His name is Muhammad Dakhlalla, 24, born and raised Mississippi, United States. He’s the son of an imam, Oda, originally from Bethlehem in the West Bank but migrated to Mississippi. Muhammad’s mother, Lisa was
born in New Jersey but converted to Islam. Oda and Lisa were devout Muslims who founded and built the Islamic Center of Mississippi located in Starkville.
Muhammad’s woes began when he fell in love with a young woman, Jaelyn Young. In a tell-all interview that he granted CNN from prison he described Jaelyn as a “beautiful” woman who was “bright, intelligent, open-minded”. He explained those are the attributes he finds attractive in a woman.
Jaelyn told Muhammad she wanted to convert to Islam and not long after they became couple, she did. He referred to her conversion as “a big surprise for me.” But that was not the only thing that surprised him. According to Muhammad she decided on her own to start wearing “full hijab or niqab”.
In hindsight Muhammad now feels those changes were too rapid but says the love he had for her blinded out his intelligence and reasoning. Jaelyn is thought to be radicalised while learning about her new religion and started showing Muhammad ISIS videos and “historical struggles in Middle East.” Eventually she convinced him and they began communicating with ISIS. Muhammad told them “I’m good with computers, I’m good with I.T., I can help here.”
Muhammad and Jaelyn secretly got married and made plans to travel to Syria. Jaelyn then reached out to a contact to help them travel to Turkey and from there cross into Syria and join ISIS. Good to go on August 8, 2015, Muhammad left a note for his family “I’m sorry. I love you. I’ve decided to leave. I won’t be coming back.” He also urged them not to look for him. That was how he abandoned his family and especially his mother who was battling cancer and headed to the airport with his wife.
But little did they know that the contact Jaelyn reached out to was an FBI agent. On getting to the boarding gate at the airport they were both arrested. They both pleaded guilty when charged and were sentenced in August. As the mastermind of the plot Jaelyn was sentenced to 12 years. While Muhammad was sentenced to 8 years.
Muhammad now claims his intention was never to take part in jihad or commit violence but to help out Muslims, help rebuild towns and help the needy. He’s not bitter but thankful he never made it to Syria, as there is a good chance he would be dead by now. He still remains a devout Muslim.
However, on ISIS Muhammad said “they have a lack of understanding of Islam, because the main focus of Islam is peace”. He regretted not reaching out “to the Muslim community.” Or even his dad who he said is very knowledgeable not only in Islam but Middle Eastern politics.
He also has another regret. One he said “still haunts me to this day” and that’s abandoning his dying mother to travel with a woman “that I’ve only been together with for under a year”. He described his mother as “always been supportive throughout my life”. His mother lost her battle to cancer earlier this year. Only God knows how long Muhammad will be haunted by his mother’s demise.