Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram – which has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings – is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.
Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.
Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.
This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.
Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president.
Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed after his arrest
The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.
But residents in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the group had its headquarters, dubbed it Boko Haram.
Loosely translated from the local Hausa language, this means “Western education is forbidden”.
Boko originally means fake but came to signify Western education, while haram means forbidden.
Since the Sokoto caliphate, which ruled parts of what is now northern Nigeria, Niger and southern Cameroon, fell under British control in 1903, there has been resistance among the area’s Muslims to Western education.
Many Muslim families still refuse to send their children to government-run “Western schools”, a problem compounded by the ruling elite which does not see education as a priority.
Against this background, the charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri in 2002. He set up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school. (BBC News Afrika)