The story of Daniel Aljughaifi follows a trajectory we have seen in other converts, such as John Walker Lindh and Adam Gadahn.
By Charles A. Radin for the Boston Globe, with thanks to WR:
METHUEN — Daniel Maldonado, a slender young man in his early 20s with tattoos and dreadlocks, entered the Selimiye Mosque in a densely populated neighborhood of central Methuen with a humble request for help converting to Islam.
But as his commitment to ever purer, more intense religious observance deepened over the next several years, he became critical of other Muslims’ observance of the faith, until the imam who helped him convert told him to refrain from judging others or to leave the mosque.
Maldonado, on the road to the Islamic fundamentalism that would ultimately lead him to Somalia, decided to leave.
Soner Uguz knew Maldonado, who has taken the name Daniel Aljughaifi, from the beginning of his journey into Islam.
“I met Danny the week he converted, about seven years ago,” said Uguz, identified by worshipers at the mosque yesterday as Maldonado’s best friend. “He was cool. He dressed in T-shirts and jeans and didn’t hide any of his tattoos. His hair was in dreadlocks. He was eager, and he had a lot of questions.”
All that changed radically.
Last week in a federal court in Houston, where he had been living for a while before he went overseas, Maldonado became the first US citizen to be charged with participating in terrorist activities in Somalia.
Maldonado, who grew up in Pelham, N.H., and later lived in Methuen, became immersed in Islam and attended prayer sessions regularly at Selimiye Mosque. He began wearing traditional Arab clothing, including the galabeyah, an ankle-length gown with long sleeves that covered the tattoos on his arms. He struggled to grow the beard of a religious Muslim. When he could not, he blamed his Puerto Rican heritage and began chastising fellow Muslims who could grow a full beard and chose not to.
His wife dressed in a burkah, exposing only her eyes, and wore gloves in public. The couple’s daughter, a toddler at the time, wore the hijab headcovering, though under most interpretations of Muslim law this practice is required only after a girl reaches puberty. They renamed their son, Anthony, as Mohammed.
He was no longer the eager and humble young man he had been when he entered the mosque for the first time around 2000.
“He was arrogant; he knew the book [the Koran] better than anyone,” Uguz said at the mosque yesterday afternoon after prayers. “He went from loving rap to hating poetry.”
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