Civil War Within Nigerian Islam

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There is a leadership struggle underway within Boko Haram, the violent, extremist movement that has claimed more than 20,000 lives since 2011 and destabilized the secular Nigerian state and its neighbors. The personal struggle between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi reflects in part the rivalry between Boko Haram and a splinter group, “Ansaru,” and are part of a complex, intra-Muslim conflict across the Sahel, including competition between rival al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State.

Reflecting their extreme poverty and marginalization, many Northern Nigerian Muslims are deeply hostile toward the secular state. They see the current secular state as a continuation of British colonialism, with indigenous masters merely replacing the British and with values and behavior antithetical to Islam. This fundamental disaffection is a constant even when, as now, the official security services are having success against radical insurgents.

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