Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad (Arabic: جماعة اهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد Jamā’a Ahl al-sunnah li-da’wa wa al-jihād), better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram (pronounced [bōːkòː hàrâm], “Western education is sinful“), is an Islamicjihadist militant terrorist organisation based in the northeast of Nigeria north Cameroon and Niger. It is an Islamist movement which strongly opposes man-made laws and Westernization. Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001, the organisation seeks to establish sharia law in the country. The group is also known for attacking Christians, bombing churches and attacking schools. They gunned down 44 people praying at a mosque in northeast Nigeria 
Islamic preacher Maitatsine partially inspired many of the senior radicals. The group seeks to “purify Islam” and is known for using motorbikes as its primary mode of travel. The movement is divided into three factions. In 2011, Boko Haram was responsible for at least 450 killings in Nigeria. It was also reported that they had been responsible for over 620 deaths over the first 6 months of 2012.Since its founding in 2001, the jihadist terrorists have been responsible for roughly 10,000 deaths comprising mostly innocent people.
One of its deadliest clashes was the sectarian violence in Nigeria in July 2009, which left over 1000 people dead. They do not have a clear structure or evident chain of command. Moreover, it is still a matter of debate whether Boko Haram has links to terror outfits outside Nigeria, and its fighters have frequently clashed with Nigeria’s central government. A US commander stated that Boko Haram is likely linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), although professor Paul Lubeck points out that no evidence is presented for any claims of material international support.
The group has spawned an off-shoot known as Ansaru. The group exerts influence in the States of Borno, Adamawa, Kaduna, Bauchi,Yobe and Kano. The United States Department of State offered a $7 million reward for Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s capture.
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Is Nigeria’s Boko Haram a Wahhabi group?
The founder of Boko Haram could be labeled a Wahhabi for his opposition to secular governance, Western education, and other Islamic interpretations – but so could other Wahhabis in the country.
By Alex Thurston, Guest blogger / June 9, 2011
Wahhabism is a word I hear a lot in reference to Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. The original word refers to a movement centered on the eighteenth century reformer Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, who lived in present-day Saudi Arabia and whose descendants have helped dictate the interpretation of Islam that prevails in the Kingdom. There’s always been some level of exchange between Africa, including West Africa, and Arabia, but in the twentieth century there began to be talk about West African “Wahhabis” – that is, Muslims who allegedly emulated a “harsh, Arab Islam” and rejected “peaceful, tolerant, African Sufi Islam.”
The “Wahhabis” were often, indeed, reformers who criticized certain practices, like making protective amulets, as un-Islamic, but “Wahhabism” in West Africa has looked a lot different than its cousin in Arabia. The label, in West Africa, was also used far more by reformers’ opponents – French colonists and African Sufi leaders, for example – than by the reformers themselves. The label had the effect of blurring complexity then, and because it’s still in use today, it still does.
Boko Haram is an Islamic sect in northern Nigeria that rejects Western-style education, secular governance, the authority of the Nigerian state, and Islamic interpretations that run counter to its own teachings.Muhammad Yusuf, the group’s leader until his death in 2009, could potentially be labeled a “Wahhabi” – except that other “Wahhabis” in northern Nigeria rejected many of Yusuf’s ideas and were horrified by Boko Haram’s use of violence. The label “Wahhabism” can’t capture even the main thrusts of these debates.
These problems of terminology came to the fore yesterday, when news agencies reported Boko Haram’s assassination of a local cleric, Ibrahim Birkuti. “Radical Cleric Gunned Down in Nigeria,” one headline read. How was he radical? The article doesn’t say, except to tell us he was a “Wahhabi.” But read on:
Ibrahim Birkuti was shot by a motorcycle-riding gunman thought to be a member of Boko Haram sect outside his house in the town of Biu, 200km south of Maiduguri where the sect has carried out most of its attacks in recent months.
Birkuti, a Wahabbi cleric and an imam of a mosque in the town has been critical of Boko Haram ideology, especially its rejection of Western education and its resort to violence, his neighbours said.
The BBC does not label Birkuti a “radical,” but it does speak ominously of his membership in the “Saudi Arabian-inspired Wahabbi group, which has been gaining ground in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria in recent years.” AP goes further:
Birkuti had been critical of Boko Haram’s violence and belonged to the Wahabbi group, a splinter faction of Sunni Muslims.
Wahabbi members advocate for the implementation of Shariah law in Borno state through peaceful means.
The final sentence makes no sense on two counts: First, Borno State did adopt shari’a, in 2000. Second, many Muslims in Northern Nigeria advocated for the peaceful implementation of shari’a – we need another criterion, then, in order to say how and why “Wahhabis” are “a splinter faction of Sunni Muslims.” There are differences that set reformers like Birkuti apart from Sufis, other sects, and Nigeria’s many “non-aligned” Muslims, but the news agencies have not identified them satisfactorily. They have not even said what Birkuti and his group called themselves – and a good guess might be that Birkuti labeled himself simply a “Sunni” (another loaded term, in this context, but for different reasons). What then?
The salient points about Birkuti’s ideological/sectarian affiliation are, for me, Boko Haram’s continuing campaign of violence against rival clerics, and also the fact that many Muslims of different strands and different beliefs reject Boko Haram’s ideas and methods. The ferocity and the complexity of the theological debate in northern Nigeria is precisely what Boko Haram is trying to shut down in with a killing like this – it is too bad that the press also works, in a much different way, to obscure that same complexity.