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"Education is prohibited"



Washington, August 5, 2009 -

Africa's most populous - and perhaps most important - country risks being torn apart.  Last week, Nigeria suffered a string of violence between an Islamist group named Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces that left over 800 dead. 

The group - which translates into "education is prohibited" - seeks to impose a strict form of Shariah law.  Women are not to be seen by anyone but their husbands; all western goods should be considered contraband; those who disobey - whether Muslim or Christian - are considered infidels.  Sound familiar?  Yes, the group has come to be known as the "Nigerian Taliban." 

As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday ("Nigeria Violence Sparks New Concerns,") many in northern Nigeria feel "the government should have seen this coming."  Reportedly, several Muslim leaders went to local authorities asking them to take action against this group.  Their warnings were ignored. 

This violence doesn't surprise me.  I don't know how many times I've spoken with government officials about the changing nature of Islam in northern Nigeria - the influx of Gulf state-funded radical mosques, the Osama bin Laden t-shirts, etc. - mostly I've gotten blank stares. 

Nigeria can't get a break.  Its Biafran Civil War of the late 1960s pitted ethnicities against one another in a terrible bloodletting.  These tensions persist.  Now add religious zealots to the mix.  This top oil producing state is in trouble.       

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