A business student from Alabama whose family came to America decades ago to build a better life abruptly abandoned her loved ones and fled to Syria to join the Islamic State last November, with the startling details of her story shocking her suburban community.
Hoda Muthana (Hoover High School 2012 yearbook)
Hoda Muthana, 20, of Hoover, Alabama, graduated high school in 2013 and went on to study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, before executing an elaborate plan to secretly leave for Syria, according to BuzzFeed.
"It seems bizarre just because she was so quiet and kind of kept to herself," Jordan LaPorta, who graduated high school with Muthana, told AL.com. "But we've kind of learned over the years that sometimes it's people just like that who are most susceptible to extremist groups."
The unsuspecting young woman was reportedly radicalized via the Internet after she left high school, abandoning her family's moderate Islamic views for the extremist brand of the faith that is embraced by the Islamic State.
Her official joining with the Islamic State came after she told her father that she would be taking a school trip to Atlanta.
But rather than go to Georgia, she reportedly traveled to Syria, instead, where she connected with the terror group and married a jihadist after just one month; less than three months later, her new husband died on the battlefield, though that hasn't dissuaded her from perpetuating the Islamic State's mission.
In a recent interview with BuzzFeed, Muthana, whose parents came to the U.S. from Yemen in 1992 before the birth of their children, spoke out about her decision to join the Islamic State and to leave her life in the U.S. behind.
"I started getting interested in my deen [religious life] around 2012," she told BuzzFeed in an interview conducted over the messaging service Kik. "I felt like my life was so bland without it. Life has much more meaning when u know why ur here."
It was through watching online lectures that her religious views began to transform, with her use of social media perpetuating an alternative persona — one that at least one source said was more extreme than Muthana actually was in person.
This intensified after she joined Twitter in 2013, as she began spreading hateful messages and encountering Islamic State members.
After orchestrating an elaborate plan to register for classes and immediately withdraw, Muthana used the money she would have paid to her university to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. Since leaving, her father, Mohammad, has repeatedly begged her to come home, telling BuzzFeed that he immediately contacted the FBI when he realized that she had left to join the Islamic State.
"I want to apologize for what my daughter did," he told the outlet. "I believe [she's] been brainwashed. She’s not that kind of girl. They brainwashed her."
Muthana said that she has no plans to return home and that she is happy that she joined the radical extremist group, despite her family's desperate pleas. Joining the Islamic State, she believes, is in accordance with the true version of the Islamic faith.
"I’m not going to come back," she texted her father upon his request for her to return home. "This is the right place for me to live and I am really ready to die, to meet my God as a true Muslim."
Muthana's Twitter messages on her now-suspended account @ZamuraIJannah show her terrifying level of devotion to the Islamic State, as she encouraged Muslims in America to "terrorize" non-believers, according to BuzzFeed.
"Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping!" she wrote on March 19. "Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriot, Memorial etc Day parades..go on drive by’s + spill all of their blood or rent a big truck n drive all over them. Kill them."
Hoda Muthana (right) (Hoover High School 2012 yearbook)
Mohammad fears for his family's safety in Alabama, though he said he also worries for his other children — that they will not be able to get jobs and that he and his wife will be blamed for his daughter's actions. Read the entire story here.
The Birmingham Islamic Society, among other groups, has spoken out against Muthana's decision to join the Islamic State.