Increasingly, the resultant terrorists are younger and younger, some just months shy of their 18th birthdays; Mohamed Osman Mohamud, Mohammed Hassan Khalid, Adel Dauod.
They represent an impressionable and ignitable cross section of an already scrutinized and marginalized Muslim community, and to target young adults seems especially detrimental to establishing long term relationships with an already skeptical population.
On October 17th, 8:12 a.m, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was arrested at the Millennium Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, New York after recording a video and placing several calls on a cell phone.
Nafis, a middle-class Bangladeshi from Dhaka, had first come to the U.S. in January of 2012. Quazi Ahsanullah, Nafis’ father, agreed to let him pursue an American degree to increase his professional appeal in Bangladesh’s competitive job market. “I spent all my savings to send him to America,” the banker said.
Enrolling in Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) as an undergraduate in cyber security, the student led an inconspicuous life in Cape Girardeau.
The devout young man’s spring semester at SEMO was marked by regular prayer and charitable projects. He became the vice president of the campus’ Muslim Student Association and encouraged fellow Muslim students to practice Islam.
“He taught me to be a better Muslim,” student Dion Duncan, adding that Nafis also did charity work and collected backpacks for underprivileged kids.
“He prayed five times a day,” Duncan said. “Sometimes he would stay later to pray. He was very strict in his religion. I had no idea he would do something like this.”
Agreeable and friendly, Nafis did not fit the profile of a violent criminal, much less a terrorist. Classmates spoke positively about their interactions with the 21 year old Muslim. “I’d see him in a group. He used to greet you when he passed by,” remarked engineering student, Syed Saqib Hussain, “He was a normal guy.”
Sophomore Mushfiqur Rahman, discussed religion with Nafis several times and recalled, “We chitchatted about the Islamic religion. He said he was very passionate about the Islamic religion in a positive way. He kept to himself and was very reserved.”
Members of the Islamic Center of in Cape Girardeau where Nafis often prayed expressed similar shock and disbelief when confronted with news of Wednesday’s alleged plot.
Sometime after May, Nafis transferred to a vocational school in New York, the ASA Institute of Business and Computer Technology. As confirmed by Ann Hayes, a SEMO representative, the University followed standard student visa protocols and immediately informed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) of his change in registration status.
Around the time that this notification of academic transfer was issued, Nafis came into contact (presumably via internet) with an FBI informant, who by July had already lured Nafis to New York for the “J”. A mere three months later Nafis was arrested.
What changed Nafis and inspired him to load a “big car with lots of fruits and vegetables”? The complete picture of ‘consensually recorded’ conversations between the informant, two undercover agents, a tangential co-conspirator, and Nafis, will most likely remain a mystery.
Yet, cited quotes from his criminal complaint arouse memories of old entrapment scripts, where informants and undercover agents encourage minds and orchestrate events beyond the call of twisted duty to ensure an actionable terrorist plot.
Following three days of Facebook exchanges with his new companions, Nafis concludes, according to the government complaint, that there is nothing Islamically impermissible about violating the contractual conditions of a visa.
Nafis allegedly had contacted someone in Bangladesh to weigh in on the matter and was told that the rulings of abiding by a contract did not apply to him. But how much did the informant attempt to dissuade/inspire, spiritually guide/misguide, correct or coerce?
The repeated position of federally fabricated plots is that the intentions and actions of the informant are irrelevant; that suspects act according to their free will and independent desire.
If free will were the first and ultimate determinant, then why would the government hypocritically be pouring millions of dollars into “Countering Violent Extremism” programs?
These sting operations, marked by extensive and intensive periods of nurturing extremist ideology, seem to be the very anti-thesis of the effort by community and religious leaders to combat the spread of violence.
New York City police chief, Raymond Kelly said, “I think the FBI deserves a lot of credit in this case. This case was the result of an investigative effort. They have the right people in the right places to pick up this sort of information.”
If imams and other community leaders are in key positions to influence the perception of religious obligations, how much more so are friends, confidants, and informants in strategically sensitive positions to direct vulnerable youth whose intimate strengths and weaknesses are known and exploited?
Increasingly, the resultant terrorists are younger and younger, some just months shy of their 18th birthdays; Mohamed Osman Mohamud, Mohammed Hassan Khalid, Adel Dauod. They represent an impressionable and ignitable cross section of an already scrutinized and marginalized Muslim community, and to target young adults seems especially detrimental to establishing long term relationships with an already skeptical population.
At least twice, if not more, Nafis petitions the undercover agent for permission to see his family in Bangladesh. Perhaps going back to his family would renew his familial obligations, refresh his academic commitments, alleviate the sense of isolation in an alien environment, and distance him geographically and psychologically from someone else’s idea of jihad.
But the fake Al-Qaeda agent does not grant the request, and instead Nafis is injected with a new sense of urgency when he is told that he will be left behind if he doesn’t stick to the original plan.
At one point Nafis asks, “Can I ask you something? Why aren’t you (inaudible) going to drive the car yourself? Why don’t you want to be shahid?”
This would seem to be the perfect opportunity for a significant intervention, but in what may be his only moment of truth, the undercover agent responds that his role is exclusive to facilitating the attack.
The agent provided Nafis with the necessary explosives and informed him that Al Qaeda has blessed his mission. Together they assembled the bomb, drove to the targeted building, and checked into a nearby hotel. The undercover agent then allegedly filmed Nafis’ video message before Nafis dialled the detonator phone.
Quazi Nafis will be charged for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to Al Qaeda. He faces life in prison if convicted.
“We woke up with this terrible news. We just can’t believe it,” his sister said.
His family, still reeling from the shocking news, maintained that Nafis was grossly mischaracterized and indisposed to violence. “My son can’t do it,” the heartbroken Quazi Ahsanullah said while weeping, “He is very gentle and devoted to his studies.”
“My brother may have been a victim of a conspiracy,” deduced Fariel Bilkis.
Nafis’ father added, “The intelligence of the USA is playing with a mere boy whom we sent for higher study. The allegation against my son is not true at all. He could not even drive a car. How was he caught with a van?“
Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer praised law enforcement officials for blunting a “new wave of terrorism.”
“The new terrorists are people who are influenced by radical Islamists who preach destruction, but act on their own,” Schumer said. “They are inspired by Al Qaeda’s ranting, but not directed by them.”
Which begs the question, who indeed is directing?