Fareed speaks with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof about the recent abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram.
You talk about this in your last book. How do you make sense of – would it be fair to call this Islamic fundamentalism? What is behind this?
You know, I think we have this misperception that the great divide is between different faiths, between Christianity and Islam, for example. And I think actually Eliza [Griswold] was one of the first people I know to really make the point that it's not so much between different faiths – it's between moderates and extremists generally. And, you know, moderate Muslims and moderate Christians have a great deal in common. Extremist Muslims and extremist Christians have in common the willingness to resort to violence, oppression. And that is what we're seeing with Boko Haram.
But this does seem specifically Muslim these days, which is whenever you see these young men, they always have this incredibly brutal attitude towards women. And it does seem like it's across many parts – though, of course, a minority – of the Islamic world.
It's true that if you look at places where women and girls are least likely to get educated, where they're most likely to be oppressed, then those are disproportionately countries with conservative Muslim populations. But they're also places where the culture itself, quite aside from religion, is deeply oppressive of women. I mean, Afghanistan, for example.
And I think that what we're seeing here is, unfortunately, a spiral. So in northern Nigeria, there’s very little education. Women are marginalized, partly for cultural and historic reasons. Often, people cite Islam as the reason. Female literacy in this region is less than 50 percent. And then that leads people to think girls shouldn't get educated...
That leads them to attack schools, so girls don't get educated, which leads those areas to be further marginalized – women to be less a part of the economy, less a part of the society – and leads groups like Boko Haram to have even more influence.