Wednesday, January 28, 2015

To Get A Good Education In Nigeria, Students Turn To Private Schools

By Linus Okechukwu
Senior Reporter
AGYARAGU, Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria – While nearly all his childhood friends had absorbing stories of their new journey to private primary schools, Samson Yusuf, 20, had little to share. His tales lacked in novelty, and his experience rather too awful to be told.
Yusuf, who is currently preparing to take his West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, listened to spellbinding stories his friends had of their new teachers, classmates, friends, and classroom and learning methods. 
But his story was different, starting early in the morning when he trudged into the compound of a public school, LGEA Primary School in Gidinye in Nasarawa State.
"We had no desks; all we did was seat on the floor," Yusuf said, a little regretfully. "Our teachers rarely come around to teach us. We just come to school, play and go home some days."
His story mirrors the decaying nature of public education in Nigeria. From primary through secondary education, students are expected to be fully equipped to sit for all requisite examinations with relative ease, but cheating and mass failure have characterized results churned out by the West African Examination Council.
Public primary and secondary schools thrived in the 1970s and ‘80s. Graduating students then had what they needed to enroll in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
But that’s in the past as students now go through public schools with little teaching, poorly-equipped laboratories, dilapidated structures and scant motivation.
Some say lack of experienced and competent teachers, poor funding and teacher pay, inadequate school buildings and the increased pressure of a population explosion on already strained resources are all to blame for the dwindling quality of education throughout the country.
Wealthy Nigerians and parents who could afford relatively cheap fees send their children to private schools to give them the best education possible in Nigeria.
Linus Okechukwu / youthjournalism.org

Gift Audu, who was lucky to have a private
school education.
The differences between the public and private schools can be striking.
“Our teachers would always tell us that whether we were well taught or not, they'll definitely get their salaries," Yusuf said.
But Gift Audu, 21, who attended a Catholic primary school, St. John’s Nursery and Primary School in Agyaragu, Nasarawa State, had a different experience.
 "Our teachers showed a lot of dedication,” said Audu. “They rarely missed classes; even if they did, it must be for cogent reasons. We were motivated to learn every day.”
With the passage of the Universal Basic Education Act into law in 2004 by the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration, there were hopes that the provision of compulsory free education would put an end to illiteracy and facilitate the expansion of education opportunities to all children.
In rural Nigerian communities, students commonly learned their lessons under trees because of the absence of school buildings. Lack of desks and basic classroom furniture also beset rural public schools, and reports of truancy are not treated seriously.
"It pained me to see my childhood friends read and speak English fluently, while I had to grapple with understanding what those strange words mean,” said Yusuf. “I struggled to read my textbooks, but hardly made any effort to improve because the motivation wasn't there.”
Though expensive, private schools have earned a reputation for discipline, hard work and an unusual commitment to teaching. And they will likely continue to enjoy greater patronage if public schools continue to remain in shambles.
"Of a truth, nearly all the brilliant pupils and students in our community attended private schools," said Audu, who is aspiring to study economics at Federal University in Lafia. "I think the major reason can be traced to the fact that public schools here are lagging behind in terms of providing quality education."
But it is possible to find good public schools in Nigeria, especially primary and secondary schools in cities and major towns.
The Universal Basic Education scheme brought in its wake the reconstruction of dilapidated buildings and the provision of other requisite school facilities, but little has been achieved in terms of preparing students for higher educational achievements in tertiary institutions.
"You hardly find the high level of seriousness seen in privates in public schools," said Augustine Samson, 19, who just completed his high school education at Government Secondary School in Gidinye. "Sometimes we just saw our teachers and that's all. We were rarely motivated to do something valuable after classes."
According to a 2013 piece in Vanguard by Adewale Kupoluyi, who teaches at the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria spends less than 9 percent of its budget on education, while smaller African nations spend two or three times that amount.
Besides poor funding, a myriad of problems bedeviling public primary and secondary education in Nigeria include a shortage of quality staff, infrastructure and facilities such as laboratories, lack of discipline and teacher strikes over low pay.
Audu thinks the situation is not entirely irredeemable.
"Perhaps if teachers are given the necessary incentives, and students stay motivated and governments stop neglecting public education,” Audu said, “things will change for good.”
But with the neglect of public education by federal and state government, the goal of Nigeria achieving, by the end of this year, Education for All – a movement championed by the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to provide quality basic education to children and adults – remains unrealistic.
"I finally went on to join Shalom International College, Agyaragu after I left primary school," Yusuf said. "It turned out to be an awesome experience as I became adept at reading and speaking English within a short time. If anything, I'll continue to remain grateful to my friends for opening my mind to the beauty and excellence therein in private schools."
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Blizzard Begins And The Snow Drifts

Max Turgeon / youthjournalism.org
The snow from the blizzard starts to accumulate at this home in Newington, Conn. about 10:30 Monday night. Conditions are deteriorating and the wind is blowing.

