Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
While the Somali context isn't handled very well, the NYT nonetheless has an interesting, lengthy case study of the radicalization of Omar Hammami (Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki).

The Jihadist Next Door

Published: January 27, 2010
A very fascinating and well done article. Here’s what stood out to me:
If anything has remained a constant in Hammami’s life, it is his striving for another place and purpose, which flickered in a poem he wrote when he was 12:

“My reality is a bore. I wish, I want, I need the wall to fall and the monster to let me pass, the leash to snap, the chains to break. . . .
“I’ve got a taste of glory, the ticket, but where is my train?”
Yet for all of his social triumph, Hammami was consumed with a profound internal conflict. He didn’t know whether to be Muslim or Christian. On rare trips to Damascus when they were little, Omar and Dena were warned by relatives that they would go to hell if they weren’t Muslim, Dena recalled. In Perdido, their mother’s family insisted that hell was reserved for non-Christians.
A trip to Damascus the summer before Hammami’s sophomore year would make a lasting impression on him. He loved the order of things: how his aunts waited on him, how his male cousins shared a “cohesiveness of brotherhood,”...

When he got back to Daphne, Hammami remained conflicted. One night before he went to sleep, he turned to God for guidance. “Slowly I started to incline toward Islam,” he later wrote to his sister, “and my heart became tranquil.”
Hammami plunged headlong into Salafism, mastering its nuances and lexicon. The movement gave him a new sense of brotherhood and discipline. But it was, above all, “an excuse to disobey his father,” recalls Joseph Stewart, a Muslim convert who became close to Hammami.
Hammami concluded that his Salafi mentors had been “hiding many parts of the religion that have a direct relationship to jihad and politics,” he wrote. He began searching for guidance on the Internet, Culveyhouse says, discovering a documentary about the life of Amir Khattab, a legendary jihadist who fought in Chechnya. The documentary traces Khattab’s evolution as a promising Saudi student who gave up a life that “any young man would desire” to embrace a higher purpose. Hammami was mesmerized, Culveyhouse recalls.

Back then, Hammami and Culveyhouse talked about jihad in the way that star football players at Daphne High School dreamed about the N.F.L. The idea remained romantic and hypothetical.
That same month, Hammami seemed more taken by his cause than ever. “I have become a Somali you could say,” he wrote in the December e-mail message. “I hear bullets, I dodge mortars, I hear nasheeds” — Islamic songs — “and play soccer. Sometimes I live in the bush with camels, sometimes I live the five-star life. Sometimes I walk for miles in the terrible heat with no water, sometimes I ride in extremely slick cars. Sometimes I’m chased by the enemy, sometimes I chase him!”

“I have hatred, I have love,” he went on. “It’s the best life on earth!”