If there's one bright spot in the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls and young women by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, it's the reaction the act has generated within the Islamic world.
The leadership of Al Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, one of the world's most prominent and influential Sunni Muslim theological institutions, led the way Tuesday with a condemnation of the kidnapping and a demand that the girls be released immediately -- a condemnation that was echoed by other religious and political leaders, as well as prominent journalists in Muslim-majority countries and around the world.
"Every imam who takes the pulpit this Friday should at the very least pray for our sisters in Nigeria as well as every woman who faces religious persecution and oppression at the hands of those who claim to act on God's behalf, but really have no semblance of God in any of their actions," Khalid Latif, chaplain and director of the Islamic Center at New York University, wrote Thursday in the Huffington Post.
Liberal commenter Tarek Fatah, a columnist for the Toronto Sun in Canada, went further, saying on Tuesday that Muslims should use the kidnapping to reflect on whether the religious justifications used by Boko Haram to legitimize its actions are still relevant in the modern world.
"We Muslims have a choice," he wrote. "We either develop the maturity to say, such Islamic injunctions do not apply anymore, or we can keep on driving fast-forward in reverse gear, and every time we hit an obstacle that appears in our blind spot, we can blame it on 'Islamophobia'."
It's too early to say whether this will be a turning point in the fight against Boko Haram, which has gained a reputation for brutality against both Christians and more moderate Muslims and is loosely aligned with al Qaeda, but the group doesn't seem to be winning any new friends among those whose interests it professes to defend.