It seems Texas Terror shooter Nadir Soofi was quite a “heartthrob” during his teenage years in Pakistan, according to AFP’s interviews with his classmates.
One of his old mates described Soofi as “quite suave and charismatic,” and thought his fundamentalist transformation must have taken place after he moved to the United States, because in Pakistan he was “simply a cool kid with a bright future.”
Cool enough to take the lead in an Elvis Presley musical, no less. “He was always good-looking, throwing back his long, silky hair, but after the play he did, wow – he was Mr. Elvis of school,” said his female classmate. She was shocked and dismayed by his ultimate fate, saying she knew he’d “become Islamic,” but not that he was such an extremist.
Another old friend of the family said they were “obviously Muslim by birth, like we all are,” so presumably his female classmate means he became more devout or energetic in his religious practice when she says he “became Islamic.” After he got his extreme Islamic makeover, Soofi was no longer likely to set hearts aflutter by gyrating across the stage in an Elvis Presley number; old friends said they could barely recognize him after he radicalized in the 2000s.
Soofi’s mother was, in fact, a teacher at the “heavily guarded school” he attended in Pakistan from 1992 to 1998, an institution said to be “popular with diplomats and rich Pakistanis.” His father said he “lived a real privileged life all his life.” The poverty-causes-terrorism theory doesn’t seem to hold up well in this case.
Born in Dallas, with part of his youth spent in the suburb of Garland where he died, Soofi accompanied his mother back to America after his parents divorced, attended the University of Utah, and ended up owning a pizza restaurant. The AFP piece mentions that Soofi had to miss prayers at his mosque on occasion, due to the demands of running his business. He leaves behind a nine-year-old son.
“He was outgoing, he was intelligent, he did well in school; he just had a normal American upbringing,” Soofi’s mother Sharon told the L.A. Times. “He was a good parent. He loved spending time with his son. For him to do this sort of thing and leave him behind, you know, I still can’t figure it out. And never will, probably.”
The L.A. Times also claims to be astounded by Soofi’s transformation, presenting his younger and older versions as “hard to reconcile.” No, they’re not. Why is anyone, in the media or law enforcement, still surprised by how quickly Islamic radicalization hits young men? We have heard the exact same story about every youth pulled into the jihad.
You could plug the names of any American kid recruited out of Minnesota into al-Shabaab into Nadir Soofi’s profile in the L.A. Times. It is always the same — great kid all the way through high school, fun-loving, interested in sports, popular with the girls — and then, in an incredibly brief span of time, they move from a hardline mosque into radicalism, becoming receptive to recruiting pitches from Islamists who challenge them to back up their big Facebook and Twitter talk with some action. Nobody recognizes them any more when they come off the radical assembly line. Their social media pages fill up with anguished comments from old friends, including Muslims, who say they can’t even talk to them any more. Sometimes it all happens over a span of months.
Nadir Soofi’s story is horrifying, but sadly, it is not unique.