM); Jama’at Tawhid Wal JihadGarbi Afriqqiya (Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa, MUJAO); Jama’atul Ahlus Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad (Boko Haram) and Ansaru in Nigeria and Cameroon; Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) in East Africa; and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa.

“While media and politicians’ commentary often underlines assumed links between lack of economic opportunity and violent extremism, much of the literature has challenged generalized assumptions about this relationship. Multiple studies highlight the often relatively affluent profile of violent extremists, pushing attention to other motivational factors,” said the report.
“What this means for Christians and the Church, is that we do not fall into the ‘political correct’ narratives that distorts and blames society and poverty for radical ideologies that give raise to terrorists,” declared an official of the Christian Association of Nigeria, northern zone in an interview with Global Christian News.

“Muslim must accept that there are even poorer, deprived and illiterate Christians than Muslim youths in many other parts of Nigeria who have not grabbed the Bible and gone off to kill, declare a separate country and become a law to themselves.”

He said. “Let Muslim accept that imams are breeding murderers, self-made religious leaders and caliphs and let us all work together with them to curb the menace.”

He added: “To say that these terrorists are not Muslims or to try to distance Islam from this mayhem will not help Islam and certainly not help the country.”

 

Hassan John is West Africa Editor, Global Christian News and a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.

Image credits: Screenshot Boko Haram video/ Hassan John/Army