Nadir Soofi was, by all accounts, the junior partner in the Texas Terror jihad attack. His roommate Elton Simpson was a “known wolf” who was very much on law enforcement’s radar screen, which is giving rise to some awkward questions about why counter-terrorist agencies could manage little more than a last-minute heads-up to the Garland police.
Soofi is, in many ways, a more interesting and disturbing suspect. As reported yesterday, he had a comfortable, privileged upbringing, and is remembered well by those who knew him before he went from strict Muslim, to radical, to terrorist with unsettling speed. What happened to this young man – only 34 at the time of his death, and the father of a 9-year-old son – and how many other vulnerable young people are undergoing the same transformation, right now?
Soofi’s divorced parents have both spoken about their son’s fate. His father Azam Soofi said “someone pushed him into this situation” in a statement to the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday. His mother, Sharon Soofi, has blamed Elton Simpson for leading Nadir into terrorist violence, although it seems he was well along the path to radicalization before he met Simpson.
Azam Soofi described his son as “a gentle, caring, smart and nonviolent person” to the Dallas Morning News. “He was a model son. Always on the honor roll in school. My pride and joy.”
Soofi further described his son as a devout Muslim and said of his death, “Allah gave him to me, and he took him back. I will miss him a lot.”
For her part, Sharon Soofi told the Wall Street Journal that her younger son, Ali, tipped her off in January to Nadir’s purchase of an AK-47 from Craigslist, and his growing interest in radical Islamist websites. She said she called Nadir and yelled, “You have a young child! What are you doing?”
Sharon told the Journal her son became “noticeably more religious” after opening his pizza parlor several years ago, a process that accelerated after he met Elton Simpson. She said that every time she called Nadir, he would “bring up Islam and the U.S.’s role in Middle East conflicts. He also talked to her about Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born al Qaeda leader whose preaching he had started to follow.”
She said Awlaki’s death in a U.S. drone strike “instigated a deeper passion for his teachings” in Nadir, who began sending her DVDs of Awlaki’s English-language sermons.
It is difficult to read these testimonials without a sense of exasperation. With all due respect for the grieving Soofi family, and for loss of human life – no matter how misguided or evil – in the Garland attack, these are very obvious warning signs. Nadir Soofi was ranting about America’s role in Middle Eastern conflicts, sending his mother DVDs of sermons from one of al-Qaeda’s top recruiters and spiritual leaders, and hanging around with a man who got busted by the FBI for trying to join the jihad in Somalia.
Over and over again, in this case and many others, we have seen evidence of how quickly Islamist radicalization and terrorist recruiting can twist seemingly happy young people with good prospects into jihadis. The maternal side of Nadir Soofi’s family comes from Texas. “He was a practicing Muslim, but he wasn’t no fanatic about it,” his grandmother drawled to the WSJ. “He was a good kid.”
That’s the point to be made here, the awful and terrifying point: Nadir Soofi’s biography gives us every reason to agree with his grandmother’s assessment. He was a good kid… until, suddenly, he wasn’t. He turned fast. That means friends and family, and the law-abiding good citizens of the Muslim community, must keep their eyes wide open, and report suspicious behavior to the authorities quickly.
The saddest detail of the Nadir Soofi story is the way both of his parents seemed to think that love for his young son would keep him out of trouble. Islamists have been known to use their own children as suicide bombers. Recruiters for terrorist organizations are grand masters at persuading their marks to renounce all ties of family and friendship, in service to bitter political agendas and holy war.
If these filthy monsters have their hooks into your child, spouse, or friend, you can’t save them on your own… because your love is the first thing their new masters will armor them against. Call the police.