NEW DELHI: This was a bad week. Over a million people, joined by 40 world leaders, filled the streets of Paris on Sunday in solidarity against two separate terrorist attacks that killed 17 innocent people in France. On Wednesday, the world reeled from shock as news broke that gunmen had stormed the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo killing 12 people including the editor and celebrated cartoonists. As a massive chase for the suspects was mounted, another took over a dozen people hostage at a Paris kosher grocery store on Friday. Four hostages were killed in the standoff between the hostage-taker and police, while 15 were rescued.

The Charlie Hebdo attack has dominated media headlines, and rightfully so. It has raised questions about the problematic nature of “free speech” (Charlie Hebdo has been targeted in the past because of its provocative cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad). It has drawn attention to issues of Islamophobia, of the socio-economic context of Muslims in Europe, of immigration and assimilation.

Meanwhile, there have been other attacks -- and although numbers should not be an indication of severity, the fact that these attacks have been continuing and increasing in ferocity, demands that they be given as much attention in public discourse as the events in Paris.

That, however, has not happened.

On Saturday, a ten-year old girl approached the entrance to a crowded market in Maiduguri, a city in Nigeria’s restive Borno State. As a security guard inspected her, the girl detonated explosives strapped to her body -- killing herself and at least 19 others.

The story barely made headlines. In the same week, Boko Haram -- a militant group waging a war in Nigeria’s northeast -- carried out its deadliest attack yet. Over 2000 people were killed as fighting broke out in Baga, a town on the border with Chad where militants seized a key military base on January 3 and attacked again on Wednesday.

In Yemen, also on Wednesday 37 were killed in a terrorist attack by the Al Qaeda in Yemen. Again, the story did not make it to the headlines.

In short, this was a bad week because of the scale of terror and the loss of innocent lives. In addition to reinstating the point that all lives matter equally, this week has also raised an important debate on analysis of events based on triggers rather than a deeper context.

For instance, the Charlie Hebdo attack is being seen as an attack on “free speech.” The magazine was targeted because of its decision to print the cartoons by radicalised Muslims.

Similarly, Boko Haram’s actions are often projected as examples of Islamic terror. The same line of reasoning dominates: Crazed Muslims carrying out crazed violence. Al Qaeda, and more recently, the Islamic State offers the same narrative.

In reality however, the context is far more complicated.

In France, the attacks were not about “free speech.” The cartoons were a trigger, the context ranges from alienation stemming from Islamophobia, socio-economic discrimination, the lack of assimilatation, and yes, spurred on by an ideology that is gaining ground because of a failure to engage with the root causes mentioned.

For more on why the argument of “free speech” is problematic, read Richard Seymour, Asghar Bukhari, see this comic by Joe Sacco, or watch the videos below.

In Nigeria, the agenda of Boko Haram is outrightly political. The group’s aim is to overthrow the country’s government and seize power. As part of this agenda, the group has adopted a specific variant of Islam - one that is opposed to any political or social activity associated with western society. This includes voting in elections, wearing western clothes and receiving what is considered a western (non religious) education.

The origins of Boko Haram, the official name of which is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad", sheds light on the specific social-economic context that has determined developments. As parts of Nigeria fell under British control in 1903, locals came to view western education with suspicion, and this resistance continued as Nigeria gained independence, with many muslim families refusing to send their children to government run “western schools.” The problem was compounded by the lack of priority given to education by the state government.

Located in this context, in 2002, Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri with the intention of setting up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school. Many families across Nigeria and the region enrolled their children in Yusuf’s school. The movement did not remain restricted to education, with the eventual aim of an Islamic state being conceived within the struggle for power that was rooted in an anti-western discourse. In 2009, the group carried out a series of attacks on official buildings in Maiduguri. The group was defeated and Yusuf was killed, but fighters regrouped and in 2010, attacked a prison in Bauchi state, setting free hundreds of the groups’ supporters.

Since then, the group’s attacks have increased in severity, with some of the worst attacks being the 2011 Christmas day bombings on the outskirts of Abuja and in Damaturu; bombing the police headquarters and the UN headquarters in Abuja in 2011; and an attack on a military barracks in Abuja in 2010.

The context is far more complicated than a mere religious rendering can do justice to. Nigerian American author and columnist offered a voice of reason when he tweeted: “I understand the impulse to "do something." But Boko Haram is irreducibly complex. Makes Kony look like child's play” and “The history of the Nigerian military "doing something" about Boko Haram has been one of mass murder of civilians.”

The threat posed by Boko Haram is not going to disappear by launching an offensive attack, which, at best will cause a temporary lull of activity till the fighters regroup and hit back even more violently. The solution to the threat is in reducing the region’s chronic poverty and building an education system which gains the support of local muslims - measures which are not being given priority to by the establishment and figure no where in the “do something” position adopted by the west.

Similarly, the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack should not be based on a discourse centred on “free speech” -- but rather, should engage with the context of alienation specific to France.