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Book Launch: The Boko Haram Reader. From Nigerian Preachers to the Islamic State (Hurst Publishers 2017)

By Abdulbasit Kassim (Rice University, Texas)

On Wednesday 5th of September 2018, IFRA was very pleased to host Mr. Abdulbasit Kassim, PhD student in Religion at Rice University in Texas. Mr. Kassim is the co-author with Michael Nwankpa of The Boko Haram Reader. From Nigerian Preachers to the Islamic State published in 2017 by Hurst Publishers. The book launch was organised at 10am in Draper’s Hall at the Institute of African Studies in the University of Ibadan.

2018 09 05 boko haram reader 1This important book contains English translations of key texts, documents, audiotexts and nashid (martial hymns) originally written in Kanuri, Hausa and Arabic by significant figures of Boko Haram since the movement was founded in 2002. These figures notably include Muhammad Yusuf, founder of Boko Haram and leader of the organisation until his death in 2009, and his successor Abubakar Shekau. As such, the book puts at the disposal of the anglophone readers first-hand, original materials that offer a unique perspective on the ideology and discourses put forward by Boko Haram, portraying its evolutions, particularities and the scholarly debates that have raged within and outside the organisation.

 Drawing on textual sources, Mr. Kassim used the presentation to retrace the ideological underpinnings of the movement. He considered approaches that identify poverty as the sole cause of the movement as reductionist and insisted on the role of intellectual narratives based on historical analogies in framing the ideological structures of the movement. Such analogy commonly associated to Boko Haram include the Sokoto Caliphate of Usman Dan Fodio (1754-1817), who is frequently cited by Yusuf and Shekau themselves. Additionally, Mr. Kassim referred with the heavy-heated debate that opposes, on the one hand, scholars insisting on the local roots and particularities that define Boko Haram as a “Nigerian issue” to, on the others, supporters of the “global jihad” narrative who pinpoint links formed between Boko Haram and other transnational radical organisations, foremost among them the Islamic State.

On such a popular subject, many questions were asked by the tens staff and students who attended the book launch. Questions addressing the ideological inspirations, the political and military responses to the movement prompted detailed replies by Mr. Kassim. He also reviewed the methodological and ethical issues raised by the study of violent groups like Boko Haram, as well as the positioning of various Non-Governmental Organisations in the conflict.

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Abdulbasit Kassim addressing his audience

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