The New York Times, a Mississippi town, Mississippi University, everyone is "shocked" and "perplexed" that a young Muslim couple from the area would want to join the Islamic State. She was a cheerleader, an honor student, the daughter of a police officer, and a member of the high school homecoming court who wanted to be a doctor. "Something must have happened to her," Elizabeth Treloar, 18, said of Ms. Young, her friend. "She's too levelheaded, too smart to do this." What happened to her? She converted to Islam. And she was following the teachings of Islam.

On July 17, the day after a young Muslim man in Chattanooga, Tenn., fatally shot five United States servicemen, Ms. Young rejoiced, the affidavit alleges, in an online message to an F.B.I. agent posing as a supporter of the Islamic State.

"Alhamdulillah," she wrote, using the Arabic word of praise to God, "the numbers of supporters are growing."

Why would anyone who had a cursory knowledge of Islam would be "shocked"? The NY Times, the mainstream media, the political and cultural elite have denied the ideology to the point of incoherent absurdity.

Muhammad Dakhlalla was born Muslim. Mr. Dakhlalla's father would preach at Friday Prayer. He was devout and came from a devout Muslim household. Jihad is religious imperative. What's surprising? According to a former teacher, Dakhlalla, then a 10th grader, spoke in favor of Palestinian rights. It's all of a piece.

He was a quiet but easygoing psychology student. His father is a well-known Muslim patriarch here, whose personable air and habit of sharing food with friends and strangers made him seem like a walking advertisement for Islam as a religion of tolerance and peace.

Hundreds of American Muslims have flocked to join the Islamic State. Tens of thousands of native born Europeans.

Two American Muslims, popular, loved, top of their class, going to honeymoon with ISIS in Syria — blowing up (yet again) every other Western leader's (most especially Obama's) delusional narrative about poverty, disaffection and illiteracy driving Muslims to jihad.

Rappers in Germany, doctors in Glasgow, and Australia, chemical engineering students in Canada, the UK's top students at their most elite schools,  herdsmen in Nigeria, British surgeons, heart surgeons in Saudi Arabia, university students in Britain, imams in America, doctors in Australia, Canadian Idol contestants, and so forth – what brings these wildly different people together? Jihad. From the Sahara to the Kalahari, London to Lisbon, Manhattan to Madrid, Bali to Boston, Tiananmen Square to Thailand, Myanmar to Malaysia, Nairobi to Nigeria ….. no matter what the background, upbringing, schooling, wealth or poverty, color, what have you, it doesn't matter. The understanding of Islam and jihad is the same, and it is the motive, the incitement to this monstrous war on the West and the East and all points in between.

This is not rocket science. This is reality.

And what is the overarching response by Western elites to those who expose and highlight the ideology behind this war? Kill the messenger.

If the world were as concerned with the mass slaughter of non-Muslims and the murderous supremacism of the jihadic doctrine by jihadists as they are about scrubbing Islam, we might begin to defeat this enemy of humanity.

"Young Mississippi Couple Linked to ISIS, Perplexing All," By Richard Faussetaug, NY Times, August 14, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. — She was a cheerleader, an honor student, the daughter of a police officer and a member of the high school homecoming court who wanted to be a doctor.

He was a quiet but easygoing psychology student. His father is a well-known Muslim patriarch here, whose personable air and habit of sharing food with friends and strangers made him seem like a walking advertisement for Islam as a religion of tolerance and peace.

Today, the young woman, Jaelyn Young, 19, and the young man, her fiancé, Muhammad Dakhlalla, 22, are in federal custody, arrested on suspicion of trying to travel from Mississippi to Syria to join the Islamic State.

Friends and strangers alike said it was difficult to imagine two less likely candidates for the growing roster of young, aspiring American jihadists.

"Something must have happened to her," Elizabeth Treloar, 18, said of Ms. Young, her friend. "She's too levelheaded, too smart to do this."

