This piece originally ran on Al Jazeera America.
Adel Daoud is no Ferris Bueller.
A Chicago suburban teen, he couldn’t drive himself to the Jewel Osco grocery store down the street without getting lost, let alone pull a Bueller and hoodwink his parents into letting him have the day off school. He is a D student and forgetful in the extreme. “He’s not a person with a complete mind,” his mother told me.
Yet the FBI began targeting Daoud as a terrorist mastermind shortly after his 18th birthday. At the time the FBI began its sting operation, Daoud wasn’t part of a terrorist cell, nor was any group recruiting him. He was, though, on the Internet, looking for answers about Islam and jihad. At home and at his local mosque, the Muslim teen was told that jihad was nonviolent: It meant supporting your family by being a good son. FBI undercover employees, finding Daoud online, did not affirm that message. Instead, they worked with Daoud, ultimately driving him to downtown Chicago to detonate a weapon of mass destruction outside a bar.
Chicago’s Muslim communities were stunned by the Daoud’s arrest in September 2012. For many, the first question was why. Why target as a terrorist-in-waiting a teen who was plainly incapable of planning and conducting a terrorist attack? The second question was one of fear: Will my child be the FBI’s next target?
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