"This is what Islamic men should want. This is what I am supposed to do."
The Wall Street Journal article, clearly based on interviews with family members, has to be taken with a sizable grain of salt, but it does provide a partial motive force for Tamerlan's transformation into an Islamic terrorist. It might have happened anyway, but the impression we are given is that a mother feeling out of place in this country and afraid of losing her son to his American wife dragged him toward Islam.
The problem though is that the picture of Tamerlan as secular is contradicted by his wife's early conversion to Islam and her donning the Hijab. Clearly Tamerlan was not all that secular. He may have trended more Islamist and was toward the end approaching Wahhabi territory, denouncing hypocrisy (again if you believe the mosque-goers who are looking to distance themselves from him) and spewing Kufir all over the place.
Once known as a quiet teenager who aspired to be a boxer, Tamerlan Tsarnaev delved deeply into religion in recent years at the urging of his mother, who feared he was slipping into a life of marijuana, girls and alcohol. Tamerlan quit drinking and smoking, gave up boxing because he thought it was in opposition to his religion, and began pushing the rest of his family to pursue stricter ways, his mother recalled.
"You know how Islam has changed me," his mother, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Makhachkala, Dagestan, says he told her.
Tamerlan persuaded his mother to cover herself up, which she says at one point distressed her husband, Anzor. "He said, 'You are being crazy, covering yourselves,'" she recalled her husband saying. She said that she told him, "This is what Islamic men should want. This is what I am supposed to do."
Here we already have a shift. The mother would like us to believe that she was the one driving him to be more Muslim, but it would seem that he was the one imposing Islamic law on his parents.
And what of his parents and his family background?
Back in the 1940s, Anzor Tsarnaev's parents were deported to Kyrgyzstan from their native Chechnya after Josef Stalin's regime accused the Caucasian Muslim ethnic group of being Nazi collaborators.
The accusation was factual. The Chechens did collaborate with the Nazis.
Anzor was born and raised in Tokmok, a city not far from the capital of Bishkek. He was one of 10 siblings, many of whom went on to become lawyers.
That last datum is less indicative of enterprise and more of the family's status. The Tsarnaevs clearly had it.
According to his sister, Anzor was fired from his job in Bishkek shortly after war broke out in Chechnya in 1999, the second time the Kremlin tried to quell a separatist insurgency there since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He started working as a mechanic. "He had to feed his family," his sister said, suggesting that he was fired due to discrimination against Chechens that accompanied the war. "He fled only because of this persecution," she said.
It's possible that Anzor was fired for purely ethnic reasons, but it's more likely that he was involved in some form of Chechen activism. His son's first name, so different from those of the rest of the family, is revealing. It may have even become a self-fulfilling prophecy.