There is probably no other group that is as vilified by the west as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is. This terrorist organization has been responsible for a lot of death and carnage over the past several years. Most recently, ISIS has boasted about the deadly Manchester terror attack. 22 people attending an Arianna Grande concert were killed while at least 59 others were injured when a 22-year-old suicide bomber detonated his bomb. In fact, it seems that every time innocent people perish in such attacks, ISIS is quick praise the perpetrator.
One of the frustrating things for western societies is the way this group continues to easily replace those it loses. One terrorist is killed and more appear. One of ISIS’s weapons is their recruitment scheme which has had so much success in many free and democratic countries around the world. Sure, there are easy targets like those who already hold radical views and young people who are simply disillusioned. However, it seems that more and more cases of regular people with no such inclinations or political leanings are being lured into this death cult. The following list contains examples of such people. Here are 15 times good guys joined ISIS.
15. Douglas McCain
By most accounts, Douglas McCain was a fairly normal guy. Born in Illinois, he was raised in Minnesota where he attended high school. Those that knew him during this time describe him describe as a “goofball”. He played basketball and was especially fond of the Chicago Bulls. He also wanted to pursue a career as a rapper. Things then began to go a little sideways for McCain when he started to run into troubles with the law but there was nothing remotely obvious to indicate the path he was about to follow. Driving violations, disorderly conduct, and providing false information to police put marks on his criminal record. He is believed to have converted to Islam in 2004 at the age of 23 but former classmates say that he was not radical.
14. Troy Kastigar
Troy Kastigar was born in 1981 and raised by his mother. While later described by authorities as a white male, Troy’s mother claimed to be Native American. He took karate lessons as a youngster and even earned a black belt. His karate teacher recalls that Troy was “very respectful, polite, upbeat, and positive.” He attended high school in New Hope, Minnesota between 1997 and 1999. It is thought that he met the aforementioned Douglas McCain during this time and the two may have been roommates in the early 2000s. He enjoyed basketball and would often play at a local community center. He soon converted to Islam and headed to Somalia in 2009. In a video released by al-Shabaab in 2011, Kastigar is seen and heard saying that he was in “the real Disneyland.” The video also later showed his dead body.
13. Samra Kesinovic
Samra Kesinovic was born is Austria in 1998. Her parents left Bosnia and relocated in Vienna in the 1990s to get away from the Bosnian War. Along with a friend, Samra became interested in Islam after regularly attending a mosque. She was soon radicalized and, in 2014, Samra and her friend left home to join ISIS in Syria. She was later seen in pictures on social media brandishing assault rifles and wearing a burqa. Samra’s life as a jihadist didn’t go well. She was reportedly married, pregnant, and being used as a sex slave. She tried to escape on several occasions but to no avail. According to a woman that lived with Samra in Rakka, Samra was beaten with a hammer when she made her last escape attempt. She died from the injuries suffered during the brutal attack.
12. Sabina Selimovic
Sabina Selimovic was the best friend of Samra Kesinovic. Like her friend’s family, Selimovic’s family fled Bosnia and settled in Vienna where Sabina was born in 1999. After spending a lot of time surfing jihad-themed websites and attending a mosque in Vienna, Sabina quickly became radicalized. She and her friend left home for Syria in April 2014 after leaving a note to her parents proclaiming her will to die for Allah.
Upon arrival in Syria, it is believed that 15-year-old was taken as a bride, used as a sex slave, and impregnated. She apparently realized the error of her ways and wanted to return home but her efforts to flee were unsuccessful. It was reported that Sabina was killed in action in September 2014. The story of these two girls made international headlines and serve as a cautionary tale.
11. Jake Bilardi
Jake was born in Craigieburn, Australia in 1996. According to his father, Jake was the youngest of six children and was a “shy and lonely boy” who had a “death wish.” He had trouble fitting in and was often the target of bullying. Jake’s father also admits to ignoring his son’s mental issues. Jake’s radicalization was fairly swift. By 2014, he was taking to social media to express his hatred for the US, his sympathy for Bin Laden, and he began to build bombs. He was recruited by ISIS and he promptly left for Iraq in 2014. At the age of 18, Jihadi Jake was among the youngest people to be recruited from a western country.
10. Jaelyn Young
Jaelyn Young appeared to be your average American girl. The daughter of a police officer, she was an honor student and an ex-cheerleader who attended Mississippi State University where she was studying chemistry. She began to gain interest in Islam when she was in her late teens and she became critical of how Muslims were treated in the US and UK. She met and started dating Muhammad Dakhlalla in late 2014 and the two got engaged. The two married in June 2015. During this time, she had made contact with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as ISIS recruiter. She told the agent that she and Dakhlalla were willing to support ISIS. Under the guise of going to Turkey for their honeymoon, Young and Dakhlalla were planning on joining ISIS where Young would work as a medic. The two were apprehended before they could board their flight. Young is currently in federal prison serving a 12-year sentence for terrorism charges.
9. Sally Jones
Sally Jones was a seemingly normal British lady. She was a guitarist and singer and is the mother of two children. Her life took a drastic turn when she met Junaid Hussain who was a computer hacker tasked with recruiting other hackers into ISIS. The two married and she quickly became dangerously radicalized. She took her 10-year-old son and left for Syria in 2013 to fight for the cause. She is now a designated propagandist and recruiter who is in charge of the training of all European female recruits. These recruits are taught jihadi tactics, the use of weaponry, and how to effectively perform suicide attacks. She also maintains an online presence where she issues terror threats.
