Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Matin Azizi-Yarand had two cats and an older sister. He had taken taekwondo and piano lessons.
But while he went through life as a normal high school student, living with his parents in a home in a bland residential development in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he was also plotting to murder as many non-Muslims as he could at a shopping mall. Unlike the green lawns of nearby houses, the Azizi family had a dead lawn. And there was something just as dead behind the high windows of its Plano home.
"There is a Hindu temple I want to shoot up," Matin messaged. Then he moved on to plotting an attack at Plano West High School, which he attended and where he was eventually arrested. "School is a perfect place for an attack. Even a blind man could take 10 easily," he gloated. His ISIS contact had told him that killing ten or a hundred infidels would be easy. "Just fire where you hear screams."
But finally he settled on the Stonebriar Centre, a shopping mall in nearby Frisco. He collected pictures and scouted the mall. "The security guards don't even have guns lmao,” he messaged.
Matin worried that the civilians in the mall might have concealed weapons. And he made plans for ambushing the one armed officer in the mall. "I'd actually like to make a cop surrender and drop his gun, then douse him with gasoline and burn him.”
The area has a large Muslim community and Matin didn’t want to harm the Muslim “sisters” who frequented the mall. So he decided to attack during Ramadan, "iftar time//to limit Muslim casualties."
"No Muslims are going to be at mall when it's time to be breaking your fast//in sha Allah. (Allah willing)”
His victims might be Hindus, his fellow students, or random shoppers at Stonebridge mall. Matin and his correspondent only worried about accidentally killing Muslims. They considered taking hostages to better weed out any Muslims from the Americans whom they would stab, shoot, or burn to death.
Like many ISIS supporters, Matin admired the group for its eagerness to kill non-Muslims. "What other groups have you seen brave enough to slaughter the Kuffar? (non-Muslims)," he challenged.
As Matin’s plans developed, he focused in on the movie theater and a popular restaurant. He followed the security guards and police officer around the mall’s three floors and developed an attack plan.
Typical mass shooters often leave us wondering about their motives. But Muslim terrorists are always clear about why they want to kill us. And the latest teenage terrorist in Texas was no different.
"I want to achieve Allahs pleasure and kill the Kuffar" (non-Muslims),” he vowed. "Make the Kuffar (non-Muslims) tremble."
His pre-terror plans included a message to America. "We will cast terror into your hearts as Allah commanded us,” he wrote.
Terrorizing non-Muslims is a common theme in the Koran. “Strike terror into the enemies, of Allah and your enemies" Koran 8:60 advises. And then there’s the portion of Koran 8:12 that Mohammed Atta conveyed to his fellow 9/11 hijackers. “Shout, 'Allahu Akbar,' because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers. Allah said: 'Strike above the neck, and strike at all of their extremities.’”
The Muslim conquerors didn’t win converts through love and goodness, but through brutality and force.
Matin Azizi-Yarand considered himself one of those converts. "When I first became Muslim, fighting was a big part of why I came to this religion,” he messaged an informant. “That's one of the Core things that led me to convert seeing the strength that Muslims had."
Matin is sitting in a jail cell tonight. He had wanted to die, but he now faces a long time behind bars. “Being captured is a bad thing,” he once wrote. “Life is over forever in jail.”
His dreams of "glory and returning of honor for Islam" have been traded for a teal prison outfit.
His jailhouse interview consisted of denials or refusing to comment. But the affidavit filed by a Frisco detective suggests the troubling possibility that he had allies and collaborators.
In their chats, Matin had told the FBI informant that he had met a fellow Muslim who had been arrested while trying to make it to ISIS territory.
Earlier this year, he had claimed, "Me and the 2 other guys are serious about this we are willing to do something here alhamduliah (praise Allah) but they've been waiting for me to turn 18 to be able to buy the guns."
And Matin was still 17.
As he developed the mall attack plot, Matin claimed to have another contact who could help provide weapons.
Plano, Texas seems like an unlikely Jihadi base. But Matin is not the first ISIS terrorist to have come out of it. Last year, Mohammad and Sumaiya Ali were sentenced to prison for lying about the fact that their two sons, Arman Ali and Omar Ali, had traveled to join ISIS. Like the Azizis, the Alis were described by their neighbors as a quiet and peaceful family. But they lied to the FBI about what their sons were doing.
"Allah tells the Muslim to fight, kill and exile ‘those who wage war against Allah or His messenger,’” Omar had written to his mother.
The three terrorists lived only a few miles apart. Matin had attended Plano West High School while the Alis had gone to Plano Senior High School. The Ali home was more posh than the Azizi place.
But they all ended up as ISIS supporters. And we don’t know how many others there are.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has the fourth largest Muslim population in the country with over 70 mosques.
Hosam Smadi, a Jordanian Muslim settler, had been 19 when he plotted to bomb a Dallas skyscraper. "Allah willing, the strike will be certain and strong," he had vowed.
Like Matin, he had planned his attack for Ramadan.
Just last year, Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya, an 18-year-old Muslim, was arrested for a Houston terror plot. "There is no action better than jihad, and no person better than the mujahid," he wrote. "If I die, then gardens and rivers await me, and the smiling face of Allah my Creator is what I will see."
A year earlier, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, an Iraqi refugee, had plotted to set off bombs in Houston shopping malls. "I want to blow myself up. I want to travel with the Mujahidin," he had declared. “I am against America."
Garland, Texas was the site of the first ISIS attack in America. And ISIS continues to pick up recruits. Seven Muslims in Texas have been arrested for terror plots or support for ISIS in a fairly brief period.
Islamic terrorists in Texas have ranged from students, such as Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who was here on a student visa at Texas Tech while he plotted the "right time for Jihad", to refugees, to wealthy teens living in nice homes, who, despite how good America had been to them, still wanted to destroy it.
Texas has a terror problem. And it isn’t going away.
To his peers, Matin Azizi-Yarand was a normal teen. But he wasn’t. The taekwondo and piano lessons, the placid outward normalcy of the Preston View development, could only disguise what was inside.
There was a ticking time bomb inside Matin, the Ali boys, Smadi, Damlarkaya, Hardan and other Muslims in Texas. Unlike his peers, Matin didn’t really live for video games, for social media memes, or following his father into the family business. He had another vision for his life because he had another religion.
That is the terrible truth of Islamic terrorism. And until we understand it, we will go on dying.