By Max Turgeon / youthjournalism.org
About 8 a.m. Tuesday, the snow was still falling at a moderate pace. Accumulations reached about 20 inches here in Newington, with drifts up to 30 inches against the house.
Max Turgeon / youthjournalism.org

Noon Tuesday on the side of the house. The path is shoveled for the family dog. Drifts are visible to the sides of the path.
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In Boston, The Great Snowpocalypse

Alan Burkholder / youthjournalism.org


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National Holocaust Memorial Museum Delivers Painfully Sad Lessons

By Sydney Hallett
Senior Reporter
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Though we learned about the Holocaust every year in English or history class, we never really went in depth. I wanted to know more.
Touring the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during my visit to Washington gave me the perfect opportunity.
I did not know what to expect as our group stepped into the museum elevator, but once the video started playing, I knew this museum was going to transform my outlook on everything in life.
The introduction video stopped playing, the elevator doors opened and immediately, the setting changed.
It was no longer bright and loud anymore, like it was when we first walked into the museum. It was dark and quiet, except for the old videos that were playing from the days before the Holocaust.
There, tour guides explained and showed clips from the 1920s and early 1930s, when Germany’s currency was inflated after WWI. People were starving on the street. Then, when Hitler started gaining political power in Germany, citizens wanted a scapegoat for the nation’s problems, so they blamed the Jewish people.
Watching these videos shook me up as I saw people hail Hitler, not knowing what would happen to six million Jews until years later. As I got deeper into the museum, I tried to read and see every piece of information I could.
Our time there was short – only two hours – so I was always the last one out of the hallway. I wanted very much to learn the history behind the Holocaust and how so many people were influenced by hate.
When I saw a book burning on a video and the accompanying exhibit, I cringed inside. I could not understand why anyone would want to burn any type of book, no matter if they were written by Jewish authors or not. It was horrible to watch, and it seemed as if people were having fun doing this.
I understood that the propaganda and the desperate need for someone to get Germany back in shape influenced people’s attitudes, but I could not understand how so many people could hate one group of people.
History seemed to repeat itself from the time of the Civil War, but this time, it was in a much more hateful and violent way.
As I made my way through the museum, one image burned into my mind. We walked into a large room, and all around us were shoes. Shoes for children and adults. Girl shoes and boy shoes.
They had all been taken off the people going into the concentration camps, and most of them never came out.
I looked closely at the shoes. A lot of them were burned and covered in dirt, but one particular shoe stood out to me. A small pink shoe half covered in dirt rested on the top of the stack.
Seeing the little shoe gave me chills. It was disturbing that anyone would force a child to her death. I wanted to look at all of the other shoes, but we had to keep moving. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about that pink shoe, the girl who once wore it and what she endured.
As I heard stories from the Holocaust in audio recordings, I felt so sad inside. These people were telling firsthand accounts of the horrors in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. They shared heartbreaking stories of how they were separated from their families and what they had to do in the camps.
Walking through the museum, I felt crushed. These people were put to death because they were different and they were not of the “superior race,” which does not and will not ever exist.
And I was angry that anyone would ever do this and kill six million people because they believed those people were inferior.
Entering the Holocaust museum, I had little knowledge on that period in history, but by the time I left, I’d learned a lot. That museum was my favorite part of touring Washington because it touched me so deeply.
Rather than simply feel in awe of the cool exhibits like I do at other museums, I saw true sadness and hardship at the Holocaust Museum. It left me in amazement, not because of how awesome it was, but because it broke my heart.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Seventy Years After Its Liberation, Auschwitz Is Still Chilling To This Young Visitor

Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The fence around Auschwitz, which was electrified when the camp was in operation. Desperate prisoners sometimes made a suicidal run at the fence to escape the horrors of the concentration camp.

