A lot of people are asking why the appalling massacre in Nigeria isn't getting equal media attention to the Paris attacks.
Well, the first 3 reasons are obvious, surely.
1. These are brown people.
2. These are poor people.
3. The west has no financial interest in the area.
The fourth reason is that everyone is confused about why it is happening. Unlike Paris, there's no obvious reason for it. Unlike attacks on the west the historical aspect doesn't seem to apply. These people are killing "their own". It's an internal matter. Maybe "we" even feel it's none of our business. "We" certainly don't feel "we" can do anything. See all those troops pouring in to help, from western countries? No, me neither.
There is a history here, but it's complex. The Nigerian president has blood on his hands, but I don't know enough about it to explain that to you, so you can look it up. It's easy to find.
But there's something else. Boku Haram did not pop up suddenly one day out of nowhere. Its founder was a charismatic man named Mohammed Yusuf. If you don't know anything about him, you have a shock coming.
He was a flat-earther.
I have joked about these people in the past, and called them harmless nuts. Well, this one wasn't harmless, but he was a nut. His other beliefs would make the most hardcore American creationist twitch. He rejected science completely, even rain, he claimed, was nothing to do with the water cycle, but poured down by God. These are prehistoric beliefs.
Anyway, that nut is dead.
Sadly, he was replaced by another nut, Abubakar Shekau, who thinks he's immortal.
You can do your own research, I'm not making this up. This one is actually more dangerous than the first one. He's completely mad.
But what is scarier is that these people recruit so easily. Who do they recruit? Spare me the "radicalized" talk. Of course these are marginalized people. But they are only a small percentage of the marginalized people. Which ones?
They are the thugs.
This is not Islam. I don't care what they are shouting. This is absolute thuggery. This is a perfect example of people using religion to justify base actions. Islam has existed in Nigeria for 1000 years. Boko Haram have existed for 13 years.
The leaders are twisted, but clever. Their soldiers are poor, uneducated, and nasty. It's a terrible combination and it never leads to anything less than horror.
In this instance it is justified by an extremist version of Islam, but it could be anything. Any religion could be warped to create a violent sect, and we've seen it in all of them.
But the moment you mention the religious aspect here, any debate goes off the rails. You'll get people defending religion in general. You'll get people defending Islam. You'll get people criticizing religion in general. You'll get people criticizing Islam in particular. You'll get people blaming it all on the west. You'll get people blaming it all on the race of the people involved. You'll get people suggesting "we" go in and kill 'em all. You'll get people saying that western intervention always causes more harm than good. And so on. Not two sides but about 42. And not a debate so much as a rabid argument.
No, the problem here is psychopathic leaders and young men who in another place and time might be football hooligans, or skinheads, or gang members. That percentage of young men you can find anywhere whose morality is contradictory and tends to change according to expediency. Some of them are actual sociopaths, most are just disaffected, uneducated, and are used to violence from an early age. Throw in some sort of justification for it and watch them go.
Never make the mistake of thinking the foot soldiers understand the ideology. The odd one who is clever enough will rise to the top, but most of them are just grunts. THAT is what you're up against.
Leaders on their own are just mouthpieces. Yobbos on their own are dangerous, but disorganized. It's the combination that makes it all work.
Try fitting all that into a headline. It's too difficult to make into the sort of sound bytes that people need to stay interested, and the media know this. There is news coverage, there are good editorials, but it's heavy going and only the interested read it.
Finally, we feel helpless. So...move on. We feel we can "do something" with more obvious, straightforward threats. But as been said by many people, you can't wage war on an idea. If you kill leaders, they get replaced. And their replacement seeks revenge too. We will never solve this with more war. We'll just make it worse.
So what exactly are Boku Haram's aims?
In theory at least, they oppose the modern western scientific world. They oppose the west as an entity, specifically its cultural influences, more so than the obvious. They oppose education, science, and technology. The fact that they use it, in their weaponry and communications, and have all their money in western banks, seems to elude them.
It is tempting to think that this is actually all just a ploy by the leaders anyway, because uneducated people are, as I've stated, easily drawn to the cause. Maybe the cause isn't the cause at all. Maybe the leaders' real aims are just power and glory for themselves. There may be at least a bit of that.
But on the whole I'm inclined to think that the leaders are just insane, like so many before them. That in their own way they believe in what they are doing. That somehow they justify the violence in their own distorted way. And somehow they convince others to do the dirty work for them. There is no possible reason or benefit in killing thousands of people, it does not help them achieve their stated aims. It's just thuggery.
So, to answer your next question, this is nothing to do with Islam, and yet it has everything to do with Islam, or at least one version of it. What it ISN'T is the responsibility of the ordinary Muslim who is just trying to lead a life, get up in the morning, feed his family, and do right by his God. We must never forget that.