On 7th of January, the world watched in horror as an Islamist terrorist attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hedebo unfolded, claiming the lives of 12 innocent people. The magazine was reportedly attacked after producing an image of the prophet Mohammad who in Islam, is considered to be sacred. In the eyes of the devout Muslim community, reproducing an image such as this would be blasphemous.
A few days later, on 12th January, the world did not watch in horror as Islamist Militant terrorist group, Boko Haram reportedly murdered up to 2000 innocent civilians in Nigeria. Around 30,000 people were displaced as a result of the brutal terrorist attack.
It’s safe to say that the attack against magazine company Charlie Hebedo, has received more coverage, more concern and more empathy from the western world. News reports appeared to cover every waking minute of any progress regarding the French attacks, updating the world as it unravelled. However, Nigeria appeared to be left out of the news reports – and were not even included as an afterthought.
Shortly after the attack in France, a rally of more than a million people and a strong gathering of world leaders combined to support the victims of the shocking attack whilst standing in unity, showing a global display of defiance against extremism.
Clearly, both terrorist attacks were heart-wrenching and deserved an equal amount of media attention in order to spread awareness and assist in moving towards helping the issues at hand. However, this did not happen and it lead me to question why.
An article from Time, assisted in the explaining of the matter, and I found it to be one of the best at exposing the topic, warts and all. To understand the question in hand, there are many things that need to be considered in this situation. Firstly, France is closer to home (in this situation being the U.K) both psychologically and physically. Thus, the public become concerned with issues that they can firstly relate to and secondly with issues that are more likely to effect them. Time said that ”There’s a sense of personal vulnerability [in the Paris attack] that I don’t think one gets from the Boko Haram attacks,”.
Secondly, the whole world was able to understand the French attack more thoroughly when compared to the Nigerian attack. Whilst the French reports presented themselves in detail, clarifying the issue, the Nigerian reports appeared to be quite sketchy in terms of the death toll and other details. Furthermore, the attack in France was unprecedented, whilst the attack in Nigeria joins a trail of Boko Haram attacks – this is not to say that it becomes less important. The attack at Charlie Hebedo was against a string of journalists, thus the media coverage may have had an added layer of concern.
Unfortunately, westerners tend to empathise more with people who we feel are like us and this is where cultural roles play a significant part. Regardless of where a terrorist attack takes place, every individual should have the same amount of fear for the attack, because essentially all of us are at risk.
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