Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

Fascinating NYT Magazine account today about Omar Hammami, a charismatic boy from small-town Alabama who, having been raised a Baptist, embraced his father’s Islam — and went on to embrace a radical version of same, and to become a celebrated jihadist in Somalia. It’s a portrait of how a young man who had a lot of the usual teenage restlessness and ambition found an outlet in radical Islam. He’s now 22, a complete fanatic, living a life of life-and-death adventure as a Salafist guerrilla in Somalia. Excerpt:

Throughout the exchange, Hammami seemed to slide back and forth between the boy from Daphne and the jihadi propagandist. He asked his sister for news about his grandmother in Perdido (“Maw Maw,” he called her) and signed off “later tater” and “I love you.”They soon lost contact again. These days, his family and friends wonder what will become of him. “There is no out,” Dena said. “He’s in too deep.”On Dec. 3, a suicide bomber disguised as a woman blew himself up at a graduation ceremony for medical students in Mogadishu, killing nearly two dozen people, including three Somali government officials. Somali and American authorities said the attack was carried out by the Shabab. 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!”

You read the story, and, absent the Islamist particulars, it’s a story about how an idealistic boy struggling with inner tumult gives his mind over to a utopian cult. Here’s an older CNN report about Hammami, before his identity was made public:

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