December 22, 2009
The recent arrest of five Americans in Pakistan suggests young Muslims from ‘moderate’ families in the US are possibly getting hooked on to jihad through the Internet, write Martha Irvine & Nafeesa Syeed
There was a book left in a Pakistani hotel room where five young men from Virginia stayed before their arrests on suspicion of trying to join Taliban forces. Called The Pact, the book tells the true story of three boys from a rough neighbourhood and broken homes who bond and eventually help one another through medical and dental school.
“This is a story about the power of friendship. Of joining forces and beating the odds,” reads a snippet on the back of the book.
It is a story with a happy ending.
But the saga of the five young men from Virginia —friends who grew up together and attended the same mosque — has taken a very different turn, moving from a tale of promise to one of despair for many of the relatives and friends they left behind.
There is sadness in their tight-knit Muslim community — and anger.
The five detained men, who grew up with modest means and still lived in small homes and apartments with their families, seemed as though they were on track to achieve good things.
Some of the men, whose ages range from late teens to early 20s, have been described by friends and neighbours as polite, quiet and kind. They went to public schools. Some were athletes.
Right up to the time that they disappeared a few weeks ago, they regularly attended prayer services at the mosque. Several of them went to a nearby gym five days a week, a gym manager said.
At least two of them were in college. Umar Farooq — whose family ran a computer business — was a business major at George Mason University. Another of the five, the soft-spoken Ramy Zamzam, had just started dental school at Howard University. He would have taken his first round of final exams last week.
Instead, he and his friends were sitting in jail cells in Pakistan, not yet charged but suspected of trying to join militants who are fighting US troops in Afghanistan.
“We had such hope for them,” said Mr Mustafa Abu Maryam, the volunteer youth coordinator at the Islamic Circle of North America mosque, a one-story brick house on a residential street in Alexandria, a Washington suburb.
Although the mosque is traditional, he and other leaders said they have always rejected extremism.
But that may not matter in an age when the Internet allows almost anyone to connect with terrorists and when young Muslims from moderate families can get caught up in what some call “jihadi cool.”
These are “seemingly well-adjusted kids who are forming a subculture of their own — namely, the Muslim under siege,” said Mr Saeed Khan, a specialist in Islam who teaches at Wayne State University in Michigan.
It is a scenario that has played out in Britain more than once. And some suspect that it happened here, too — one of the young men left a farewell video that mixed war scenes and calls to fight for Muslims across the world.
With the exception of one young man’s father, who was questioned and released by Pakistani authorities, the families have remained in seclusion while they cooperate with authorities. Their reticence has meant that details about some of the young men are few.
Little is known, for instance, about Aman Hassan Yemer, a young man of Ethiopian descent who, at age 18, is the youngest of the suspects.
However, for another of the suspects, Waqar Khan, signs of trouble-making had begun to emerge.
Between December 2005 and March 2006, Khan, now 22, was arrested on trespassing charges, twice at Mount Vernon High, his former school, and once at an unspecified location. Prosecutors dropped two of the charges, and Khan pleaded no contest to the third misdemeanour charge and received a small fine and a year of unsupervised probation.
Ms Erika Nelson, assistant general manager at the gym where some of the young men worked out, was fond of Zamzam, calling the 22-year-old dental student and his family “very decent, loving, smart” people.
“I can only guess he was misguided,” she said.
However, others insisted that Zamzam was far from an easily influenced follower.
“He’s the type of person that thought for himself. He was very bright and confident, and I could never see him as the type of person getting involved in such crazy stuff and the stuff the media is talking about,” said Said Ahmed, a 22-year-old student at Northeastern University who knew Zamzam when they were both freshmen at Howard. --- AP
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Look at the pathetic Muslims and pathetic media-blaming internet for Jihadi violence and not blaming Quran's violent verses which is the real cause of it.
Internet provides Islamic sites as well as sites like faithfreedom.org and islam-watch.org. Muslims should visit sites like faithfreedom.org and islam-watch.org, learn the truth about Islam and Quran and Muhammad and quit Islam in large numbers. Instead if they visit Jihadi sites, it is fault of Muslims and not the internet.