The news has turned grisly of late. It seems only yesterday that al-Qaida was the ultimate synonym for organized global horror. No longer. An offshoot known as Islamic State, having invaded and conquered a large swath of Iraq and Syria, makes al-Qaida look scrupulous.
Brutality the two groups share. Where Islamic State comes out ahead is in social networking expertise. It has turned mass murder and indiscriminate beheading into the spearhead of a recruiting drive – a highly effective one, by all reports, with droves of fighters joining them from all over the world, ready to do whatever it takes to extend the “caliphate” the group claims to be setting up in its newly conquered territory.
The beheading of two American journalists, circulated on the Internet, was the world’s first indication of what seems to many an altogether new level of evil committed in the name of religion. Other beheadings followed, the horror they caused in some circles only adding to the group’s appeal in others.
Another asset Islamic State boasts that al-Qaida would have given much for is fighters with useful citizenships – North American, European, Australian, and so on. Their passports give them relatively easy access to the nations that top radical Islam’s enemy lists. What that could mean became apparent on Sept 18, when Australian police arrested 15 young men in Sydney, Brisbane and elsewhere in the country, on suspicion of being poised to carry out instructions from Islamic State to kill anyone anyhow by any means, broadcasting the mayhem live on the Internet.
Is Japan vulnerable? asks Weekly Playboy (Oct 13).
A prior question arises. Many of Islamic State’s foreign fighters are Western-born, Western-educated young adults who grew up with Islamic culture as a background to but not the core of their lives. Certainly radical, fundamentalist Islam was alien to most of their upbringing. What can Islamic State possibly offer them? What is its appeal?
The disaffected seek alternatives; the radically disaffected seek radical alternatives, Weekly Playboy hears from international journalist Morley Robertson. “Discrimination, a widening gap between rich and poor, poverty,” says Robertson, ticking off a list of discontents. “Young people in despair feel they can’t trust adults. For example – British young people with Arab parents watched the news of Israel’s bombing of Gaza (this past summer). The parents say, ‘Israel is evil’ – but they don’t do anything about it, they live quite comfortably in England, which supports Israel. Discrimination against Muslims by white society – they don’t do anything about that either. To young people, these compromises seem base and cowardly.”
Japan, at first glance, seems worlds removed from all this. Japan’s Muslim population is small. Japan’s military is not bombing Middle East targets. True, but Weekly Playboy points out, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lately expressed support, though guardedly, for the U.S.-led coalition that has lately extended its air attacks against Islamic State from Iraq into Syria. More significantly, Robertson explains, the ranks of the disaffected and alienated in Japan are growing. Young people falling farther and farther behind economically see no hope for redress in conventional politics. So far the worst outrages against the established order have not gone beyond “hate speech,” which is bad enough.
Could it go farther? Imagine, Robertson suggests, a suicide terrorist attack on Hiroo or Roppongi, two Tokyo neighborhoods where Americans are known to hang out. Live video, instant global broadcast, instant (though posthumous) heroism – it’s an attractive mix, to some. No evidence is presented of anything brewing – which doesn’t prove, however, that nothing is.© Japan Today