Boko Haram: Terrorist Organization, Freedom Fighters Or Religious Fanatics?" Research Paper Sample

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Terrorism, Terrorist, Social Issues, Actions, Politics, Information, Study, World

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/31


Terrorism can be defined as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal (Merriam-Webster 2015).” Terrorism not only includes acts of physical violence, rather, most analysts agree that oppression by fear is also a terrorist act. Terrorism has become one of the most widely discussed social and political issues in the world, largely stemming from the increased activity of groups like Al Quada in the middle east and high profile terrorist attacks like the 9/11 attack on the world trade center, and the London Subway bombings. But, the idea of, and fear of terrorism is not new. The term terrorism was first coined to describe the atrocities at Antiquity in the first century A.D, but today, are traditionally used to describe the acts of organized movements, or terrorist groups, who act according to a set of fanatical beliefs, in an attempt to alter the word’s perception of the need for politico-religious reform (Chiland et al 2007).
One such organization, most active in Nigeria, is Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a self-declared muslim military group, formed from the “People of Sunnah for the Preaching of Jihad” The movement is based out of North-east Nigeria, but has also been known to active in Chad, Niger, and Camroon (Bureau of Counter Terrorism 2014, p.9). The militant troop supports the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS), and pledged its formal allegiance to that allegiance’s goals (AFP 2014). As a result, the group has been responsible for the deaths of more than 5,000 Nigerian civilians (Council of Foreign Relations 2014).
Boko Haram first emerged in the 1960s, as Christianity came into influence in the country of Nigeria. At that point, their main focus was continuing democracy, and the prominence of Islam in the nation of Nigeria. And, up until the late 90’s their actions had remained predominately politico-resistant in nature. Unfortunately, in the mid-2000, and most predominantly in the half-decade since 2010, their activity has escalated. While their death toll once totaled less than 1,000 people per year, it has climbed to more than 5,000 per year, with most of the deaths comprised of innocent bi-standers.
Despite these associations and actions, however, there is still debate that Boko Haram is not a Terrorist Group, but rather a political movement with strong religious fanaticism. This research will be carried out in two methods: qualitative and quantitative method. The first part, which is the qualitative research method, will be explained briefly on the way the researcher would answer this research question in a qualitative way, before analyzing the quantitative method, which will comprise the second element.

Qualitative Research Method:

The qualitative research is focused on understanding the details of the issue, understanding the details of the occurrences surrounding the debate, and finally, answering the question: Is Boko Haram a terrorist organization.

Research Problem:

The designation of Boko Haram as an official terrorist organization has been hotly debated since at least the early 2000s. In the United States alone, the State Department has been forced to defend its decision not to designate Boko Haram a terrorist group in 2012, and 2014 and later to defend their decision to include Boko Haram on terrorist watch lists in 2015. The question is whether they can be considered a terrorist group, or simply a group of freedom fighters. Some would argue that they are really two different terms for the same organization, based on perspective, however, George H.W. Bush believed that one could differentiate between the two through qualitative study. He wrote “The difference between terrorists and freedom fighters is sometimes clouded. Some would say one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. I reject this notion. The philosophical differences are stark and fundamental. (Chiland et al 2007, p.27). While it is true that both freedom fighters and Terrorists often claim the same motives, perhaps the most notable distinction, then is that freedom fighters adhere to morality, and refrain from resorting to terroristic acts in order to further their cause, while terrorists use acts of terror as the main, or only motivating factor to inspire change (Chiland et al 2007, p.14).

Research Aim:

This research aims to create a definition for terrorism, review the evidence that supports the definition of terrorism identified in the course of study, to identify problems related to that definition, and to suggest possible solutions to creating a definition that is clear and all inclusive.
This report will also argue to an extent that the importance of a clear definition of terrorism can be used to inform political reform and military decision making in a broader sense. In addition, it will explain the great possibilities of countering terrorism, by better understanding what separates terrorism from extremism, or fanaticism. They key themes which will be addressed include: terrorist motivation, terrorist action, terrorist identification, and the targets of terrorism. Today, Boko Haram is routinely considered a terrorist cell by Terrorist Watch organizations all over the globe, and the United States State Department has issued condemnation of the groups terrorist actions.
This research, in relation to past studies and ongoing research offer a very different view of Boko Haram, however. A study conducted by Freedom Onuoha in 2010 found that it was “extremely unlikely” that the Nigerian based Boko Haram “turn into sleeper cells for global terrorism” but found it concerning that so many had received training in Afghanistan or other known terrorist areas (Onuoha 2010). Similarly, far more research has been concerned with how to deal with Boko Haram as an Islamic extremist group, than as a terrorist cell. This demonstrates that the validity of its current designation as a terrorist cell may be rash. In fact, as recently as 2014, even the United States State Department, which typically acts harshly with regard to terrorist sleeper cells, was resisting calling the organization terroristic in nature. This is due to some discrepancy in whether to view their actions as those of a freedom fighting group, or a terrorist cell, and unclear definition of their motivations and actions. While trying to determine the nature of the Boko Haram cell, various hypotheses will be considered such as: what is the motivating force behind Boko Haram, what actions have they taken, and what defines those actions as terrorist rather than activist deeds. The independent variable will be identified as “nature of actions” while the dependent variable will be “the definition of terrorism.”

