News media are reporting the Islamic State’s welcoming message to Boko Haram’s announcement of swearing loyalty to “caliph” Abubakr Al-Baghdadi. At least one major newswire, Reuters, appears to have deliberately misquoted Islamic State spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani. Reuters quotes al-Adnani saying the following regarding the union:
“Our caliph, God save him, has accepted the pledge of loyalty of our brothers of Boko Haram so we congratulate Muslims and our jihadi brothers in West Africa,” Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said in an audio message, referring to his group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”
The problem is that Boko Haram is a nickname used to describe the group, most commonly by those who are opposed to them. The group has repeatedly stated its preference for given name, as a Boko Haram spokesman noted in a video released in January:
“Much of what the media publishes changes facts and spreads lies, especially the media controlled by the false deities when it concerns mujahedeen. It’s based on defamation wars for the deeds and sayings of mujahedeen and if they’re not answered then right is mixed with falsehood, so we say we didn’t call ourselves ‘Boko Haram,’ and our cause is not just about prohibition of democratic or foreign schools. We are Jama’aat Ahlol-Sunaa lel Da’awa wal Jihad, so that name is an attempt to change facts. We have come to give victory to AlSunna and to establish the governance of Allah on earth.”
It would seem unlikely that following Boko Haram swearing loyalty to Islamic State, the supposed Caliphate would respond by insulting their newest “brothers.” And indeed, we learn from a translation provided by BBC News, that in fact, they didn’t do that at all. BBC News quotes the same passage to read:
“We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa because the caliph … has accepted the allegiance of our brothers of the Sunni group for preaching and the jihad.”
Sunni Group for Preaching and Jihad is a straight forward translation of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad. While its true that most readers are probably not familiar with “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad” it would have been a simple matter to provide context regarding the name while not altering what was actually said. There’s no logical reason for altering the quote, and doing so without providing any evidence, such as brackets, to indicate where the editors have altered the actual language is dishonest. The only apparent reason for such a change was to disguise Boko Haram’s true nature as a self-professed Jihad organization.
Reuters does their readers, and all of their subscribers a disservice by purposefully mistranslating al-Adnani’s statements.
Kyle Shideler is director of the Threat Information Office (TIO) at the Center for Security Policy.)