By Myah Guild
Senior Reporter
OSWIECIM, Poland – No words can truly describe what visiting Auschwitz is like.
Even now, months after I spent time, there, I still struggle to comprehend what I saw and heard. I suppose it’s because I never really will.
The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – arguably the most notorious death camp of WWII – is this week. January 27 marks the date that Allied soldiers from Russia arrived to free the men, women and children who were still prisoners at Auschwitz.
Though the cruel and evil days of Auschwitz are long gone, the place still has incredible power. I felt the chill inside the gas chambers where millions died. I saw the personal effects – suitcases, shoes and even hair – of the prisoners who had arrived with false hope.
Birkenau was a nearby second camp that the Nazis tried to destroy as the Allies advanced. But the destruction wasn’t complete and evidence of what went on there remains. It’s sometimes known as “Auschwitz 2,” and my tour included it, too.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The entrance to Auschwitz, with a railroad line running into the camp.

A sadistic ‘Welcome’

We started by entering Auschwitz under a replica of that famous, mocking sign reading “Arbeit Macht Frei” – “Work will set you free.” When you see it, the audacity adds another layer of sadism to what you’re about to see.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The notorious sign at Auschwitz, which, 
translated, reads, "Work will set you free."
The guide told us the inmates were often made to perform in the orchestra, which would be playing at the entrance to the camp, in order to dupe prisoners both upon arrival at the camp, or as they made their way, unsuspectingly, to the gas chambers.
The prisoners would be rounded up and those who were deemed useless or against Nazi values – such as Jews, black people and Roma, or Gypsy people, as well as the young, the pregnant, the disabled and the mentally ill – were sorted into the groups bound for the gas chambers.
Academics, professionals and those from the political left were also sent to die for fear of their knowledge, power and opposition.
The rest would go into the camp, which was split into men’s and women’s sections, for work. The average life expectancy was six months.

Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The suitcases and other luggage that belonged to the people brought to Auschwitz as prisoners.


Personal items make the horror real

Seeing the incontrovertible evidence of what the Nazis did at Auschwitz is horrifying.
Piles of gas canisters were left behind, along with artificial limbs and other aids for the disabled that were confiscated upon arrival. Pots and pans that people brought with them to the camp, convinced they were being transported to a new life. Many believed they had bought land and, so, brought everything they owned. Seeing those possessions made the whole experience more real.
I saw the actual belongings of these people and it was gut-wrenching. Their names were still readable on the suitcases, a clear sign they thought they’d be coming back to claim them, unaware they probably never would.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The living quarters inside Birkenau.
Photographs show people, including mothers with young children, calmly walking towards the gas chambers, believing they were about to have a shower following their long journey. Most of them had spent weeks being transported to the camp, some enduring journeys from as far away as Italy or Greece. Crammed into cattle cars with no sanitation, freezing in the winter and suffering in sweltering summer heat, many would be found dead on arrival.
Undoubtedly the most haunting part of the indoor exhibition is seeing the piles of shoes that were recovered after the camp’s liberation. The sheer amount is staggering and when you see a child’s shoe amongst them, it makes you realize there was no end to the depravity that went on there.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
Liberators of Auschwitz found thousands
of shoes that had belonged to the victims.
The next room, which contained a cabinet of human hair, brought many visitors to tears. This cabinet was as big as the ones holding the shoes and suitcases. Nazis shaved prisoners upon arrival and often used their hair to make wigs and carpets.
We were asked not to photograph the hair, but just like the shoes, it made me face the reality of what happened during the Holocaust. When I saw it there with my own eyes, I finally was able to picture not only the sheer number of people who were killed, but the level of indignity, suffering and pain they endured. As we looked at it, we saw a little blonde plait, still tied with a pink band.
In the dormitories, we saw the faces of countless men and women staring back, all shaven, their genders indistinguishable with the striped uniform on. Their ages varied, as did their occupations, but all had an arrival date and a death date, often only months apart. The rooms were bare - just straw on concrete floors. The rooms where guards slept and the execution courtyard were nearby.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The execution wall in the courtyard at Auschwitz.