Data Collection

The data used for the sole purpose of this research will be gathered solely from secondary research. The researcher will seek out former studies on Boko Haram, to determine what evidence supports the theory that they are acting as a terrorist cell, and not as a freedom fighting agency. They survey will specifically look at research that was collected between the years 2010, and 2025. The research will categorize the actions of Boko Haram during that period as terroristic or political activist, as evidenced by their level of violence and described purpose. Secondarily, a survey will be taken from multiple demographic groups, to determine the global public opinion about Boko Haram’s current political presence, and their identification as either a freedom fighting force or a terrorist cell. A graph will be created to show how the cell is viewed in different areas in the world.

Data Analysis:

The goal of the results will be to demonstrate the current debate over Boko Haram’s actions, and to create a basis for understanding how they are viewed in different areas of the world. The graph, which is mentioned above, will show that the sample of people from all over the globe, and the currently existing body of research fails to provide a single definition for the activities and motivators for Boko Haram (Ogunrotifa 2013).

Ethical Considerations:

This research main encounter certain issues surrounding the ethics of the subject matter. This topic can no doubt be very personal, political, and potentially upsetting, so data needs to be gathered with a certain amount of sensitivity. Some of the participants might be actively involved in extremists groups, which could sway the data collected, which would make them poor sources for the research. The location that the surveys are carried out is also a consideration, because it is important that they are carried out in an appropriate setting, away from political and religious bias. It is also essential that the legal issues involved with asking questions about terrorism are adhered to. There should be no direct effort to collect primary source information from terrorist cells themselves, for example. Finally, there should be no video or audio recording of data, as this can cause privacy law and other legal conflicts in the data collection.

There are various ways to ensure these ethical considerations are managed well:

The research will identify the nature of the problem, and will only collect surveys from those with appropriate backgrounds, and collected from a variety of social settings in every major continent.

The researcher will avoid all audio and video recording.

The researcher will be both morally and ethically bound to protect participants, and will not breech their confidentiality, or otherwise act unethically toward their privacy.

The survey response will be voluntary, allowing for increased sensitivity with regard to the ethical considerations surrounding the issue.

Quantitative Research Methods:
A quantitative research method involves the use of questioners, surveys, and other measurement devices. They are useful in discovering the true modality of Boko Haram’s activities and the motives that drive their organization. In any research based study, the reason to find a definite solution is to determine a set of best practices. Responses from the surveys in this study will be used to convert subjective information into definite numbers, which can be identified with mathematically, in order to determine what is statistically true. Quantitative methods gather samples and pair numbers to answer a specific question set that is directly related to the research problem. This method of research will be used to determine how Boko Haram’s activities between March 2014 and March 2015 can be used to define the nature of the organization.
The quantitative research will identify why Boko Haram’s activates prove they are acting as a terrorist cell, and not a group of freedom fighters. It will create a definition for terrorist activity, and assign point values to casualties, and acts of violence in order to create a level of tolerance or a threshold for acceptable violence among political activist. This will separate activism from terrorism, using numerical data for substantiation.
Research Problem:
Over the past few years, Boko Haram’s violence has been steadily escalating. However, for the purpose of this research study, it is important to determine how the cell is acting within and reaction to society at current. Using quantitative research can prove that there is a specific threshold at which groups like Boko Haram cease to be activists, and cross over as terrorists. By creating a way to quantitatively understand what separates these two types of activity, it will become clear that Boko Haram is a terrorist cell. This will separate activism from terrorism, using numerical data for substantiation of the designation. This will also be useful in predicting the future escalation of activity.
It will be essential, while collecting the data, to separate operations against the state, and operations against civilians, and to track the mathematical nature of motive. This will be substantial in tracking the related variables.
Research Aim:
A study on the mechanics of political radicalization, by McCaley and Moskalenko demonstrated that many groups begin as activists, and as they move toward radicalism, begin taking part in terrorist acts. (2008) The road to terrorism, in this case is a slippery slope, and not an active decision to become, a terrorist or join in terrorist activities. As evidenced by the qualitative research, it is likely that this is exactly what has occurred with Boko Haram. However, this study will attempt to quantify the way in which Boko Haram’s current activities demonstrate their actions as a terrorist sleeper cell. A few major questions which should be asked when carrying out the study are: What will the researcher determine by completing research based on this particular definition of terrorism vs activism? If Boko Haram is proven to be a terrorist cell, what political or legislative action needs to be taken? Or, should Boko Haram be considered a standalone organization, or simply a new faction of ISIL, based on the evidence surrounding their current activity?
Furthermore, this study will analyze whether the terrorist actions taken by Boko Haram actually serve a political, or freedom-right, motive, or are driven forward by some other factor. The problem of lack of understanding, with relation to motivation, is pervasive and needs in-depth explanation in order to understand what, if any, relation there is between freedom fighters and the eventual creation of terrorist cells (Bandura 1990).

