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Boko Haram members more likely to have been recruited by friends, family, neighbors

Thursday, October 6, 2016  
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Boko Haram members more likely to have been recruited by friends, family, neighbors than religious institutions or social media: Study


Members of the violent extremist organization Boko Haram are far more likely (60%) to have been recruited by people they already know, such as friends, neighbors and family- not by people in mosques, madrasas or other religious gatherings (27%), according to a new study released at the United Nations on Monday 3 October by Finn Church Aid, the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Citizen Research Centre.

Conducted at the end of 2015 in Adamawa State and Borno State in Nigeria, the study interviewed 119 former Boko Haram fighters, 60 peacebuilders working with civil society organizations, and 1607 citizens about their perceptions of why and how Boko Haram recruits people into its ranks. Interviews with former Boko Haram fighters took researchers to detainment camps and camps for internally displaced persons and resulted in a valuable body of primary research into the motivations of people who join these groups.

In addition to showing that the vast majority were recruited by their local communities and not by religious leaders, the study also showed that Boko Haram manipulate religion as a recruitment tool. At the same time, however, a surprising number of the former fighters interviewed said they had realised after joining that Boko Haram were misrepresenting the teachings of Islam, and that those who joined for religious reasons were unfamiliar with the teachings of the Quran, thus presenting easy targets for manipulation.

In a further finding, trust in religious leaders was high across the sample groups: 58% of peace builders active in peace and reconciliation, and 38% of former Boko Haram fighters said that they trusted religious leaders (to act in their best interests).

Fahad Abualnasr, KAICIID Director General stressed the importance of primary research and data to demonstrate the impact of interreligious dialogue.

“This research in Nigeria reinforces the key role that religious leaders can play in defusing religious tensions and preventing radicalisation: both in their own capacity as influencers, and as role models for their communities. Religious leaders who are trained in interreligious dialogue can prevent religion from being manipulated and misinterpreted by violent extremists. They can also help inoculate local communities against radicalisation. For all these reasons, we believe it is crucial that religious leaders be equipped with skills in interreligious dialogue and understanding.”

In several focus countries and regions around the world, including in Nigeria and the Central African Republic, as well as the Middle East and Myanmar, KAICIID works with religious leaders and policymakers to help them resist extremism in their communities. This can include the creation of sustainable and inclusive platforms where religious leaders can share concerns and issues, and develop cooperation, often in areas where no such platforms exist, and providing training for religious leaders in interreligious dialogue, coexistence and outreach to their communities through social media.


To request a preview copy of the study, please send an email to


Nayana Jayarajan


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