NY Times Magazine–The Jihadist Next Door, about a boy who grew up in Alabama who is now a Terrorist

Omar Hammami had every right to flash his magnetic smile. He had just been elected president of his sophomore class. He was dating a luminous blonde, one of the most sought-after girls in school. He was a star in the gifted-student program, with visions of becoming a surgeon. For a 15-year-old, he had remarkable charisma.

Despite the name he acquired from his father, an immigrant from Syria, Hammami was every bit as Alabaman as his mother, a warm, plain-spoken woman who sprinkles her conversation with blandishments like “sugar” and “darlin’.” Brought up a Southern Baptist, Omar went to Bible camp as a boy and sang “Away in a Manger” on Christmas Eve. As a teenager, his passions veered between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo. In the thick of his adolescence, he was fearless, raucously funny, rebellious, contrarian. “It felt cool just to be with him,” his best friend at the time, Trey Gunter, said recently. “You knew he was going to be a leader.”

A decade later, Hammami has fulfilled that promise in the most unimaginable way. Some 8,500 miles from Alabama, on the eastern edge of Africa, he has become a key figure in one of the world’s most ruthless Islamist insurgencies. That guerrilla army, known as the Shabab, is fighting to overthrow the fragile American-backed Somali government. The rebels are known for beheading political enemies, chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning women accused of adultery. With help from Al Qaeda, they have managed to turn Somalia into an ever more popular destination for jihadis from around the world.

Read it carefully and read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Baptists, Egypt, Islam, Marriage & Family, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Somalia, Teens / Youth, Violence

6 comments on “NY Times Magazine–The Jihadist Next Door, about a boy who grew up in Alabama who is now a Terrorist

  1. Hakkatan says:

    This story is terrifying. How many more will there be?

    “‘Human rights,’ he said in an audio recording released by the Shabab last July, is ‘the Western form of democracy which cannot be reconciled with Islam.'”

    “Muslim” means “a submitted one;” that is, a person who has fully submitted himself to Allah. In Muslim teaching, everyone is supposed to submit to Allah -even if it takes force to do so.

  2. Frances Scott says:

    Thanks for posting this. Ten years ago we had an apartment building in the middle of Minneapolis where we housed refugees. We also lived in the building and our neighbors accross the hall were a 3 generation family of 10 Somali Muslims – women and children; the men lived elswhere in the community. There were 5 little boys ages 7 – 10 and 5 year old girl; another girl about 12 visited from time to time. We left in April 2001 and sold the building to a Catholic who also intended to house refugees. After 9-11, I worried about the children, the little boys in particular, afraid for them of the backlash because they were Muslim. We received a phone-call from the man who had been spokesman for the family, assuring us that this was not an action approved by them or their mosque. He also assured me that the children were safe in their Muslim school. I still am concerned for the boys, now young men, because growing up in two worlds will leave them conflicted in so many ways and each must make his own decisions and live his own life. I pray for them, too.

    I worry less about the Ethiopian family that lived below us, they are Christian and we met them through the Ethiopian congregation that met in our Lutheran Church. I know that they were later able to buy a house in St. Paul. The fourth apartment was rented to Lutheran Services and they used is as the first stopping off place for refugees whom they had sponsored, most of whom were Lutherans who already had extended family in this country.
    Frances Scott

  3. Terry Tee says:

    It has often seemed to me that Islam may, in essence, have little to do with turn-arounds like this, where an Americanized Southern Baptist boy ‘reclaims’ his Muslim heritage. My thesis is something like the following:
    1) Adolescence and early adulthood is often marked by a spirit of rebellion.
    2) A spirit of rebellion needs a counter-narrative to the prevailing narrative.
    3) In the past, Marxism provided such a narrative, with its rhetoric of solidarity, revolution and the like.
    4) Today, with Marxism dead, it is often Islam that provides the thought framework for the immature adult seeking some form of assertion and identity, since it provides concepts of global community, gender roles, struggle etc.
    5) In the minds of those undergoing such a conversion, actual societies structured along the lines of their principles have no bearing on the credibility of their philosophy. Thus, for example, in Germany the self-styled Marxist Baader-Meinhoff group could spout a Marxist critique of (West) Germany while people were literally risking their lives to flee East Germany. Similarly, actual events in Muslim societies (honor killings; suicide bombings by Muslims on Muslims eg the attack two days ago on a hospital in Pakistan, and numerous attacks by Muslims on mosques) have no bearing on what these individuals claim to believe.

    Of course, I am not agreeing with this process that tragically warps the kinds of so many young Muslim people, but have been trying to make sense of it, and the above seems to fit.

  4. Sebastian says:

    In the name of Jesus, all who read this please pray that this boy will “turn and be saved.”

  5. Kendall Harmon says:

    This appeared in last Sunday’s Times–but it is a really important piece. We discussed it this morning in adult Sunday School as an example of the subtle progression of sin in that you can rarely tell where someone will end up based on what you know, and sometimes very small moments or ideas can end up bearing scary fruit a long way down the line.

  6. Henry Greville says:

    Just watched and heard Charlie Rose’s interview with Andrea Elliott, author of the NY Times magazine piece. Young Muslims like this American-born boy, whether born into extremely fundamentalist Islam or converts, are now dedicated to the vision of a GLOBAL Islamic caliphate. In their belief, one is a hero for fighting or blowing up the rest of us, or dying as martyrs in their cause. Scary stuff.