Originally published in The Baltimore Sun
Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant group, has claimed responsibility for kidnapping at least 300 schoolgirls last month (“The world has finally noticed Boko Haram,” May 13).
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” has repeatedly affirmed that they commit such acts of violence in the name of Islam and that Islam doesn’t allow girls to be educated. Its leader has even threatened to sell the girls.
Yet Islam is a religion in which the education of girls is given a very high priority. The prophet Muhammad explicitly stated that “it is incumbent on every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge.” The teachings of Islam lay great emphasis on the education of women because it is through them that the prospect of having a truly civilized world is made possible.
It is extremely sad that militant groups like Boko Haram misinterpret the teachings of Islam to their own benefit and by doing so present a horrible image of Islam and its prophet. The prophet Muhammad valued the education of daughters so much that he once said “if a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, giving her good education and training in various arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hellfire.”
I don’t understand how these fanatics translate such statements as meaning anything other than that education for girls is an obligation that must be fulfilled.