"Framing" contentious activism: a sociological analysis of Boko Haram’s ideology, through its discourse (2008 – 2016)

Akali Omeni, Areej Al Khathlan*

*Corresponding author for this work

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How does a terror movement like Boko Haram employ language and discourse towards collective action? This is the central question our paper addresses. Focusing on Boko Haram as a militant jihādist social movement organisation (SMO), our article shows how the movement’s ideology, evidenced through its discourse, “frames” narratives that identify the problem, call for action and motivate adherents and potential recruits towards violent repertoires. Using interview data, critical discourse analysis (CDA) and Social Movement Theory (SMT), specifically framing analysis, we interrogate Boko Haram’s Qur’anic exegesis based on the group’s publications, exhortations, lectures and sermons between 2008 and 2016. Along with calls for jihād (holy war, within the movement’s interpretation) and criticism of Nigeria’s federal constitution vis-à-vis Sharī‘a (Islamic law) as a superior social alternative, Boko Haram employs a specific takfir (apostate declaration) doctrine that divides the world into two camps: unbelievers (al-kāfirūn) or (kuffar) and believers. Such identity construction constitutes part of a “framing” approach to mobilisation and recruitment. In this sociological analysis of Boko Haram’s discourse, we identify diagnostic, prognostic and motivational “framing” patterns employed alongside an injustice master frame as a means to encourage collective action by the “in-group” (adherents and potential recruits) against “out-group” identities.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
VolumeLatest articles
Early online date1 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2024


  • Social movement theory
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Framing
  • Terrorism
  • Islamic activism
  • Boko Haram
  • Ideology


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