Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Mark Juergensmeyer

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This thesis investigates the rise and impact of Boko Haram, a radical Islamic militant group in Nigeria, to understand the intertwining of historical, religious, and socio-political elements that contributed to its emergence in Nigeria. It addresses the critical question of what the fundamental causes of extremism in Nigeria are by looking beyond conventional narratives, seeking to understand how historical events and socio-political dynamics have provided the structural underpinnings of religious extremism. With a historical analysis, the study traces the origins of Boko Haram back to the influence of Usman Dan Fodio’s 19th-century Jihad and examines the effects of British colonization on Nigeria’s socio-political landscape. It emphasizes how the legacy of religious conflicts and the introduction of Salafist Jihadist ideologies have shaped the rise of militant Islamism, with Boko Haram aspiring to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law. The research methodologically combines a review of historical events with an analysis of contemporary socio-political dynamics, drawing a line from past to present in understanding the group's evolution.

The findings reveal that Boko Haram’s growth from a local insurgency to an international terror group involves a complex blend of religious fervor, ethnic identity politics, and socio-economic regional disparity. The study identifies a significant shift in the group's operational tactics over time, evolving from basic confrontations to sophisticated methods like guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings. Particularly noteworthy is the stark educational and economic divide between Northern and Southern Nigeria, exacerbated by historical policies, which has contributed to regional instability and the proliferation of extremist ideologies. The implications of this research are profound, indicating that tackling Boko Haram's threat requires a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond military intervention. It emphasizes the necessity of addressing underlying historical grievances, bridging regional disparities, and fostering a national identity that transcends religious and ethnic divisions. The study highlights the urgency of comprehensive strategies that combine socio-economic development with political and educational reforms to counter the roots of extremism, thereby contributing to the long-term stability and unity of Nigeria.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.