A few years ago, I was talking to one of my friends in Japan. I still remember the contents of the conversation because of a sentence that he mentioned. It was striking such that it still is fresh in my mind.
“I want to visit your country but I am afraid because there are many cases of terror attacks,” he said.
Such as assertion is quite understandable. My country is indeed a hub of terror activities. There are also numerous warnings to Japanese nationals who wish to travel there to observe extra caution.
This was not a country many knew a few years ago. Kenya was ranked as one of the most peaceful nations though surrounded by the so called failed states. This is all forgotten.
My story is not about Kenya today, rather about Japan. From my friend’s perspective, much as he was excited about Kenya, he knew for real that the narrative of terrorism is because there exists religion.
I asked a few other people from Japan about why they thought that terrorism is not an issue to Japan as it is in Kenya. 3 out of 5 were convinced that it is the presence of religion that makes Kenya vulnerable to terrorism. And the opposite is true; that because Japan does not count as a religious country, there is nothing much to worry about terrorism.
An assertion that terror is religious in nature is not entirely untrue. But it is not also the whole truth.
A week ago, Japan was caught up in one of its first direct threat to global terror. Two Japanese nationals were captured by ISIS. As I write, reports indicate that one has already been butchered. The fate of the remaining still is unknown. We wish him well, he should live to tell the story.
Important in this context however is, that this incident has overturned the the believe that Japan is not a target of terror. It also makes it clear that terror, though conspicuously not lacking religious elements, is not a religious ideology at least in this case.
It is also beyond the act of today. The parading of two Japanese nationals is, to me, an exclusive message to Japan that she should be ready to counter terrorism in larger proportions.
This time, the hand of terror is reaching from lands far away. But one can almost say, that soon it will be too close and far too with greater harm.
It is hard to say that we should forget the hostages. But it is important to do so, only when we have taken it as a sign of what is potentially coming.