In the US, we’re consumed with presidential campaigns, debates and primary elections.
We’d better keep an eye on what’s happening abroad. Where to being on that….there’s so much.
Most urgently, look at what’s happening in Nigeria.
A militant Islamic group whose almost daily attacks have put Nigerians on edge left the country stunned Saturday after a well-coordinated strike with disturbing echoes of Al Qaeda’s brand of mayhem.
More than 150 people were killed in the Friday evening carnage in the northern city of Kano. The group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks, whose targets included the secret service headquarters, an immigration office and a passport office.
It was the group’s most deadly strike, far exceeding previous death tolls.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia, or Islamic law, on Nigeria’s 160 million people, killed more than 500 people in almost daily attacks last year. Before Friday’s violence, it had killed more than 70 people this month.
U.S. officials have expressed fear that the group, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege,” may be getting support and training from Al Qaeda affiliates on the continent, given the increasing sophistication of its attacks and growing use of suicide bombers.
Nigeria is divided between the mainly Muslim north and the oil-rich, mainly Christian south…
In other news…
Anti-Christian violence continues in Egypt, according to local sources, the episodes are linked to the attempt of fundamentalist Islamic fringe – Salafis – to block the vote of the religious minority in the next election. On 19 January, a mob attacked the Coptic Christian community of the village of Kebly-Rahmaniya, near the town of Nag Hammadi, Qena governorate, Upper Egypt. The assailants, chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) attacked and burned down houses, huts, shops and businesses…
Witnesses quoted by Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) report that Egyptian security forces did not intervene promptly to repel the onslaught and defend the Christians. Even the teams of firefighters delayed their intervention, arriving only 90 minutes after the assault, and when most of the buildings were already in flames. A source adds that a hut belonging to a Coptic Christian was burned to make room for the construction of a mosque. Moreover in the area there are now 300 Muslim places of worship, compared to only one Christian church even though Christians are 50% of the local population.
According to the Copts, the anti-Christian violence is related to the upcoming parliamentary elections: the Salafis, in fact, want to prevent the religious minority from voting which, with its 20 thousand members, can shift the balance of power in the area. The Copts are close to the Muslim moderate wing, which opposes the Islamist front.
And this is important to understand in fuller context.
A new political era in Egypt began Saturday as Islamist parties won nearly three-quarters of the seats in parliamentary elections to inherit a nation mired in economic crisis and desperate to move beyond military rule and the corrupt legacy of deposed President Hosni Mubarak.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s dominant political and religious force, won 47% of the 498 seats in the lower house of parliament, according to official final results. The ultraconservative Salafi Islamist party Al Nour won nearly 25%, followed by the secular parties New Wafd and the Egyptian Bloc, with about 9% each.
We need to see news not only as outbursts of events, much as they capture the world’s attention, but as signal events that alert watchful observers to changes of destiny in the course ahead.
The elections were a sobering lesson for young activists whose nascent parties were no match for the grass-roots networks and entwined religious and political message of the Islamists. The liberal activists helped ignite the revolution that brought down Mubarak but, winning only seven seats, they have been surpassed by more formidable political powers.
They didn’t foresee this in the euphoria of change.
The relatively moderate Brotherhood and the puritanical Salafis are likely to battle over how deeply Islam should shape the constitution and be ingrained in public life. Both parties have said social and economic challenges are the most pressing concerns, but the Salafis, who receive funding from Persian Gulf nations, are certain to push for an Egypt more rooted in sharia, or Islamic law.
The movements for change are sweeping the globe. Be careful what you wish for.