CAIRO – Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, has joined a chorus of angry Muslim condemnations for militant group Boko Haram confession that it has abducted more than 200 Nigerian school girls, demanding their immediate release.
"This action does not relate to the noble teachings of Islam in any way," Al-Azhar’s statement, cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Tuesday, May 6.
“Al-Azhar demands the release of these girls immediately,” the statement added.
Nearly 234 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the extremist militants while being at school in the Chibok area of Borno State on Monday, April 14.
The kidnapping occurred the same day as a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, that killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja and marked the first attack on the capital in two years.
The militants repeated that attack a week later in almost exactly the same spot, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.
The abduction was widely condemned by Nigerian officials as well as religious groups.
Al-Haji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who is the sultan of Sokoto, has also called for prayers and intensified efforts to release the innocent girls from Boko Haram militants.
On Monday, May 5, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau admitted kidnapping the girls in a video obtained by the Agence France Presse (AFP), threatening to sell them in the market.
Another attack occurred on Tuesday in Kano when suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped eight more girls from the village of Warabe, Borno state in Nigeria’s embattled northeast.
“They moved door to door looking for girls,” Abdullahi Sani, a Warabe resident, told AFP referring to the late Sunday attack.
“They forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15.” Sani added.
Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning “Western education is sinful”, is loosely modeled on Afghanistan's Taliban.
The militant group says it is fighting enemies who have wronged its members through violence, arrests or economic neglect and corruption.
It has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north since 2009.
But recently, the sect has carried out attacks against Christians and Muslims alike.
Muslim anger has maximized reaching UK and US where leading Muslim group condemned the un-Islamic attacks.
"We condemn wholeheartedly, the disgusting and un-Islamic actions that the terrorist group known as Boko Haram has committed,” the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the oldest and largest American Muslim umbrella organization, said in a statement released on Tuesday, May 6.
“Kidnapping and threatening to sell the over 200 Nigerian school girls has no validation in the religious tradition of Islam and we urge the Nigerian authorities to find the missing school girls and bring their captors to justice,” ISNA added.
ISNA was among the several American Muslim organizations that condemned the terrorist bombing attacks on Nigerian churches in 2011.
Another leading US Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has also condemned Boko Haram’s kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls as "un-Islamic and obscene".
In UK, Muslims anger was not anyway less.
Following the news of the tragedy, more the Association of London Muslims issued a statement Tuesday condemning the kidnapping and forced conversions of more than 200 girls in Nigeria by extremist group Boko Haram.
"When the leader of this organization started making ridiculous references that he was told by God or Allah to enslave these young women, we felt the need to clarify that this in no way represents Muslims in Canada or around the world," said Hassan Mostafa, chair of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, Ifpress reported on Tuesday.
"We just want to be on the record for having said something, because we know there will be people . . . who may take this kind of a story and ask 'how come we haven't heard anything from (local Muslim leaders).'"
In a statement issued to the media Tuesday, Mostafa said the community prays the girls are safely returned to their family, planning a series of events to protest the kidnapping and demand the girls be returned to their families.
"We do not accept fringe leaders like Abubaker Shekau (of Boko Haram) speaking on behalf of Muslims. Shekau's latest comments directly contravene Islamic teachings," the statement said.
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