From Boko Haram to Boko Haram: A Tale of Double Standards

In the past month, a group of British clerics, adherents of Deobandism, undertook a journey to Kabul, where they engaged in discussions with certain Taliban leaders. Subsequent to their return, they have been diligently working towards sanitizing the image of the Taliban, attempting to justify their actions in curtailing educational opportunities for Afghan girls as a stance against Western and secular teachings rather than recognizing it as a blatant violation of women’s rights and educational access. According to this group, they condemn all forms of secular education, deeming subjects such as Arabic grammar as Islamic instruction while categorizing mathematics, physics, and chemistry as secular knowledge. However, it is paramount to note that the grammatical rules of any language, including Arabic, lack religious or sacred attributes, rendering them inherently secular in nature.

The Deobandi groups’ endeavors to cleanse the image of the Taliban are not recent developments but have persisted since the inception of this extremist faction. The Taliban stands as a direct offspring of Deobandi ideological roots, drawing all its principles from this origin, albeit incorporating lessons from Al-Qaeda and ISIS into their military strategies. Deobandi movements, notably in Pakistan, have never openly opposed the violent actions of the Taliban, even when the group perpetrated heinous acts against innocent civilians on the streets of Kabul. Conversely, Deobandi movements have consistently sought to rationalize the Taliban’s actions and have not hesitated to offer their support. The recent actions of these British clerics signify another step in their support for their ideological progeny, this time within the heart of London.

These clerics, by segregating knowledge into Western and Eastern domains, are employing the same rationale that an African terrorist group, Boko Haram, has employed for years. The term “Boko Haram” in the Hausa language translates to “Western education is forbidden.” This African group, which vehemently opposes Western and secular education, comprises two factions: “Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād” and the “Taliban Nigeria.” Boko Haram, regarding the Taliban as their model, previously pledged allegiance to ISIS when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive, subsequently renaming their territory as the “Islamic State West Africa Province.” The tactics employed by Boko Haram in pursuing their objectives closely mirror those of the Taliban and ISIS, encompassing suicide bombings, abduction of schoolgirls, and assaults on financial institutions, markets, and commercial centers.

Boko Haram holds international recognition as a terrorist group by the United Kingdom and other Western nations, with British clerics refraining from defending their actions. This raises a pertinent question: why is Boko Haram in Africa designated as a terrorist entity for opposing Western and secular education, while the Afghan variant, nurtured by the Deobandi school, is treated differently, even in the face of their involvement in the massacre of thousands of innocent individuals and the denial of education to millions of Afghan girls? Are these double standards and contradictions intrinsic to the Deobandi ideology, which has perpetually served political and intelligence interests, or should we seek their origins elsewhere?