On Oct. 6th, CNN and NBC News reported that the FBI arrested a Chicago teenager, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, before he attempted to board a flight to Turkey via Vienna, at O’Hare airport on Saturday, Oct. 4th. The authorities investigated his home in a Chicago suburb and found some documents that expressed his sympathy for ISIS as well as his strong disapproval of Western society as “filth.” In his letter to his parents he talked about his plan to go to Syria in order to join ISIS. According to CNN he felt “obligated” to join ISIS.
Meanwhile, on early Oct. 7th (Japan time) Japanese news agencies reported that a 27-year-old Hokkaido University student, who was taking time off from his study, was arrested on a suspicion of committing a conspiracy to fight as a private soldier in a foreign war. He told the authorities that he was planning to leave for Syria by way of Turkey on Oct. 7th in order to join ISIS fighters. He saw a wanted advertisement in Akihabara that listed the job site as Syria. He and three other men, a freelance journalist, a former college professor specializing in Islamic law, and a “freeter” (a person without a steady employment), had initially planned to go to Syria in August, but they postponed the travel on two accounts: the “freeter” changed his mind because his mother opposed to his plan to go to Syria, and the student had his passport stolen. According to the freelance journalist he came to know the student through the former professor of Islamic law. The student also told the journalist that he would commit suicide if he could not go to Syria, and that it would not matter for him to die in Japan or Syria.
When we compare these two world news stories we may be struck by similarities as well as differences between these two cases. The American teenager’s desire to join ISIS seems more understandable due to the fact that he is an Islam. But, the Japanese student? The absurdity of his aspiration puzzles us. We may be inclined to dismiss him as a suicidal idiot. But, at the same time, his case seems to suggest the underlying cause for the young people in the advanced consumer society wanting to join a radical terrorist group such as ISIS: they yearn for “authentic” adventures, human connection, and for meaning of life.