Religion and modern education have often had conflicts especially where religious fundamentalists have blamed education, for polluting minds and corrupting their children.
Education, for time immemorial has been a beacon of progress, reformation and empowerment. More importantly for girls, it has been a powerful tool because they have been amongst the most deprived people in a majority of societies across the globe. Uplifting of women has closely been interlinked with quality education systems and awareness. And this hasn’t gone down well with people who detest any form of power or freedom being in the hands of women.
So naturally in retaliation to the growing number of girls educating themselves, religious groups and fundamentalists have been cropping up to advise against educating girls and many have even taken it up to themselves to shut down schools and terrorise those who support the growth of women in education.
One such group is the Boko Haram from Nigeria.
On 15th April, 2014 heavily armed militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram stormed the girls’ dormitory of a school in the town of Chibok in the middle of the night and abducted more than 270 students, taking them in trucks and burning down nearby buildings as they made their escape.
Boko Haram translates to “Western education is a sin” and was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf in Northern Nigeria. As the name suggests, the group is against any form of western education and especially condemns the education of women. Under their version of Sharia law, women should not be at school learning to read and write, but must stay at home raising children and looking after their husbands. This horrifying case is unfortunately not the first time that they have taken violent action against girls who are at school. A video clip released by the group has unabashedly stated that they will sell the abducted girls and marry them off even though many of them are as young as 9-12 years old.
Protests & Reactions
This astonishing and certainly frightening prospect of little girls being sold simply because they go to school has caught the world media in frenzy and people are coming out strongly in protest against this act of aggression and gender violence. The demonstrations and protests in Nigeria are focussing on pressurising the government into taking strong action against this group and bringing back the girls safely.
Social media has played a huge role in creating awareness and bringing netizens together to support the Campaign which is trending as #BringBackOurGirls on an array of social media sites. Discussions are ripe on this topic with many being baffled at the purpose of existence of such a group and the environment for girls in Nigeria.
Is the group really religious?
It is commonplace to assume that the group may have support from the local muslim population. But in reality, the Muslims in Nigeria are strongly against this group and have had minimum interactions with them. The agenda of the Boko Haram is politically driven rather than religious because of the kind of memberships it has invited. The unemployed, poor and denied lot of the population which is marred by economic disparity in the region has been the main target of this group and they have thrived on blaming the western education and western influence for their dismal state and poverty.
There may be some historical & economic reasons for this group’s resistance towards westernized education and culture, but the form of resistance they use is completely unacceptable and not sanctioned by any religion in this world. The targeting and abuse of young girls in the name of preserving culture and tradition is absurd.
Education, the right kind of education has the unique ability to catalyse the process of freeing people from all that is archaic and is weighing down the growth of a particular set of people. And the only people afraid of such social progress are the ones who are threatened by the thought of real inclusivity and equality. These are the people who don’t want the balance of power to be disturbed because that is convenient to them.
Education is not a sin, especially education which engenders the cause of all-embracing progress.
About the Author
A patriot and hopeful change maker, Riddhima is a believer in the power of women to change the world. She has studied Political Science with special reference to the feminist movement, feminist theory and the position of women in Indian politics. She is currently pursuing Law and hopes to specialize in women related laws and work with an organization in a related field. She enjoys public speaking and is not afraid to speak her mind. Sharma is a quick learner and is keen to gain new experiences especially in the areas of public policy, politics and strategy