In October 2014, some FBI agent got what he or she probably thought was a crank email. A guy, claiming to be an American serving with ISIS, was pleading with them to extract him from his self-inflicted predicament:
Today the Washington Post tells us more:
[Failed jihadi Mohimanul Alam] Bhuiya went to high school in Brooklyn. He seemed to be a well-adjusted student who took a serious interest in Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, according to a 2008 essay he wrote for the school newspaper entitled “Sample College Essay: My Superhero.”
He praised President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who “fought a worldwide battle against the evil supervillain Adolf Hitler.”
In the essay, he said he wanted to major in psychology. He concluded: “I believe that I have greatness in me,” he wrote. “I want to be a superhero.”
According to a Columbia University spokesman, Bhuiya attended the School of General Studies. He was enrolled for one semester from January to May 2013 and not did not earn a degree.
Bhuiya had come to the attention of the FBI before he traveled to Syria. According to court documents, investigators with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York learned in June 2014 that the young man might be planning to travel to Syria.
When authorities interviewed Bhuiya at his home in Brooklyn, he told investigators that he was interested in events in Syria and supported “rebel groups.” But he claimed he lacked the money to travel to Syria and “did not know what he would do if he got there.”
Days later, he flew to Istanbul and then managed to enter Syria. He had little interest in fighting.
He implored Islamic State commanders not to “send me off to the front lines because I can be useful in other ways,” according to the NBC interview. “It seemed to me that it would, you know, save my skin.”
Bhuiya said he quickly became disillusioned and described the Islamic State as “dystopia.”
Without the help of the FBI, Bhuiya managed to escape from ISIS and fly back to the United States where he was arrested. Since his arrest he has been in federal detention and today faces sentencing in federal court… up to 25 years… he did surface back in May to give this interview to NBC News.
The appeal of ISIS to western teens and young adults has been reported upon over and over. One of the most intriguing is the epidemic of young women leaving Western Europe to offer themselves up as brides to short, hirsute jihadis who smell like a corpse’s armpit. Often with, as you can imagine, tragic results. Similarly, there has been no shortage of young men trouping off to fight for ISIS and then returning home as terrorist recruiters, trainers and planners.
While it is easier and cheaper for Europeans to join ISIS than Americans, Americans are by no means exempt from the call. And the romance of ISIS contributes to guys like Omar Mateen, the San Bernardino shooters, and the Chattanooga shooter.
Though I have to admit my initial thoughts about lifting a finger to help anyone having buyer’s remorse after joining ISIS were summed up in this scene from The Wire (NSFW language)
Upon further contemplation, it seems to me that if we are waging a propaganda war against ISIS that it might be a better use of time and money to cart guys like Bhuiya around the country to speak to groups of people considered to be at-risk to join ISIS and associated groups. Not to say they shouldn’t spend some time in prison but disgruntled foot soldiers like this guy would be much more useful in the Orlando shooter’s mosque than they are sitting in prison.