Torture and executions

In the courtyard, they tortured and executed prisoners, often for petty incidents. Those who were against the establishment, like critics or academics, such as professors and doctors, were often shot upon arrival.
There were hooked poles used to torture inmates by tying their hands behind their backs and hanging them from their arms.  Often, they wouldn’t be able to work for days afterwards and would then be tortured again. Some were hanged for disobedience from the scaffolds near the gas chamber.
One of the only redeeming features was a replica of the scaffold in the garden, which was used in 1947 to hang Rudolf Höss, a former commandant of the camp. The villa he lived in during his time at the camp was visible just beyond the camp boundaries and the fences, which at the time were electrified. Guides said many prisoners would, in their despair, deliberately run at the fence to commit suicide.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
When Allied troops liberated Auschwitz, they found many empty gas canisters.

Gas chambers: dark, cold and eerie

From there, we went to the gas chambers. They gave us the choice whether to see them or not, and the option of staying outside was all too appealing. By that point, I was fully aware that when I went in, I would be standing where these people once stood. I knew that when I went in, I would be standing in the exact place where more than a million men, women and children met their excruciating deaths.
Words can’t describe that feeling.
Inside, it’s dark and cold. You get a sense of what it would have been like to have been herded, like cattle, into the room with tons of other people. You think about them all – in the dark, no clothes, without their possessions and surrounded by strangers. And, then, you think about what happened next, and, again, words will never to able to adequately describe what you feel.
A sense of claustrophobia and fear sets in then, a feeling that all the visitors seemed to share, regardless of our differences. Even though I knew I was in a museum, the way the camp is preserved just as it was – especially in the chambers – made me feel as if I was in the camp, as it was so many years ago. Occasionally, I felt a coldness that can never be properly expressed. Even now, it returns whenever I remember it.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
Inside the gas chamber at Auschwitz.


The ovens of Auschwitz, the ruins of Birkenau

The ovens next to the chambers are also left as they were; the trays where other inmates would be made to place bodies before cremating them remain. The wagons people arrived in, the huts they slept in and the other chambers are still there at Camp 2 – Auschwitz II. The famous railroad leading up to it is a jolting sight, just like the sign.
The ruins of Birkenau jar with the intact nature of Auschwitz, since the Nazis tried to bomb the chambers and clear out the facilities at the second camp to cover up their crimes.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
Toilets at the camp were holes in a
concrete bench.
Evidence remains, though, as you can see the living quarters and toilets. They’re just holes in a cold, concrete bench, where the indignity was heightened and two-fold, as some of the inmates had to clean the facilities with their bare hands. Often they would contract diseases and die, though the guide said that many favored the job because it meant officers wouldn’t want to go near them.
Inmates would sleep in basic huts – wooden ones for men and ones built of stone for women. Low temperatures, disease and rodents meant many would die quickly. I visited on a mild July day and the huts were instantly cooler than outside. Some had drawings and markings, made by prisoners, still on the wall.
Our guide said the inmates would have been given a watery soup for breakfast, often made from rotting vegetables prepared on the same wagon that transported bodies from the camp. Dinner would be a thin slice of bread, if anything.
Myah Guild / youthjournalism.org
The memorial at Auschwitz. The plaque in the foreground reads:  For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews, from various countries of Europe. Auschwitz-Birkenau 1940 - 1945

A somber end

The tour ended with the memorial at the end of the railroad into the camp. It’s grey and stark, making you think, like the camp does, of the millions of people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
Translated into the different languages of the prisoners who suffered there, it is a constant reminder – as are the tributes that continue to be left there – that this genocide did occur and that we must not only never forget it, but never allow it to happen again.
See more photos in this slideshow:

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pope Francis Visits, Inspires Filipinos

