No one, of course, has bothered to check what is being taught in the local mosque. That just might provide a clue. “A Norway Town and Its Pipeline to Jihad in Syria,” by Andrew Higgins, New York Times, April 4, 2015:
FREDRIKSTAD, Norway — The real trouble started when they stopped causing trouble. Torleif Sanchez Hammer and his friends — all residents of the same small cluster of clapboard houses in southern Norway — had been having run-ins with the police for years but then suddenly halted their marijuana-fueled gatherings in the basement apartment of Mr. Hammer’s widowed mother.
Police officers in this placid Norwegian town had busted their marijuana parties so regularly that “we knew them all on a first-name basis,” recalled Ragnar Foss, head of a local police unit responsible for youth crime. But, two years ago, they cleaned up their act. “We wondered what had happened but were glad when they dropped off our radar,” Mr. Foss said.
One by one over the following months, Mr. Hammer and at least seven other young men who lived on or around just one street, Lislebyveien, made their way to Syria to wage jihad alongside the Islamic State and other militant groups.
As Europe tries to fathom such journeys by its young Muslims, politicians and scholars have variously blamed the influence of the Internet and radical mosques, or sources of despair like discrimination and unemployment.
But the subterranean currents that pushed so many young men to Syria from Lisleby, a Fredrikstad district of just 6,000, stand out as an example of a phenomenon none of those theories can explain: Why it is that certain towns, and even small areas within them, generate a disproportionate number of jihadists?
It “is a big puzzle,” said Jon Fitje Hoffman, director of strategic analysis at Norway’s domestic intelligence agency, the Police Security Service, known as PST. It is also one that has flummoxed security services from Denmark to Germany to France….
Those who did go, he added, had shown no previous interest in Islam. “None of them ever even mentioned religion when we knew them,” said Mr. Foss, sitting in an office piled with confiscated water pipes and other drug paraphernalia.
“The only thing they had in common is that they did not function in society,” he added. “But they wanted to be able to do something, to be good at something.” Radical Islam, he said, “offers a whole package.”
“It is ready and all you have to do is accept it,” Mr. Foss said.
Out of place and searching for purpose, Mr. Hammer and his friends did so with gusto. He converted to Islam — after being raised Roman Catholic — and changed his first name from Torleif to Abdul.
“He was reading, reading, reading all the time,” his mother, Rebecca, an immigrant from the Philippines, said, waving a copy of the Quran she found in her son’s bedroom, along with his prayer beads, a knitted skull cap and an electronic device that recites Islamic prayers.
“He said he wanted to fix himself after too much disco, too many girlfriends and too much smoking,” she said.
Mr. Hammer first popped up in police reports when he started stealing Mercedes-Benz hood ornaments as a young teenager. In his zeal to change course, he suddenly started spending hours each day at Lisleby’s only mosque, annoying worshipers, mostly immigrants from Somalia, with self-righteous lectures on how to pray properly.
The mosque leadership finally asked him to leave.
“He has only been a Muslim for two years and I have been a Muslim my whole life,” Warsame Mohamed Saleban, a director of the Lisleby mosque, said.
Did the Times make any effort to determine what is taught at this mosque, and distinguish what it teaches from what Hammer believes?
Also attracted by the certainties and a sense of superiority offered by radical Islam was Samiulla Khan, who lived just down the road from Mr. Hammer and often attended his basement parties. He also went to the school attended by the soccer star, Mr. Chaib, a mixed vocational and regular high school called Greaker.
The son of immigrants from Pakistan, Mr. Khan, according to people who knew the family, felt out of place not only among Norwegians but also among fellow Pakistanis. His father, a convicted murderer, brought further shame on the family after his release from jail by killing a woman while driving drunk. The father declined to comment.
Another schoolmate of Mr. Chaib’s was Abu Edelbijev, whose family had emigrated to Norway to escape the war in Chechnya in 2002.
A keen athlete and bodybuilder, Mr. Edelbijev complained a lot about Russian brutality in Chechnya and Israeli treatment of Palestinians. But he liked and felt loyal to Norway, whose military he wanted to serve but was unable to join because of a bad eye, according to family members.
He used to pray regularly at the local mosque but, after Mr. Chaib’s death, mostly avoided the mosque and began spending more and more time in Oslo, they said. Where he went in Oslo is not known, but the city has a number of mosques and meeting places frequented by activists from Prophet’s Umma and other radical groups.
After one of his visits there in 2013, his mother discovered three new iPhones stashed in his bedroom. She did not make much of this at the time but now thinks the phones were part of preparations for travel by himself and others to Syria. He also borrowed money to buy a Mercedes, the car he would later use to drive across Europe into Turkey and then to the border with Syria.
In August 2013, while his parents were on vacation in Tunisia, he sent them a text message: “Please don’t try to find me. I have made my choice.” He was on his way to Syria.
Before his departure, Mr. Edelbijev hectored Mr. Hammer, who lived a short walk away, and his friends about their marijuana habit and their failure to observe the teachings of Islam.
Mr. Foss, the police officer, said the lectures seemed to have an impact as Mr. Hammer stopped hosting drug parties. He said he picked up reports that Mr. Hammer and his dropout friends were suddenly showing a curious enthusiasm for religion and reported this to the PST, the security agency.
Their sudden fervor, he said, struck him as odd but did not stir great concern. “When they disappeared from our radar we thought: ‘Oh, that’s good.’ ”…
Of course. To have thought otherwise would have been “Islamophobic.”