Because we are so bad, primitive savages must be good:
TheÂ Guardian’s Nick Cohen onÂ the fear of describing Boko Haram for what it is:
Terrorists from a religious cult so reactionary you don’t have to stretch the language too far to describe it as fascistic attack a school. The assault on a civilian target, filled with non-combatant children, has a grotesque logic behind it. They call themselves “Boko Haram”, which translates as “western education is forbidden”. The sect regards learning as oppression. They will stop all teaching that conflicts with a holy book from the 7th century and accounts of doubtful provenance on the life and sayings of their prophet written hundreds of years after he died.
A desire for sexual supremacy accompanies their loathing of knowledge. They take 220 schoolgirls as slaves and force them to convert to their version of Islam. They either rape them or sell them on for Â£10 or so to new masters. The girls are the victims of slavery, child abuse and forced marriage…
As you can see, English does not lack plain words to describe the foulness of the crimes in Nigeria, and no doubt they would be used in the highly improbable event of western soldiers seizing and selling women.
Yet read parts of the press and you enter a world of euphemism. They have not been enslaved but “abducted” or “kidnapped”, as if they will be released unharmed when the parties have negotiated a mutually acceptable ransom. Writers are typing with one eye over their shoulder: watching their backs to make sure that no one can accuse them of “demonising the other”.
Turn from today’s papers to the theoretical pages of leftwing journals and you find that the grounds for understanding Boko Haram more and condemning it less were prepared last year.
Without fully endorsing Boko Haram, of course, socialists explained that it finds “resonance in the hearts of many poor and dispossessed” people, who are revolted by “the corruption and flamboyant lifestyle of the elites”. Islamism is recast as a rational reaction to local corruption and the global oppression of “neoliberalism”, one of those conveniently vague labels that can mean just about anything….
“The mechanical denunciation of the west,” wrote the French political theorist Pascal Bruckner in 2010, “forbids the western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed.” He might have been writing today, so persistent is the belief that the west is the root cause of the only oppression worth mentioning…
If occidentalism was absurd in the past, it’s preposterous now. Boko Haram is not reacting to western intervention in Nigeria, for there is none….
Meanwhile, we are moving faster than anyone expected to a new age in which China will be the world’s largest economy. For the first time since the 18th century, the dominant power will not allow internal opposition or the Chinese equivalent of the campaigns on behalf of the victims of its foreign policy that we saw in Britain, France and the US in the last 200 years. We have not begun to understand the turn for the worse the cause of global human rights is taking as empires shift.
The enslavement of so many girls – girls who were simply seeking an education – has finally stirred some interest in the West. But the muder of schoolboys couldn’t:
In February, Boko Haram militants murdered 59 schoolboys.Â They separated the boys from the girls, telling the girls to abandon school and get married before sending them home, and then slaughtered the boys. That killing spree was just one in dozens of attacks on schools, houses of worship and random civilians.
Corruption, cowardice, incompetence, betrayalÂ – a disgusting failure of governance has given Nigeria a government unable to defend schoolgirls from evil.