8. Denis Cuspert
Denis might not be a shining example of a “good guy” but his story is still rather shocking and earns him a spot on the list of 15 times good guys joined ISIS. He was born in Berlin in 1975 and was raised by his mother and her US Army officer husband. He was a bit of a wild kid and served time in juvenile detention. At the age of 20, Denis began rapping and enjoyed a bit of success but the lifestyle also brought him more troubles as he was increasingly involved with crime which earned him a brief stint behind bars in 2004.
After being released, Denis once again focused on a rapping career and even ended up touring. However, he became influenced by Islamic radicals and his rap career suddenly came to an end in 2010. He started singing Islamic music and his radicalism rapidly progressed. He ended up in Syria fighting for ISIS and, despite inaccurate rumors of his death, he appears to still be involved.
7. “Jihadi” Jack Letts
Jack Letts was a regular kid from a stable home who enjoyed football and was just one of the boys. An old neighbor described him as a “nice boy” as she recounted how Jack would do yard work for her. He was obviously bright having attended Oxford’s Cherwell School but somewhere along the line, Jack fell under the influence of radical Islam and ended up becoming the first white Brit to join ISIS. Jack gained an interest in Islam and converted but it appears that he got involved with an extremist who was able to radicalize Jack. The young man’s friends tried to warn him but he rejected their concerns.
6. Andrew Poulin
In an ISIS recruitment video that was released around 2014, a young Canadian man by the name of Andrew Poulin is seen and heard telling viewers about the life he had before joining ISIS. He said that he had money and had a good family. He enjoyed spending time at a cottage during the summer and he was a hockey fan. Sounds pretty normal, eh? He never mentioned that he had a criminal record that included such things as harassment and weapons charges or that he was accused of planning to bomb a gas station.
Andrew became disillusioned with life in Canada saying that a person can’t fully obey Allah there. He joined ISIS, went to Syria, got married, and had a child before being killed during a battle at an Aleppo airport.
5. Damian Clairmont
Christine Boudreau noticed that her son, Damian Clairmont, had grown very distant and she could sense that he was becoming much more radical in his Islamic beliefs. Damian had a troubled youth but he seemed to have turned the corner and found a bit of inner peace when he converted to Islam in his late teens. He slowly began to reject mainstream Islam before subscribing to the ideals of ISIS and jihad. He grew the beard, denounced the western lifestyle, and began hanging around with other radical Muslims. By 2012, the 20-year-old was a completely different person. No longer interested in fishing or hockey, Damian was focused on much more dangerous pursuits.
4. John McGuire
John McGuire addressed the audience in an ISIS-produced recruitment video. He explained that he was a typical Canadian who grew up at the hockey rink and spent his teenage years playing guitar. He further stated that he didn’t have a criminal record and he kept a good GPA when he attended university. So, how did John end up in Syria fighting for ISIS? McGuire said that he accepted the calling of “the prophets and messengers of God.”
In a typical scenario, McGuire converted to Islam and began to reject western values. During his time in university, John got involved with a group radical Islamists and became more radicalized himself. This led to the young man joining ISIS and heading for Syria where he met his demise during a US-led airstrike in Kobani.
3. Rasel Raihan
Rasel’s family moved from Bangladesh to Ohio in 2000 when the boy was 5 and he seemed to adapt quite well. The young boy made a lot of friends, loved to play video games, and was a good student. Unfortunately, Rasel fell victim to severe depression while he was in high school. This would have a tragic domino effect. Although he saw a psychiatrist to help him deal with his problems, Rasel also turned to his sister, Nasrin, who was then a devout Muslim. This led to Rasel’s conversion to Islam which he claimed cured him.
Rasel moved in with his sister and her husband when he was 18. Just two months after that, he and his sister’s husband left the United States and entered Syria to fight for ISIS. Like so many others on the list of 15 times good guys joined ISIS, Rasel was killed in action.
2. Marlin Stivani Nivarlain
Just because a person is stupid, or in this case, extremely stupid, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person. Marlin StivaniNivarlain was just 16 years old when she was rescued from ISIS. Incredibly, it was the second time authorities had to drag her dumb behind out of Syria. It all started when she was just 14. She met a 19-year-old ISIS sympathizer online and was talked into joining ISIS. The two ended up in Mosul where she discovered that there was no television, no water, and there was a raging war going on. Understandably, she regretted her decision so she contacted her mother. Swedish and Kurdish authorities combined to rescue her and return the teen to Sweden. Well, our dim-witted damsel missed her boyfriend so she went back to the war-torn hell hole. Once again, Swedish and Kurdish authorities had to come to her rescue.
1. Sharky Jama
Sharky had a lot going for himself. Aside from having an awesome name, he was a male model, loved soccer, had good friends, and had a loving family who saw a lot of potential in the 25-year-old. More than 100 Australians have had their passports revoked for being suspected of intentions to join ISIS but Sharky raised no alarms. By all accounts, his transformation from a male model with a perceived normal lifestyle to a jihadist is baffling. His friends and family along with Australian authorities are looking for answers but they may never find them. Maybe Sharky just wanted to make the list of 15 times good guys joined ISIS?
Sharky’s parents received a text message and phone calls notifying them of their son’s death in April of 2015. It is believed that Sharky first went to Iraq before ending up in Raqqa.
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