Social outcast dating
That account, in the year leading up to her departure, telegraphed a growing fascination and alignment with the brutal terror group’s ideology.
Like Muthana, I’m extremely online and I understand the kind of influence communities on the internet can have on people searching for purpose and connection that’s missing from their lives.
She wrote that they were about to burn them in a bonfire.
In the following weeks, Muthana began tweeting about her life and encouraged others to make the journey — which she, like many other ISIS members, referred to as a hijrah, meaning pilgrimage or immigration — and join the terror group themselves.
She has become a symbol of a new debate about the young people — and, in particular, the women — who were radicalized by ISIS. And more broadly, in this age of online radicalization, who has traveled beyond redemption? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know Muthana better than most of the reporters asking them.
I have spent nearly four years tracking Muthana, who fled her Hoover, Alabama, home in 2014 to join ISIS in Syria, across various social media platforms and communicating with her in private messages while she was a member of the brutal terror group.
With a chatty ease, Muthana tweeted for her Muslim “sisters” in the US to join her in Syria and denounced her own father on Instagram.
She shared photos claiming ISIS provided her with lavish apartments and powerful weapons.
At the time, Muthana was a curiosity, a shy American college girl turned “ISIS bride.” Now, she’s sitting in a Kurdish refugee camp with her son, Adam, who will turn 2 soon, begging to return to her homeland, the United States.
After seeing this smiling girl, I couldn’t help but have a natural curiosity about what made her the way she became.
I flew to Hoover, Alabama, attended Friday prayers at her mosque, talked to her friends, visited her college campus, and, finally, earned the trust of her father.
When Muthana resurfaced earlier this year in the refugee camp, telling reporters she was wrong to join ISIS and that she now wants to return, several media outlets accompanied their stories with a handful of her old tweets calling for violence against Americans.
But her social media footprint is actually more vast and troubling, and I am reporting it here for the first time, and publishing alongside this story my archive of four years of Muthana's life as she presented it on social media.