Data Collection:

The data used for this research will be gathered solely from secondary research, as it is unfeasible to collect primary data from the Boko Haram cell. The researcher will seek out reports on Boko Haram related insurgency attacks in the 2014 and 2015 years, to determine what evidence supports the theory that they are acting as a terrorists. The research will specifically look at incidents that occurred between March of 2014, and March of 2015, and will focus on the level of violence involved in those incidences The research will categorize the actions of Boko Haram during that period as terroristic or political activist, as evidenced by their level of violence and described purpose. This activity will then be compared against the threshold, in order to determine whether the group is acting as a terrorist cell, or political activists and freedom fighters.

Data Analysis:

The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" (28 C.F.R.) In its earliest days, it is clear that Boko Haram did not fit this definition, as those killed as a direct result of their actions came through their fight with the Nigerian National Forces, and not through attacks on civilians. Today, however, their activity has escalated. What political activity once resulted in 10 to 12 attacks per year has advanced to dozens of attacks, ultimately leading to the loss of thousands of civilian lives. This is a significant shift in focus (New York Times 2015).
This research will use examine the two most recent, and most escalated, years of terrorism and civilian loss of life as the basis for determining the current motivations and moral indications of the Boko Haram organization. SPSS will be used to analyze and interpret the data collected, in order to ensure the fastest, most accurate, and most in-depth understanding of data possible.

Ethical considerations:

The ethical considerations here largely reflect those of the qualitative study, and will be equally taken into account for the quantitative portion. These factors include: privacy, and sensitivity, among others.

Additionally the researcher will:

The researcher will be careful to analyze all the relevant information from the samples.
The research will stick to a strict timeline for the development and analysis of the research project.
The researcher will be conscious in collecting usable samples, and preserving the validity of the findings.


“28 C.F.R.” . U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. 23 March 2015 viewed
AFP 2014. "Boko Haram voices support for ISIS' Baghdadi". Al Arabiya. July 13, viewed 23 March 2015,
Ashkenas, J. et al 2015, Boko Harm: The Other Islamic State. The New York Times. Jan 15 viewed 24 March 2015
Bandura, A. 1990. Mechanisms of moral disengagement. In W. Reich (Ed.), Origins of terrorism: Psychologies, ideologies, theologies, states of mind (pp. 161-191). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 22 March 2015 viewed
Bureau of Counterterrorism. 2014  "Country Reports on Terrorism 2013". U.S. Department of State. 23 March 2015, viewed
Chaliand, G. 2007. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda. University of California Press, San Diego.
Council on Foreign Relations 2014, The Intensification of Violence in Nigeria. Global Conflict Tracker. 23 March 2015 viewed!/?marker=17
Labott, E. & Botelho, G. 2013. U.S. Designates Boko Haram offshoot as Terrorist Organization. CNN News. Nov 13, viewed 23 March 2015
McCauley, C. & Moskalenko, S. 2008. Mechanisms of Political Radicalization: Pathways Toward Terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 20. No. 3. pp. 145-433, 23 March 2014, viewed
“Nigerian Chronology of Coverage” 2015. The New York Times. 23 March 2015 viewed
Office of the Spokesperson (2013). Terrorist Designation of Boko Haram. U.S. Department of the State, 23 March 2015, viewed
Ogunrotifa A.B. 2013. “Class Theory of Terrorism: A Study of Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria.” Research on Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 2, no.1 pp.27-59 23 March 2015 viewed
Onuoha. F.C. 2010. The Islamist challenge Nigeria’s Boko Haram Crisis Explained. African Security Review, vol. 19, no. 1, pp 54-67. 23 March 2015 viewed
(2012). Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Extremist Islamic Sect. Aljazeera Center for Studies. P.2-6
“Terrorism.” 2015. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Vision of Humanity 2015, Global Terrorism Index 2014, Institute of Economics and Peace. 23 March 2015 viewed

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WePapers. (2020, December, 31) Boko Haram: Terrorist Organization, Freedom Fighters Or Religious Fanatics?" Research Paper Sample. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from
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WePapers. 2020. "Boko Haram: Terrorist Organization, Freedom Fighters Or Religious Fanatics?" Research Paper Sample." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved November 30, 2023. (
"Boko Haram: Terrorist Organization, Freedom Fighters Or Religious Fanatics?" Research Paper Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 31-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 30-Nov-2023].
Boko Haram: Terrorist Organization, Freedom Fighters Or Religious Fanatics?" Research Paper Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 31, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2023.

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