AN interesting article in this paper last week said that some Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria originally from Malaysia and Indonesia were increasingly finding the allure of martyrdom and glory mundane beside the far tastier allure of nasi lemak and sambal.
Counter-terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail, who met the young men while making a documentary on the lives of a few militants, said some Malaysians and Indonesians now wish to return home.
“They said they miss nasi lemak,” said a deadpan Mr Noor. “Seriously! All the campaigns by IS portray how great life is there but it’s just an illusion. There, it is very dusty and rocky and they fight over girls.”
You couldn’t blame the homesick fighters. A steady diet of hummus, goat cheese and olives was enough to drive anyone to distraction. Compounding the problem was the fact that they were paranoid: you’d be paranoid too if everyone was out to get you.
Everyone agreed that bombing worked, even the fighters. The United States, Russia and their allies had flown over a thousand sorties and dropped more than 16 tonnes of warheads on the fighters who cowered in their foxholes yearning for nasi lemak. And in a remarkably bipartisan show of international co-operation, both the Russians and the Americans generously promised to put all the dirt and rocks back “when this is all over.”
In between dodging bombs and stray shrapnel, the disillusioned IS fighters were encouraged to attend suicide bomber classes where they were told straight off that the word “oops” was forbidden. And students had to pay attention because the teacher generally introduced his subject a trifle grimly: “listen up, I’m only going to show this once.”
The classes were heavily advertised but weren’t having much of an audience because its teacher had to be replaced after every class. The advertisements were headlined thus: “so interesting it’ll blow you away.”
It could be one reason why the classes were not receiving a huge fan base.
It was no joke for it had happened before. A New York Times story in late 2014 revealed that an IS instructor killed himself and 20 of his pupils when he accidentally set off a car bomb during a bungled training session in Iraq.
The explosion took place at an insurgents’ camp near the town of Samarra, 37.5km north-west of Baghdad.
Security forces were drawn to the area by the sound of the explosion. They arrested 22 survivors, some of whom were wounded, and discovered seven fully-prepared car bombs along with suicide belts packed with high explosive.
Mr Noor had revealed that young men were drawn into the profession out of a sense of asserting their masculinity, to find a sense of purpose and mission in life. Why they didn’t resort to a strict nine to five job like everyone else was a mystery to everyone else except themselves.
Even so, some zealots seemed to find redemption in their chosen profession. According to a noted US psychiatrist, one mentally ill fighter said he felt much better for having enlisted. “I used to be a schizophrenic,” he testified cheerfully, “but we’re much better now.”
It was enough to blow anyone’s mind.