Nov 21, 2016

Teacher Recalls Men Before They Were Radicalized

November 21, 2016

Nine Somali members of a Minneapolis terror cell are in federal custody.

They were sentenced last week. Most of the young men face years of prison ahead of them.
When the judge sentenced them, he told the courtroom he wants the community to know how the men ended up on the track to terrorism.
It was devastating for teacher Angie Nastrom to turn on her tv and see mug shots of her former students plastered on her screen.
But it was only after she heard one of them, Adnan Farah, in the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Teen to Terrorist series, that she reached out.

She had a story to tell of how the seeds of radicalization started for her former students started at a segregated school when they were just boys.

Every step in school is a lesson that isn’t always in the books.
“I could walk through middle school and tell you who is on a path of destruction and who is not,” said Nastrom.
Sixteen years as a teacher taught Nastrom a thing or two about kids.
Her experience with immigrant families laid the groundwork when she walked through the door at Heritage Academy which is 99 percent Somali.
“I had a lot of misconceptions about Islam,” said Nastrom. “Like a lot of people (I thought) it was a cult or a religion of violence.”
She says the children and their parents taught her about the real Islam or peace, charity, generosity and faith.
They taught her the cultural chasms children live in.
“They are in between two cultures and they haven’t figured out how to bridge the cap and there’s no good educational course that says this is how you bridge the gap between your parents and you,” said Nastrom.
She didn’t know the children falling through the gap would become part of the largest and most significant ISIS recruiting terrorist cell in the country.
“It horrified me,” said Nastrom. “To think this is in Minnesota, to think ISIS can reach that far around the world.”
Nastrom’s former students pleaded guilty or were convicted of conspiring to help ISIS.
They are now serving between 10 to 35 years in prison.
She hadn’t talked to the boys in a few years.
Nastrom remember Adnan Farah’s brother Mohamed and Abdulahi Daud in a graduation video.
Nastrom says the segregation at Heritage Academy pushed out other voices in the boys’ lives.
“They didn’t know who to ask,” said Nastrom. “They had nobody to bounce ideas off of.”
She says they became more secretive.
She believes Adnan and the other boys started watching ISIS recruiting videos when they were around 13.
Nastrom says the boys got away with it.
Their parents didn’t always understand English.
Their teachers didn’t understand Somali.
“I could tell when the boys wanted to talk about something they didn’t want me to know,” said Nastrom. “They didn’t want me to know they’d switch to talking in Arabic.”
She says Adnan’s mother was a force as a parent volunteer.
Nastrom knew the identity crisis the boys were having in middle school would follow them to high school.
“I feel like a failure as a teacher that I didn’t reach them and help them see all white people hate Somali people,” said Nastrom. “I feel that’s what all this has festered from.”
Nastrom believes more children like Adnan and his friends are already in the pipeline of radicalization.
“I know how hurtful it is to be the other and how much eats away at your soul to have somebody look at you like your less than,” said Nastrom.
Reaching a child who feels left out in the rough winds of acceptance could be the step to stop a terrorist in training.

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