Thursday, 12 February 2015 00:00

The Young and the Normless: Al Qaeda’s Ideological Recruitment of Western Extremists

Written by  Thérèse Postel
The Boston Marathon bombings on 15 April 2013 brought terror to the finish line of one of the United States’ oldest athletic events, and returned terrorism to the forefront of the United States’ psyche. The world watched as Massachusetts law enforcement agencies shut down a large swath of the state in order to find a bomber on the run. As the dust settled, it was clear that a well-adjusted, popular, intelligent young man who was a naturalized U.S. citizen, from a Chechen refugee family, executed one of the most infamous terror attacks on American soil since 11 September 2001, under the wing of his older brother. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a college student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, was found hiding in a boat four days after the bombing in Watertown, Massachusetts, and was subsequently arrested; he has since pled “not guilty” to all charges levied against him. Dzhokhar’s brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was run over and killed by Dzhokhar as they attempted to flee law enforcement in the early morning hours of 19 April 2013. Tamerlan was a potential American success story that went off the rails, not as well adjusted as his brother Dzhokhar, who was fondly known as “Jahar” to most of his friends and teachers. Tamerlan was an accomplished boxer, who lost his way shortly after his dreams to be an Olympian for the United States were curtailed because he was not a citizen. Their parents filed for divorce, their sisters moved away, and the family life of these two boys disintegrated. Soon after, Dzhokhar became a United States citizen, continued onto college, and dabbled in drugs, while Tamerlan floundered in all aspects of his life. How did the lives of two men, who showed such early promise, go so far astray?