Why do the young echo radical principles?                                                過激主義に共感する若者たち


Islamic State and Aum Shinrikyo



The Metropolitan Police Department questioned a Hokkaido University male student on October 6 on suspicion of attempting to join the radical movement called Islamic State (IS) in violation of the Japanese Criminal Code that bans preparations or plots to wage war privately. Later on October 29, a 14-year-old Austrian boy was detained for planning to place a bomb at Vienna West Station. Police said the boy had expressed sympathy with Islamic militants fighting in Syria and Iraq. There seems to be no end to the number of youths who seek to participate in IS. Why do they want to get involved in the radical Muslim group? The Hokkaido University student had reportedly confided to people around him, “I may discover something new over there” and “I see no value at all in my social status in Japan.”


Their cases remind us of those young people who threw themselves into a dangerous Japanese cult, called Aum Shinrikyo, about 20 years ago. This organization, disbanded later and now known as Aleph, increased the number of its followers through the media like TV and magazines just as IS makes full use of Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to recruit sympathizers. Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara (born Chizuo), now a death-row inmate, confessed to police he wanted to dominate Japan and save it as ruler. To accomplish his aim, he masterminded a series of crimes including one in which his followers spread sarin gas in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, to kill a court judge in charge of the eviction of the cult’s local chapter and another in which they released the toxic gas at five Tokyo subway stations with the aim of throwing the metropolis into chaos.



What became clear from these fatal attacks was that the cult members were mostly young boys and girls. In most cases, their motives turned out to be discontent and anxiety about society as well as an interest in supernatural power and the afterworld. Faced with an uncertain future following the burst of economic bubbles, they presumably became unable to find any value in material abundance and sought to put greater priority on something spiritual. Knowing of the cult in such mindset, they probably found their life there meaningful and thought that they could make society better by following its doctrine.


The same thing may arguably be said of the young people who sympathize with the cause of IS and take part in it. They may be acting repulsively out of their distrust in and dissatisfaction with the existing social regime. They may be convinced that the radical movement is an ideal means to change the world. However, aren’t they really being deluded by its sophisticated propaganda?



Those young people may be fascinated by the idea of going out of their country to join IS as mercenaries and fighting back against the Western powers which they think brought battles to the Middle East. However, it is doubtful whether they really understand that IS not an independent nation as such but a terrorist organization like Aum Shinrikyo. This seems to be the case particularly with the Hokkaido University student. Isn’t he turning his eyes away from reality and unsecured future prospects and escaping from society? He should realize that what IS is up to is not different from the acts of terrorism once launched by Aum Shinrikyo.



(Written by: Takahiro Kusunoki)