White House officials are openly trying to portray the Boko Haram jihad movement as a symbolic obstacle to girls’ educational progress, instead of another murderous Islamist group that could be fought by U.S. forces.
The straight-faced effort to change the subject from jihad to education policy is a reach even for the White House’s media team, partly because the jihadi group has a decade-long history of bombing Christian churches and schools, and killing thousands of Africans.
On May 12, for example, the group paraded more than 100 kidnapped girls who have converted to Islam to escape rape.
The first lady and President Barack Obama are “deeply concerned… about the fate of these girls and broadly concerned about what these girls represent in terms of the power and importance of making sure that girls around the world are educated,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said May. 12.
The roughly 276 girls “are suffering specifically and individually, but they are also suffering on behalf of a broader proposition, which is that whether you’re a girl or a boy, you should have all the rights to education that can be attained in the country in which you live,” he said.
“And I think that’s a principle that obviously the president and first lady support, and it’s a principle that most Americans, I think — I would daresay all Americans support,” he said.
In Nigeria, however, the parents aren’t complaining about their dip in their girls’ grade point averages, a disruption to their class schedules, or a loss in study time since the mid-April kidnapping.
“There are widespread fears that the girls are being forcibly married off, exacerbated by a video released last week in which the group’s apparent leader called them slaves and threatened to ‘sell them in the market’ and ‘marry them out,’” according to a May 11 article by a New York Times reporter who visited the town where the 276 symbols of educational progress were taken into slavery by the Islamic terrorists.
Once sold or “married out,” the children’s future will likely be rural slavery among a foreign tribe, with little or no hope of seeing family or home ever again.
When the Muslim governor visited the girls’ home town, “the women surged forward, anguish creasing their faces. Many were crying. A collective wail went up, but the officials traveling with the visiting local dignitary pushed them back, shushing them so he could speak,” the Times reports.
“We are deeply in sorrow,” said Mary Dawa, the mother of a 16-year-old symbol of educational progress named Hawa Isha. “Every day, I am in deep sorrow. I don’t even feel like eating,” the Times said.
But Carney didn’t mention the murders and rapes, the jihad, the bombings and the radical Islamic devastation of northern Nigeria.
Instead, he repeatedly downplayed U.S. involvement or even aid to the ramshackle Nigerian government, which is split by tribe and religion, and has resisted past U.S. offers. “I don’t have a specific reaction beyond noting how heinous this abduction is and noting that we are working with the Nigerian government by providing advice and assistance in the effort to find and recover those girls,” he said, adding that Obama has dispatched a small team of advisers to the capital of Nigeria. Manned U.S. spy planes have also been dispatched.
Carney’s spin comes 21 months after he and his P.R. team successfully camouflaged the September 2012 jihadi attack on the U.S diplomatic site in Benghazi, saying the attack was caused by a video that criticized Islam.
“We wish to reiterate that our [jihad] is not for personal gain; it is meant to ensure the establishment of an Islamic state by liberating all Muslims from the excesses of the infidels,” the Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa said in 2012, according to a recent study.
“We don’t kill innocent Muslims. The fact is the bottom line of our struggle is to set the Muslims free from enslavement. We only kill the unbelievers,” he said.
The group would be tough to fight. That’s partly because it has much religious and tribal support in the far north of Nigeria, and the country’s various soldiers have shown little unity or determination in chasing the group.
Also, the U.S. population doesn’t want to get involved in more anti-jihad wars, and the president wants a Democratic win in the November 2014 election.
“The opposition to allowing girls to get the education that they deserve is opposition to progress, opposition to economic empowerment, opposition to health and security for millions and millions and millions of people around the world,” he said, adding, “this is a profoundly important idea.”
“I think, as I noted earlier, this is a tragedy for these girls, for these families, but it also speaks to a broader issue when it comes to the rights of girls and women around the world and the essential value of education when it comes to the rights of girls and women, and the economic advancement of them, their families and their nations,” Carney continued.