Moeed Abdul Salam didn’t descend into radical Islam for lack of other options. He grew up in a well-off Texas household, attended a pricey boarding school and graduated from one of the state’s most respected universities.
But the most unlikely thing about his recruitment was his family: Two generations had spent years promoting interfaith harmony and combating Muslim stereotypes in their hometown and even on national television.
Salam rejected his relatives’ moderate faith and comfortable life, choosing instead a path that led him to work for al-Qaida. His odyssey ended late last year in a middle-of-the-night explosion in Pakistan. The 37-year-old father of four was dead after paramilitary troops stormed his apartment.
Officers said Salam committed suicide with a grenade. An Islamic media group said the troops killed him.
Salam’s Nov. 19 death went largely unnoticed in the U.S. and rated only limited attention in Pakistan. But the circumstances threatened to overshadow the work of an American family devoted to religious understanding. And his mysterious evolution presented a reminder of the attraction Pakistan still holds for Islamic militants, especially well-educated Westerners whose Internet and language skills make them useful converts for jihad.
“There are things that we don’t want to happen but we have to accept, things that we don’t want to know but we have to learn, and a loved one we can’t live without but have to let go,” Salam’s mother, Hasna Shaheen Salam, wrote last month on her Facebook page.
The violence didn’t stop after Salam died. Weeks after his death, fellow militants killed three soldiers with a roadside bomb to avenge the raid.
It is not clear to what extent Salam’s family knew of his radicalism, but on his Facebook page the month before he died, he posted an image of Anwar al-Awalki, the American al-Qaida leader who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, beside a burning American flag. He had also recently linked to a document praising al-Awalki’s martyrdom and to a message urging Muslims to rejoice “in this time when you see the mujahideen all over the world victorious.”