The lessons I learned from my personal nightmarish experience.
The United States and Western Europe are confronting the increasing threat of their citizens traveling to the Middle East to join the worldwide Islamic jihad. Over the past few months, numerous news reports have shed light on disaffected citizens from America and Britain joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other terrorists groups and leaving to train and fight in the Middle East. ISIS is adept at using social media to correspond with Western nationals from Europe and North America predisposed to radicalization.
Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, the ISIS militant filmed beheading American journalists Steven Sotloff last week and James Foley three weeks ago, is a former British citizen. Abdel Bary is one of up to 500 Britons believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamist groups.
Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha -- a man born and raised in Florida -- carried out a suicide bomb attack in Syria in May of this year. Before he completed his terror strike, Abu-Salha came back to America on his United States passport. Later, he appeared in a video released by Al Qaeda showing him destroying his passport and leaving a disturbing message for America: "We are coming for you."
In late August, two men from the Minneapolis, Minnesota region -- Abdirahmaan Muhumed and Douglas McAuthur McCain -- were killed fighting with ISIS in Syria. Before Muhumed left America to join ISIS, he was employed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport refueling commercial airliners. He also had a security clearance, giving him access to sensitive areas of the airport. Douglas McAuthur McCain was a high-school classmate of Troy Kastigar, a Muslim convert, who was killed fighting with Islamic militants in Somalia in 2009.
The latest report of a person to leave the U.S. and travel to Syria to fight for ISIS is of a 19-year-old Somali woman from St. Paul, Minnesota.
Many Americans believe that the effort by Islamic militants to recruit young men and women from the United States and Western Europe to fight on behalf of fundamentalist Islam is a recent phenomenon. However, I have personally watched many troubled people be targeted by Islamic radicals since I was a child. My experience has given me an up-close and personal look at Americans who, whether they realize it or not, are offering aid and comfort to the enemy in cities and towns all across our country.
When I was a child, my mother rejected traditional values and morality to join the counter-cultural movement of the 1970’s. Soon after I was born, my mother changed her name from Annette to a completely Islamicized name. I was unlucky when it came to fathers and father figures. My biological father abandoned my mother right after I was born. Like many poor inner-city African Americans, I know very little about my father.
After revolving around the fringes of the radical left in Buffalo, New York – my mother converted to Islam and joined an Islamic cult.
The leader of the cult established a polygamous “family” of 5 women and all of their children by means of an evil blend of Islam, left-wing ideology and street-level pimp philosophy. He formed this “family” to satisfy his lust and greed. In his position as head of the household, he used Islam's advocacy of polygamy to convince my mother and four other women to live with him in one two-story home together.
The cult leader, my mother, and the other women in the house manipulated Islamic principles to allow for physical and sexual abuse of the women and children. All of the adults were physically, verbally and emotionally abusive toward the children. The leader physically and sexually exploited everyone.
After my mother left the cult she met and subsequently married another Muslim man. He was a street hustling ex-con. My mother allowed him to be physically violent towards me and my siblings. I distinctly remember that he, my mother and the Muslims in Buffalo at the time praised the efforts of the Iranian terrorists who took fifty-two American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days during President Jimmy Carter's term in office.
After President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the members of the Islamic community that we belonged to turned to extremism. They supported the political power of the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as well as those who resisted the economic sanctions against Iran and any normalization of relations with the West.
My mother divorced her husband in the early 1990s. She eventually married the leader of a Muslim Mosque in Buffalo, New York. He was also an ex-con and parlayed his criminal past into a job as a prison imam. As a leader in the Islamic community, he would engage in public speeches and publish many writings on religion, politics and society.
All of this Muslim man's speeches and writings were highly critical of American society, culture, our system of law and the United States government. Philosophically, this mosque leader would promote Sharia law and the commandments mandated by Islam over the United States Constitution and any oaths of allegiances that would require Muslims to support or defend the country. This theoretical outlook is consistent with all of the imams and Muslim leaders that I have been exposed to.
I remember that I would wonder how the various Islamic leaders really felt about their U.S. citizenship. Because many members of the American Islamic community view Western society and culture the same way as Muslims in the Middle-East -- as heretical and idolatrous -- Muslim leaders in America often go to great lengths to criticize the United States. I observed this same attitude among the Muslims that I encountered while I was a member of the United States Army. I would question how all of the Muslim military members truly viewed their oath to protect the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Given what I have observed of those fascinated by the message of radical Islam in the black community and the military, I can only conclude that many Muslims have the same goals as Nidal Malik Hasan: they want to expand the Islamic caliphate to Western Europe and the United States. Hasan is, of course, the former United States Army officer who fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others in the Fort Hood mass shooting on November 5, 2009.
All of the Muslims that were around me when I was young -- including members of my own family -- supported the hard-line viewpoints and medieval thinking of the most extreme elements of the worldwide Islamic movement. When I was a child I remember that I was constantly confused by the support that I witnessed for the forced veiling of women and the willingness to treat females and children as property to be used and abused at the whim of the men that surrounded us.
Why are so many citizens in the United States and Western Europe so willing to convert to Islam and adopt its religious values of violence and repression? Many of the people around me when I was a child looked to radicalism out of social frustration. They thought that they could find the solution to their failed lives through common cause and contact with international terrorists and tyrants.
However, the main driving forces pushing so many Westerners to jihad are the toxic ideologies of Islam and social radicalism. Many jihad converts lead lives of social prestige and privilege. They come from families that give them every financial advantage for success. But still they turn to fanaticism.
Prospective jihadists from Western European countries see joining the worldwide Islamist movement as an ideological response to America and its international allies. It is an extension of the logic that my mother and other social radicals had in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. They have hatred for the Western system, so they turn to communalism, decadence and support for terrorism.
However, the only thing that the jihadist traitors from the West are achieving is personal exploitation in one form or another by the leaders of the worldwide jihad. They also generate death, spread emotional pain to their families and shame the communities that they originate from.
The Muslim community in America has been devoting significant resources to the media in an effort to convince the public that there is a strong moderate social influence in Islam that is opposed to the threat that radical jihadists present to Western civilization. But my experience living under a nightmare version of Sharia law in America and the contemporary threat of large numbers of young Americans trained by Muslim extremists to return home and commit acts of terror blows a serious hole into the logic of that line of thinking.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.