Nigerian schoolgirl kidnappings: not #hashtagactivism, Muslim activism.

By now, social media has ensured that we are all well aware of the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the Boko Haram group. (Although if you’re still puzzling over why your friends have matching profile pictures, here’s a quick breakdown of the situation.) Now that this news has spread like wildfire and the West has identified the current third-world-tragedy-of-the-week, most of us find ourselves at a loss for what to do next. We’ve devoured the headlines, wikipedia’ed “Boko Haram” and inserted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls somewhere or other. So now what? Hashtags will only get us so far, and frankly, there isn’t very much that we can do for the girls (unless you have big and powerful contacts in the Nigerian government, in which case: get moving!)

But for ourselves, as a fraction of the American and global Muslim community, there is plenty to be done.

Imam Khalid Latif hit the nail on the head with his article pressing Muslims and Muslim community leaders to speak, both within and without the community, against the actions of the Boko Haram. Every Muslim who has ever read the Quran, or even a sliver of it, knows that violence and oppression are outright condemned in our religion. This goes without saying to the majority of Muslims and to most informed non-Muslims. So while I don’t feel the need to remind everyone I know for the 786th time that Islam means peace, I do feel that this is an excellent opportunity to come out with a unified Muslim voice condemning violence against women.

The reality is that when today’s villain of the world coolly claims “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell”, the onus falls on the rest of us to have a united Muslim voice against this ludicrous claim. There are more than enough bands of extremists exploiting Islam for their personal and political gain. We live in a time when Muslims will rush to violently protest vulgar cartoons and Quran-burning lunatics, but shrug when over 200 innocent girls are kidnapped in the name of our religion. As a community, this is something that we simply have no reason to stay silent about. Even if our words (or our hashtags) cannot protect the kidnapped girls from harm, at the very least we can lend our words to protect the name of Islam.

Hafsa Ahmad is a writer at

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