Mr. Dakhlalla's relatives were as shocked as anyone when he and Ms. Young were arrested last weekend on their way to a small regional airport, where they had intended to catch the first in a series of flights that would eventually put them in Istanbul. The only plans the family knew of, said Dennis Harmon, a lawyer and friend of Mr. Dakhlalla's parents, were that he would attend graduate school in the fall here at Mississippi State University.

The father is being patently dishonest. He preaches in the Islamic Center. He knows.

Ms. Young and Mr. Dakhlalla both attended Mississippi State University. Credit Andrea Morales for The New York Times

Ms. Young, who three years ago was broadcasting silly jokes on Twitter and singing the praises of the R&B singer Miguel, had more recently professed a desire to join the Islamic State, according to an F.B.I. agent's affidavit in support of a criminal complaint. On July 17, the day after a young Muslim man in Chattanooga, Tenn., fatally shot five United States servicemen, Ms. Young rejoiced, the affidavit alleges, in an online message to an F.B.I. agent posing as a supporter of the Islamic State.

"Alhamdulillah," she wrote, using the Arabic word of praise to God, "the numbers of supporters are growing."

Though a number of young Muslims in the United States have been seduced in recent months by the Islamic State, the fact that it has resonated as far as Starkville has set off an understandable wave of distress here — a feeling that the struggle and terror in foreign deserts are not as far from the American heartland as they might have seemed.

Starkville, which calls itself "Mississippi's college town," tends to dent the national consciousness only when Mississippi State's football team is winning. Both of the suspects attended Mississippi State: Mr. Dakhlalla graduated in May with a psychology degree and had been accepted to graduate school for the fall; Ms. Young hoped to become a doctor and held a research job in a chemistry lab on campus.

Theirs were rather emblematic Mississippi State stories: Though the sprawling land-grant college lacks the Old South mystique of its rival, the University of Mississippi, it has a multicultural campus thick with research scientists and engineers, and locals tend to be proud of Starkville's relative tolerance. In Mississippi, said Nick Crews, 34, a musician and neighbor of the Dakhlallas, Starkville "is like this little bastion unto itself."

The Islamic Center of Mississippi, where Mr. Dakhlalla's father sometimes spoke at Friday Prayer. He often invited neighbors to services. Credit Andrea Morales for The New York Times

And so, in addition to expressing fear and anger, many here were simply baffled by what had gone wrong with this handsome young couple who seemed to be on their way to sharing a 21st-century Mississippi success story.

Mr. Dakhlalla's father, Oda Dakhlalla, arrived in Mississippi decades ago and studied civil engineering at the University of Mississippi, said Mr. Harmon, the lawyer and family friend. Mr. Dakhlalla's wife, Lisa, is from New Jersey and is a Muslim convert, Mr. Harmon said. They raised three sons in Starkville, were deeply ingrained in the life of the town and were hard to miss. Oda Dakhlalla dresses in a traditional gown, and his reputation as a miracle-working math tutor earned him, among students, the nickname "Yoda." Ms. Dakhlalla was known as "the hummus lady" for the Mediterranean specialties she sold at the local farmers' market.

From 2005 to 2009, the family operated Shaherazad's, a Middle Eastern cafe. Ms. Dakhlalla has said they got out of the business because she was having health problems. Mr. Harmon said that their generosity may have gotten the better of them.

"They were great cooks, but they weren't good business people," he said. "Oda wants to feed everybody, but you're supposed to sell it, not give it away."

There was no question that the family had embraced the strategy, common in both the Middle East and the American South, of fellowship through food. Mayor Parker Wiseman said the elder Mr. Dakhlalla often came around City Hall with lunches for workers. Mr. Crews, the neighbor, said he had a leg of lamb that Mr. Dakhlalla had given him in his freezer. Though he was not the imam of the local mosque, the Islamic Center of Mississippi, Oda Dakhlalla lived across the street from it, sometimes delivered the Friday sermon and often invited neighbors like Mr. Crews to services.

