Majd grew up where the sand was seemingly everywhere, and the sun baking down on his skin was relentless. However Majd never saw his families’ open fields or their date farms in Syria. No, Majd grew up on the mean streets of Tucson Arizona. As a boy, the closest he ever came to the relentless middle-east conflict was when his father and Uncle would sit on the porch at night and speak about the homeland in their native Arabic. Majd did not even speak Arabic, but the passion in the two older men’s voices when talking about the Sunni-Shia rift was unmistakable and left an impression. Never-the-less, in those days Majd was more interested in his x-box.
Despite his family living on the outskirts of a modern Arizona city, Majd’s elders tried to follow their Sunni Islamic religious requirements as best they could. It was quite a drive to Tucson’s Islamic Center Mosque in the center of town, yet as the only established Sunni mosque in Tucson, the trip was made frequently. Just like most young boys at any mosque, or church, or synagogue around the world, Majd spent most of his time at the Islamic Center talking to friends or simply imagining being anyplace else.
Somehow he survived his youth and all the trappings of society that sidetrack many young boys and Majd graduated in 2013 with a biochemistry degree from the University of Arizona. His family was so proud to have their first college educated family member that they sat in the front row at his commencement ceremony and wept throughout. They were so proud of their first born son. He would assuredly carry on the family name proudly.
Despite his degree, and his significant effort to land employment worthy of his skills, Majd was only offered part time work as a field biology technician, and once as a fill in for a histotechnician position at a local hospital. While some of his friends from school had moved on to proper science positions in other cities, Majd was determined to stay close to his family in Tucson. That decision, unfortunately, meant very limited employment opportunities.
As the months after his graduation wore on, Majd become more despondent about his lack of work. Living at home was causing him increasing anxiety, and his parent’s expectations of him were becoming more of a burden than an influence. With too much idle time, Majd began to spend an increasing amount of it at the Mosque. Soon a small group of young men began to meet there every Thursday and discuss their mutual concerns of the future. Before long, Majd’s anxiety turned into depression and anger. The more he talked to his friends, the more he was certain that his lack of employment was because of his new-found faith. Everything was starting to become so clear. He was obviously being oppressed by those without faith.
His father was proud of his Majd’s new affection for his Sunni Muslim adherence, and he was certain it would help calm his fears. But his father was unaware of the websites Majd was now spending hours of his free time reading. The websites that bend and twist the truth in such an insidious way that those seeking something to influence their life can find a path to achieve it. At just the right point in time, and under just the right personal circumstances and weakness of spirit, even an educated young man like Majd can be persuaded that his life has a deeper meaning. That he too can become a part of something much bigger than himself. Before long, the hook had become deeply implanted in Majd’s gullet.
Like most websites that seek to attract the week and disaffected to a cause, the people behind the sites Majd visited knew that if they cast a wide enough net, a few percent of readers would take the bait. Some of these newly attracted followers would send money, some would work at home to help propagate the message, and some would be so bold as to leave their home to physically join the fight. But the real goal of these websites, yes the crowning achievement, would be to reach that very small percent with special skills. These few fish caught in the ever expanding nets would be biochemists, computer engineers, airline pilots, and even nuclear scientists. These few that would become ensnared would have a special capability. A capability that those who fire guns in the air in the deserts around the world will never possess. Majd was just such a special catch and those behind the creation of the message knew it.
Majd’s skill at manipulating bio organisms, and his particular specialty of gene manipulation of various types of E-Coli would come in very handy indeed to those hidden Jihadists behind the screen. They assured Majd that his name would be known throughout the earth, and that he would be hailed for all time as a great Martyr to his people.
While the people of Tucson went about their daily lives, Majd started fulfilling his calling.