By Jazmine Ulloa
Rahatul Khan, his friends and family say, did not have a bad bone in his body.
He was a tall 19-year-old with serious eyes, an aspiring lawyer who studied government at the University of Texas, and who was known for his compassion and intellectual curiosity.
At charity events, Khan pushed his father to stay a little longer and give a little more. At his North Austin mosque, he often set up tables and supervised the younger children. And when his mother was about to quit her job as a psychiatrist at Fort Hood, burned out from a long commute and the weight of other people’s pain, it was Khan who encouraged her to keep going, she said, reminding her the soldiers needed her help.
But online Khan was a different person. The sharp and ruthless “AuthenticTauheed19.” Working with co-conspirators overseas through a website that served as a pulpit for radical ideologue Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, Khan recruited followers to jihadi armies abroad.
His case was one of the first to spark an investigation in Texas into online radicalization, a form of indoctrination, to commit violence in the name of terrorist groups and militant organizations. What lured Khan down the path to extremism is a question law enforcement officials and political analysts are still struggling to unravel. In the digital age, where a message of hate can travel from one part of the world to another in a matter of seconds, the phenomenon is growing and the consequences chilling.
Photo by Claire Osborne