In yet another instance of the recurring phenomenon of converts to Islam turning to violence, a South Carolina man named Kristopher Sean Matthews pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to aid the Islamic State (ISIS). Matthews and his accomplice, Jaylyn Christopher Molina, plotted to share information on how to make bombs, and tried to recruit others for ISIS. They also planned jihad bombings themselves in New York City, at Trump Tower and the New York Stock Exchange. Matthews hoped these would be so catastrophic as to give them “rock star status” and even be “Netflix worthy.” And he may have been onto something: after Netflix went all in for pedophilia, why not jihad terror?
After his conversion, Molina began calling himself “Abdur Rahim” and Matthews went by “Ali Jibreel.” Matthews and Molina both also hated America, as Molina stated explicitly: “Let it be clear, I am against America. America is my enemy.” Besides their plans for New York City, they “also described attacking communications centers and plans to ‘fortify a town barrier and establish the first bases or establish a HQ.’” Bases, that is, from which they could launch more jihad attacks against targets within the country.
They not only plotted mayhem within the United States, but also both pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), discussed traveling to Syria to join up with the jihad group, and even tried to make contact with an ISIS operative who would help them get there. Molina pursued his jihad online, posting instructions on how to train to handle an AK-47, as well as directions on how to build a bomb.
All this raises questions that have come up many times before, but no matter how many times this happens, these questions have never even been addressed, much less answered: why do so many converts to Islam come to hate their own country? Which comes first? Does their hatred of America lead to their conversion to a religion that has some adherents who are waging war against America? Or does their conversion turn them against their homeland?
Matthews and Molina are not by any means the first American converts to Islam to try to join ISIS, or to plot violence against their fellow Americans. Spc. Hasan Edmonds, a Muslim member of the U.S. Army National Guard, was arrested in 2015 at Chicago’s Midway Airport; he had been planning to join the Islamic State. His cousin, Jonas “Yunus” Edmonds, was arrested as well. They had allegedly been plotting a jihad attack against a U.S. military facility.
Is it just a coincidence that so many converts to Islam come to regard the country in which they were born and raised, the land of the families and forefathers, as an enemy? Or is there some connection?
Spc. Hasan Edmonds clearly believed that his new religion required a shift of his allegiance. “I am already in the American kafir [infidel] army,” he told an informant in January, “and now I wish only to serve in the army of Allah alongside my true brothers.”
Other American converts to Islam who have turned traitor include Sgt. Hasan Akbar, an American engineer from the 101st Airborne Division, who murdered Captain Christopher Scott Seifert, Major Gregory Stone, and wounded fifteen others in a grenade and small-arms attack in northern Kuwait on March 22, 2003. As he committed his murders, Sgt. Akbar yelled: “You guys are coming into our countries, and you’re going to rape our women and kill our children.”
Akbar referred to “our women” and “our children” despite the fact that he was not Iraqi or Kuwaiti; he was an American from Los Angeles. But when he became a Muslim, any allegiance he may have had to America was gone. In the same way, al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn and the most famous of the traitor converts, the Marin County Mujahid, John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan fighting against American troops, also turned against the country of their birth and joined its fiercest enemies.
All these examples, and there are many, many more like them, raise additional questions as well. Chief among them is this: why, when these Americans converted to Islam, did they fall prey to what we are constantly told is a twisted and hijacked version of a peaceful religion? Why wasn’t the peaceful, tolerant, true Islam that everyone assumes converts to Islam are taught in mosques in the U.S. able to withstand challenge from the supposedly un-Islamic vision that ISIS peddles? Why aren’t the mosques they attended being investigated? And above all, why are our law enforcement and intelligence agencies completely indifferent to these questions? Would they care if that “Netflix worthy” jihad massacre actually did materialize?
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.