What Could Have Led a New York Stockbroker to Become a Terrorist?

AP Photo, File

Here’s a career trajectory that is, as Bob Uecker might say, juuuust a bit outside of the ordinary: Ruslan Maratovich Asainov was a New York stockbroker and a happily married man with a toddler daughter upon whom he lavished affection. But something was missing. A Kazakh native and naturalized American citizen, Ruslan Maratovich Asainov was on a spiritual search that ultimately led him to embrace the religion of most of the people in his native land, Islam. Asainov dived into his new faith with all the zeal of a new convert and then some. Ultimately, his new religion led him to forsake the world of bulls and bears and travel to Iraq and Syria during the heyday of the Islamic State (ISIS). Ruslan Maratovich Asainov is likely the only New York stockbroker to become an ISIS sniper.

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Asainov was, however, far from the only convert to Islam who somehow got the crazy idea that his new religion, which every authority in the Western world assures us is peaceful, enjoined him to commit violence against unbelievers. Yet authorities all over the world couldn’t possibly be less interested in this recurring phenomenon; there is not a single counterterrorism agency in any nation in the entire world that studies the phenomenon of conversion to Islam and attempts to determine why so many converts to the Religion of Peace turn to jihad terrorism. As common as this is, as far as counterterror “experts” are concerned, it simply doesn’t exist.

In Asainov’s case, he converted to Islam back in 2009. Soon afterward, he quit his job and, according to his ex-wife, began watching the online sermons of jihad preachers. This was the beginning of a journey that led him, according to an Associated Press report, to his conviction Tuesday for his activities as a sniper and trainer for the Islamic State. According to AP, Asainov “abruptly left his family in Brooklyn in December 2013 and made his way to Syria as IS stormed to power.” Prosecutors said that once there, “he fought in numerous battles and built a notable profile in IS by becoming a sniper and later an instructor of nearly 100 other long-range shooters.”

During Asainov’s trial in Brooklyn, prosecutor Douglas Pravda declared: “The evidence has shown that people died as a result of the defendant’s conduct. It is time to hold him accountable.” Asainov, however, said nothing during the proceedings except to tell the court that he was “not part of this process.” This was a reflection of the Islamic teaching that a Muslim owes no allegiance to any earthly authority, particularly a legal authority that does not recognize the perfect and immutable law of Allah. Asainov was saying that he did not recognize the court itself as legitimate; he would only regard a Sharia court as having any authority to judge him. When he was arraigned, Asainov made this abundantly clear, insisting that he was an “Islamic State citizen, not a United States citizen.”

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All that demonstrated that Asainov was and is a true believer, as did his behavior when the FBI questioned him after his arrest. During this questioning, Asainov was, according to AP, “unabashed.” He “gave his occupation as ‘sniper’ and frankly detailed how he’d taught others, explaining that he could spend three hours just on the fine points of pulling a trigger.” He was just as open and honest about his activities when he left his ex-wife voicemails from Syria: “Have you heard of Islamic State? Right. I-S-I-S. Do you watch news on TV? That’s where I am located. I am one of its fighters. We are the worst terrorist organization in the world that ever existed.”

Related: Two More U.S. Jihadis You Heard Nothing About

To friends, Asainov “sent photos of himself in camouflage garb with a rifle and pictures of the bloodied bodies of men with whom he said he’d fought.” To one man he thought was a friend but who turned out to be a fed, he sent a “rundown of prominent battles in which he said he’d participated and asked for money to buy a night scope for his rifle.” He even called his mother, but only to tell her that the son she knew “doesn’t exist anymore”; he was, he said, now a mujahid who “fought and killed on divine command, didn’t regret it and would ‘be fighting until the end.’” He declared: “I will never change this path, even if they give me freedom a thousand times. Do you understand?”

Oh yes. But do American authorities? Not in the least. They’re still dogmatically committed to the proposition that Islam is a religion of peace that has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. That bland and false assumption only ensures that they will miss the development of many more jihadis like Ruslan Asainov.

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