Cyber Love's Illusions
Exposing the Romance Scams of Internet Dating!
"Town Hall" Meeting with
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, DC, January 26, 2010
QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary. My name is Todd Woodard and I’m a contractor supporting the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
Given the recent alleged attempted attack by the young Nigerian on Christmas Day and also the purported audio message from Usama (Osama) bin Ladin heralding that attack and assuming responsibility for it, I’m curious to hear your thoughts regarding the connection between Islamist organizations and young Muslims in Western Africa, specifically Nigeria. I’m curious to hear what your opinion is regarding the driving factors for the youth accepting and embracing the Islamist ideology.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s an excellent question, and volumes have been written to try to answer that. But let me just briefly say that there is a connection between young people and the efforts to radicalize them that are promoted, sponsored, financed by al-Qaida and other extreme organizations with a very narrow definition of Islam. And they have been quite effective on the internet, as you know. We can track connections between not just the Christmas Day bomber but the Fort Hood shooter, the shooter at the Little Rock military recruitment station, and can see that they were at least listening to and interacting with very extreme voices on the side of Islamist ideology.
In Nigeria, which is, as you know, evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, about 75 million of each – Christians predominantly in the south, Muslims predominantly in the north – there has been an accommodation that has enabled Nigeria to survive politically. But the failure of the Nigerian leadership over many years to respond to the legitimate needs of their own young people, to have a government that promoted a meritocracy, that really understood that democracy can’t just be given lip service, it has to be delivering services to the people, has meant there is a lot of alienation in that country and others. (Authors' Note: her statistics are old, Nigeria is now about 50% Islamic, 40% Christian, and 10% Animistic. The Islamic number is growing daily.)
Young people in the world today, they see other options. They’re all interconnected through the Internet. (???) And the information we have on the Christmas Day bomber so far seems to suggest that he was disturbed by his father’s wealth and the kind of living conditions that he viewed as being not Islamic enough and just the kinds of attitudes young people often portray toward their families as they go through their maturing. But in this case, and in so many others, such young people are targets for recruiters to extremism.
(Authors' Note: Apparently, Ms. Clinton has not been too far into Nigeria. Unlike the United States, most people in Nigeria do not have access to the Internet unless they can pay the fees at a Cyber Cafe to rent a computer that is connected to the Internet. There are not many people who can do that unless they can do something with that computer to pay that fee. Too many Romance Scam victims have seen what happens when they have to use the computer to earn the money to stay on the Internet. If you are out in the jungle, you are out of luck.)
So I do think that Nigeria faces a threat from increasing radicalization that needs to be addressed, and not just by military means. There has to be a recognition that in the last 10 years, a lot of the indicators about quality of life in Nigeria have gone the wrong direction. The rate of illiteracy is growing, not falling, in a country that used to have a very high rate of literacy in Africa. The health statistics are going the wrong direction. The corruption is unbelievable. And when I did a town hall in Abuja, people were just literally standing and shouting about what it was like to live in a country where the elite was so dominant, where corruption was so rampant, where criminality was so pervasive.
And that is an opening for extremism that offers an alternative world view. You want to live in peace and safety and feel good about yourself and be part of a community that you can be proud of, then turn away from your society and your family and come with us. And that can be a powerful message, whether it’s a gang in America or an extremist organization in Nigeria. And part of what I’ve been trying to tell leaders in all of my travels is that we’re not just lecturing about human rights or good governance or anticorruption measures because they’re our values; we think they are absolutely essential to the long-term survival of a lot of these governments and the societies and the political systems.
So this is – there are individual reasons why people get recruited and radicalized, but your question about Nigeria really raises all of the elements that make the circumstances ripe for people being targeted as they are, and they have to be addressed.