At least a dozen countries have had attacks since last summer. A Mississippi couple are among the latest in a string of ISIS-related arrests in the United States this year.

Muhammad Dakhlalla, the youngest of the couple's three sons, goes by "Mo." He worked at the restaurant, earned black belts in taekwondo and judo at a martial arts school, and attended Starkville High School.

R. J. Morgan, a former teacher, said Mr. Dakhlalla was bright, courteous and popular, and mixed easily with non-Muslim students.

When his world history class took a month to explore the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in depth, Mr. Morgan said, Mr. Dakhlalla, then a 10th grader, spoke in favor of Palestinian rights. "But in no way, in no way, did Muhammad have extreme views on the plight of the Palestinian people," he said.

"The court document describes how two F.B.I. employees, posing as supporters of the terrorist group, engaged the couple in a long online…
Nick C 13 hours ago

Letting them go would be the real punishment. He'd be dead within a month and she'd be turned in to a sex slave. These kids don't have a…
YD 13 hours ago

Everyone please stop saying these two were "educated." They were 19 and 21. They were not educated. They were taking classes and taking…

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Mr. Dakhlalla met Ms. Young about a year ago, Mr. Harmon said. She had graduated near the top of her class at Warren Central High School, where she had been a member of the homecoming court. Marneicha Wilson, 19, an old friend, said Ms. Young had been raised in a Christian household and attended church, but had not been particularly zealous.

Ms. Treloar said Ms. Young had converted to Islam in April after being introduced to the religion by college friends. She recalled that Ms. Young was drawn to the Quran's teachings because she believed it had been unchanged since it was first written. She thought the Bible, by contrast, had been translated so much that its original meaning was lost, Ms. Treloar said.
Photo
Mr. Dakhlalla graduated with a degree in psychology at Mississippi State and Ms. Young worked in a chemistry research job there. Credit Andrea Morales for The New York Times

Ms. Young believed that Muslims and groups like the Islamic State had been unfairly caricatured in the West, Ms. Treloar said. But she saw no signs that Ms. Young would try to join the extremists.

Ms. Young's last Facebook post, on March 17, was a jokey altered photo, a pop-culture riff involving Whoopi Goldberg, the Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks, and the rapper 2 Chainz. Two months later, the affidavit says, an F.B.I. employee identified her "through social media platforms" as a supporter of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The court document describes how two F.B.I. employees, posing as supporters of the terrorist group, engaged the couple in a long online courtship in which they repeatedly stated their desire to join the militants. Ms. Young wrote that she might be able to offer "medical aid" to the cause. Mr. Dakhlalla wrote that he was "willing to fight."

But their messages were full of concerns. Mr. Dakhlalla wondered if he would be placed with other English-speaking recruits. Ms. Young was frustrated that family and community members in Starkville did not support the Islamic State. She also confessed that she had never traveled outside the United States. "I need help crossing from Turkey to Syria with my hijjrah partner," Ms. Young wrote in early June, using the Arabic word for "emigration" or "journey."

Ms. Young said they would leave under the pretense of being "newlyweds on our honeymoon." On June 6, the couple performed an Islamic marriage ceremony. Mr. Harmon said that for the marriage to be valid under Islamic law, Ms. Young's father was required to sign a contract. But the father, a police officer who friends say served in the United States military in Afghanistan, refused to do so.

After their arrest, the affidavit states, the couple confessed that they were on their way to join the Islamic State. On Tuesday, a federal magistrate in Oxford, Miss., ordered them held without bail, citing their methodical planning. They each face up to 20 years in prison on the charge of attempting and conspiring to knowingly provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

When Mr. Crews, the Dakhlallas' neighbor, noticed unmarked police cars choking the block last weekend, he immediately guessed that "some idiot redneck did something to the mosque."

"I certainly didn't think somebody got arrested for wanting to join ISIS," he said. "That just wasn't on my radar."

Ashley Southall contributed reporting from New York.

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