Abdulmutallab studied the Quran at the Rabiatu Mutallab Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Kaduna, a religious school named after his grandparents and funded by his father. By all accounts, he was a pious fellow. His neighbors say he was the first to arrive at the mosque for prayers and the last to leave. He kept to himself, says Shehu Sani, who lives down the road from the Mutallabs.
Sani, the author of books about religious violence and terrorism in Nigeria, says it is important to remember the backdrop to Abdulmutallab’s privileged childhood in Kaduna: Between 1979 and 2009, he says, there were more than 200 incidents of religious violence and killings in the area ”” including deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims. And there have also been violent protests in northern Nigeria against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sani says Muslim youngsters like Abdulmutallab were absorbing this reality as they grew up, and some of them were most likely radicalized without even realizing it.
“People who are indoctrinated are those who already have the seed of violence in them, who have the seed of hate, the seed of their perception that things are wrong and must be addressed drastically,” Sani says. “Farouk Mutallab came from a society that has not embraced tolerance. He came from a society that has a history of violence, of extremism, and that is a fact.”