I doubt that Abubakar Shekau is having many sleepless nights over the hashtag campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. At least the social media outcry, which spread like a forest fire after a boost from Michelle Obama, has challenged the media’s initial appalling indifference to the girls’ fate. Trust me, if 300 Santa Barbara cheerleaders had been abducted by religious fanatics, made to chant the Koran and to adopt Muslim names, World War Three would have started last Tuesday.
A professor in African history tells me that there has been “genuine international revulsion at the idea that girls should not be educated” but, ironically, the wave of Facebook empathy could “undermine the long-term, global effort to close the gender gap, in terms of equal access to basic human rights”. Some groups on the Left are arguing that the kidnapping is “just another cover story for US intervention and the demonising of Islam. Once again we see the rights of women and girls being trumped by power politics.”
Shamefully, the same can be said closer to home. In a powerful essay in this week’s New Statesman, David Selbourne argues that the West is crippled by “frightened self-censorship” when discussing radical jihadist Islamism. He cites a failure to recognise the ambitions of radical Islam, the failure to condemn the silence of most Muslims at the crimes committed in their names, and the failure to respond adequately to the persecution of Christians in many Muslim countries.
As I know from personal experience, critics of the Muslim community soon find themselves on Islamophobia websites, even if we are just sticking up for defenceless women and children who are supposed to enjoy British freedoms. Is it culturally insensitive to point out that female genital mutilation “parties” are still going on in Britain, at which up to a dozen girls at a time may be operated on?