By Fritz Allen Gulmatico
Junior Reporter
BAGO CITY, The Philippines – The Philippines made worldwide news when Pope Francis arrived January 15 for a state and pastoral visit.
The Pope, who stayed in the country until Monday, traveled to the state of Tacloban, where Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever recorded, killed thousands of poor people in 2013.
He made history when six million people gathered during his closing Mass, making it the largest event ever for a pope.
Obviously, strengthening our faith would be one of the reasons the Pope visited the Philippines. He said himself that in Asia, the Philippines is a foremost Catholic country and that we are outstanding missionaries of faith.
These days, tough times have come to Filipinos.
Our economy constantly falls, and as it hits rock bottom, it rises again. That’s the case for most Filipinos. Some citizens struggle to keep up with the trend of prices, and as they hit an all-time low, they don’t bounce back. They just stop moving like sitting ducks, and the next day, their all-time low becomes lower.
Right now, faith is what we need, and right on cue, the Pope comes to the Philippines. Fate is a funny thing.
Fate is a big word, too. I know that it is a cliché to say this, but the obstacles we face really do strengthen us. We just have to keep on holding on to that faith, and in the end, surely enough, we will cull our reward.
The Pope said that once we remove our own complacency, we will be able to accept others and ourselves. His words truly made sense.
Pope Francis
He also said that it was the little gestures of the Filipinos that he found memorable. Well, happiness can also be found in the smallest packages.
I went to the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo to attend Mass on Sunday, and I was amazed by the massive number of people gathered there. I couldn’t even get inside.
I noticed some of the people holding various colored candles and praying. I asked the candle vendors what the candles were for. They said each color represents a wish, like good health, love or prosperity.
My casual chat with the vendors became a serious talk when they explained why they were selling the candles. They said that if you don’t have faith, you don’t have anything. They said that if you don’t hold on to faith, you will stray away from the path of God.
Why do we even hold on to faith? To believe is such a natural thing, like an innate affinity in every one of us. If we don’t have faith, what will we have? We will have nothing to live for, so our existence won’t have any meaning.
While it is true that we will always have misunderstandings, we must learn to forgive and trust again.
Humans are made to err, but we are also made to learn. So the next time you are trying to give someone a second chance, give him or her that opportunity to change, because you might just know how it feels to be forgiven. God has forgiven us from all our sins, so what limits you from doing the same for your fellowmen?
This is where mercy and compassion comes in. Mercy is not only for those who have sinned – it is also for those who have been sinned upon. Mercy is the thing that keeps on telling people that it is all right to forgive.
Compassion, according to the dictionary, is sympathy toward others and the desire to help. For me, compassion is what keeps the Filipino faith alive. It is because of the compassion of others to help Filipinos stand up on their feet again that we have regained our composure from the disaster of Typhoon Haiyan.
So what moves Filipinos? A simple answer to a simple question: mercy, compassion, and faith.
Faith moves us so many ways that we know how to act humane. Faith tells us how to change. Faith taught us how to rise up from our ashes and start again, knowing that there will be a better tomorrow. That’s the reason why we owe everything we do to God.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Victims In Paris Attack Are Wrongly Being Used Worldwide As Political Pawns

By Emily Couch
Senior Reporter
COTLEIGH, Devon, England – Seventeen individuals died during Paris’s horrific three days of terror, 17 people from families who each mourn the loss of a father, son, daughter or relation.
Whatever the circumstances, death is shattering for those left behind. 
With this in mind, I want to pose a question: how would you feel if your loved one was lost under that weighty millstone, the symbolism of his or her death? 
This is exactly what has happened in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
I have no doubt that the French and international public feel genuine compassion for the victims of all three attacks, but it is clear that the tide of popular feeling is as much to do with the attacks’ broader signification as the individual victims.

Three events, one hash tag

You might have noticed that I have not applied the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ tag in reference to the murders. 
This may seem surprising given the vast proliferation of ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (the twitter hash-tag used by 3.4 million users in 24 hours that means ‘I Am Charlie’) signs at the January 11 unity rally in Paris. 
I do this as a reminder that the murders of journalists, police and others at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office are part of a chain of three separate events including the murder of a policewoman and the murder of four Jewish men held hostage at a Kosher supermarket. 
While the supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, the Charlie Hebdo attackers claimed to be working for Al Qaeda. 

