Boko Haram on the 2014 Trail: Brown Slams Shaheen for Downplaying Islamist Nature

Nigerian al-Qaeda affiliate Boko Haram has officially made its entrance into one of the fall's most competitive Senate races that could alter the balance of power in the upper chamber.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), who has moved to New Hampshire and is aiming for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's (D-N.H.) seat, struck out at Shaheen today for downplaying Boko Haram's Islamic roots.

At a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing yesterday, Shaheen said, "Clearly, we need to make sure that Islam is not confused with some of these horrible terrorist acts that have been and continue to be perpetrated by terrorists groups."

Shaheen made the statement in agreement with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Robert Jackson, who said "Boko Haram's philosophy is not an Islamic philosophy."

"The message that all the Muslim leaders who have spoken out, whether religious leaders or political leaders, have passed is that this is not about Islam. And I think that's a very important point," Jackson said.

"I agree, and I'm glad that you made that point," Shaheen said.

Brown issued a statement noting that the senator's statement came on the heels of Boko Haram releasing a video boasting that the kidnapped girls had been forced to convert to Islam. Girls pictured in the video wore hijabs and chanted lines from the Quran.

“Boko Haram proudly shares Al-Qaeda's mission and ideology. They see themselves as jihadists fighting for Islam. They kidnapped these girls and are now forcing them to embrace radical Islam in all respects," Brown said.

"It is naive to think they have nothing to do with religion. They embrace a twisted form of Islam that is spreading around the world and which is intent on destroying Western society."

Back when he was in the Senate, Brown introduced the Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2012. The State Department didn't make the FTO designation until November 2013.