A hundred years ago, it seemed obvious that the whole region was naturally destined to be Muslim, and little attention needed to be paid to the uncivilized and illiterate animists of the south and east. History was clearly moving in an Islamic direction. By the end of the 20th century, though, growth, progress, and wealth were badges of the emerging Christian Nigeria, and aggressive evangelism even threatened to make inroads into the Islamic heartland. Muslims still dominated the government and especially the armed forces—another legacy of the British colonial preference for that faith. But how long could that political dominance continue?
Philip Jenkins reviews the book Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency by Virginia Comolli.
“In her introduction,” he writes, “Comolli makes the telling point that the social contract on which government is based is thoroughly broken in Nigeria. People give up certain rights to governments in exchange for protection and security, gifts that have been so obviously lacking for decades.”
While there are religious undercurrents throughout the country, Boko Haram is gaining both religious and civil ground in some ways, losing it in others. Nigeria hasn’t yet seen a civil war grounded in religious conflict, but much of the conflict it has seen has been helped along by spiritual hopes and fears.