A blank canvas
I rehearse these details to highlight the network of allegiances and tensions enmeshing the murders.
What we have seen in the past week is the transformation of these complex events into a blank canvas onto which states and political groups are painting their own interpretations. 
The victims have been whitewashed under the international political ramifications of the attacks. 
Key figures in the European far right, Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom’s Independence Party and in France, the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, have brazenly capitalized on the events to bolster support for their own parties. 
Both pushed their anti-immigration agendas.
In a television interview after the attacks, Farage blamed a ‘fifth column’ – his way of saying the society had Muslim enemies within it – stating this ‘column’ also exists in Britain. 
Similarly, Le Pen used the attacks to refresh her old opposition to France’s inclusion in the Schengen Zone, which allows free movement through most of the countries in Europe.
Their ‘I told you so’ attitude is clearly an attempt to justify their xenophobic stances. 
In an interview with the French radio station RTL, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls asserted that it is not the moment for playing politics.
Sadly, politics is what the aftermath has become, and not just on a national scale.  Russia has used the attacks as a shield to deflect criticism of its own actions in Ukraine.
“The tragedy in Paris shows that Russia does not threaten Europe and its security,” Alexei Pushkov, head of Russia’s Foreign Affairs committee, tweeted in Russian last week.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of Russia’s bestselling daily papers, even accused America of orchestrating the attacks in order to punish France for its softening stance towards Russia. 
That Russia should use these terrible events as a mere vehicle for its virulently anti-Western rhetoric is a blatant hijacking of the tragedy, demonstrating how the victims have been brushed under the rug of international maneuvering
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presence at the unity rally alongside President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority is yet another strand in the web.
Netanyahu may not have directly brought Palestine into the equation, but his message is clear: Jewish people are under threat, specifically from Muslims, so the Israeli state is a necessary sanctuary which all countries must support. 
This becomes particularly significant in light of the French parliament’s non-binding vote for the recognition of Palestine as a state.

Europe and Islam
The heart of the web is, of course, the West’s negotiation of its ambivalent relationship to Islam. 
Leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have, like thousands of ordinary people, emphasized that the attacks have nothing to do with the peaceful Muslim population. 
I laud this attitude, but worry about the latent antipathy toward Islam that exists beneath the apparently sympathetic reaction. 
Since the insurgence of ISIS last year, politicians have been urging Muslims to condemn the actions of extremists. 
Quite understandably, many Muslims have questioned why they must apologize for terrorism carried out by violent fundamentalists. 
Merkel, Clegg, and French President Francois Hollande have all been vocal in their solidarity with the Muslim community – specifically the German, British, and French Muslim communities.
I completely agree with emphasizing that Muslims are as much part of these countries as anyone else, but I fear that politicians are actually attempting to ‘tame’ Islam by subsuming it into Western culture. 
Why would we want ordinary Muslims to ‘apologize’ unless we felt that they somehow are related to the attacks?
Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed – which the killers claimed to be avenging – might now symbolize freedom of speech, but it is undeniable that they are, in themselves, offensive. 
Would the transformation from crude cartoon to ideological symbol have been so rapid had not a tacit agreement with the offensiveness already existed?  
I am not proposing definite answers to these questions.  I am saying that the events have made Europe face its Islamophobic demons head on. I can only hope that we can exorcise them, rather than allowing them to bubble under the surface of a sympathetic veneer.

Je ne suis pas Charlie (I am not Charlie)
The social media aftermath of the attacks followed the pattern of social media reactions to world events in general. 
First we heard the resounding cry – or rather, hashtag – of ‘Je suis Charlie.’ 
Then, the inevitable negative reaction to the mass movement. 
‘Where,’ the Je suis Charlie critics demanded, ‘is the outrage for the massacres in Nigeria by Boko Haram?  Where is the 3.7 million strong national rally for the victims?  Where are the world leaders?’ 
The deaths of 2,000 innocent Nigerians is appalling – there is no other word to describe it. 
However, I cannot condone the use of the massacre to belittle those who are still grieving for the victims of the Paris attacks – I have seen this all too often on social media recently. 
Just because someone writes #jesuischarlie at the end of a tweet does not mean they are callously disregarding the Nigerian massacre. 
One week is not a long time in any context, let alone after the deaths of 17 people. 
The truth is that we are human and consequently find it difficult to give our whole emotional imagination to more that one event at the same time. 
Furthermore, there is the simple fact that France feels ‘closer’ to the Western world than Nigeria.  I am in no way suggesting that this attitude is valid, but it is present nonetheless. 
France is that country we see constantly in films, just a train ride away from many European countries while Nigeria remains off the popular radar.   
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has posed a similar question: why did the world not give this much attention to similarly horrific events in Chechnya?  Again, the answer unfortunately lies in political pragmatism.
Standing with France is simply less controversial – it has not recently warred with Russia – and, as the crucible of European democracy, more symbolic.
The Paris attacks are a brutal awakening: extremist attacks do not only happen ‘over there’ in America, Africa, and the Middle East, but in the very heart of Europe.
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