On the morning of January 7th the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was attacked in Paris, France. Al-Queda in Yemen took responsibilities for these tragic attacks. The media did not waste a second reporting the news of these attacks, I learned about the attacks while reading a sports/comedy blog. Just about everyone became aware of the tragedy only minutes after it had happened. It was a week after these attacks on Charlie Hebdo that I was listening to public radio and heard of another attack inspired by radical Islam. These attacks took place between January 3rd and January 7th, just days before the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The attacks took place in the remote town of Baga, Nigeria and resulted in the deaths of 2,000 innocent Nigerians. The attacks were carried out by the Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram. I heard of these attacks in Nigeria about a week after they had occurred and I wondered how that could be. Why did I instantly hear about the Charlie Hebdo attacks, but it took a week for the media to report on the deaths of 2,000 Nigerians? Furthermore how does Boko Haram compare to ISIS?
Boko Haram controls most of Northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria is very remote and is the poorest part of the country. Lagos, Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest city, is in southern Nigeria. When journalist and Lagos’ residence hear of violence in northern Nigeria they think of the stories as “banal” because violence is so common in the north, says Cedric Jourde, who is a West Africa expert in the school of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. The problem doesn’t completely have to do with the people in southern Nigeria not caring about the violence. According to Max Abrahms, a terrorist expert at Northeastern University in Boston, “people think of Boko Haram’s violence less as a terrorist campaign and more as a civil war, and when it’s seen as a civil war it tends to attract less international attention.”
The leader and caliph of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau.
Boko Haram controls a part of Nigeria that is remote and very poor, so many Nigerians choose to not pay attention to it. Along with that, internationally we view Boko Haram’s violence as civil war violence instead of terrorist acts. These are two strong reasons why most people don’t know much about Boko Haram. Politically there is also a reason why we don’t hear more about Boko Haram. President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan is up for reelection on February 14th, and the last thing he would like in the press are articles about a powerful terrorist organization that is taking over half of Nigeria.
A poster of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
When I began researching this topic I started wonder how Boko Haram compared to ISIS since I had been hearing so much about ISIS in the news. ISIS and Boko Haram do have differences, ISIS is an international organization, Boko Haram is not. ISIS has military control over parts of two countries (Iraq and Syria), Boko Haram claims to have military control over northern Nigeria but it is not confirmed. ISIS has about 12,000 fighters and Boko Haram only have 9,000. And of course geographically they are very far apart. However as Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi, editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines, puts it “ISIS and Boko Haram are two sides of the same coin”. As Fahad al-Harthi explains “ignorance and a shallow understanding of religion can transform into something dangerous and sinister”. Both ISIS and Boko Haram have taken the Islamic faith and turned it into something dangerous and sinister.
The ISIS flag on the top and the Boko Haram flag on the bottom showing how Boko Haram is starting to copy some of ISIS’s techniques.
What I learned from my research is that all Islamic terrorist groups are fundamentally the same, they are shallow people who have taken religion and through their ignorance have turned that religion into something extremely violent and dark. Because all terrorism is fundamentally the same the media should cover all the terrorism in the world equally, instead of covering the story that is most appealing. Terrorism in Paris is just as tragic as terrorism in remote parts of Nigeria. The media should take note of that and begin reporting equally.