The two high school buddies loved to shoot hoops and crack jokes with their friends. They both converted to Islam in early adulthood. And both were recruited by terror groups to leave the United States and die for jihadist causes.It doesn't make much sense, really. Most of the kids who go to Cooper come from middle class backgrounds and while the Robbinsdale school district isn't nearly as wealthy as neighboring Wayzata, it's mostly a stable place, hardly the milieu you'd expect to produce jihadis.
It wasn't immediately clear how Douglas McAuthur McCain and Troy Kastigar were drawn into radicalism after their initial conversion to the Muslim faith or whether they might have influenced one another along the way. But the two best friends went down similar paths and met the same end.
Both young men attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School in the Minneapolis suburb of New Hope. Kastigar was in the class of 1999, though he left school in February of that year without a diploma, according to school records. McCain went to Robbinsdale from 1997 to 1999, before transferring to nearby Armstrong High School. He did not graduate either.
Then again, maybe it's precisely the place. I've referenced Eric Hoffer's brilliant book The True Believer many times before and in this instance it's as spot-on as ever. When you see jihadis beheading infidels, you are seeing something that Hoffer explains quite well:
Passionate hatreds can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.Radical Islam is, more than anything, a mass movement, promising glory and greater meaning than one can find in a middle-class suburb. If you don't find meaning in your life, the call of jihad might be powerful. You are part of something larger and more glorious than shooting hoops on the playground and joking around. Jihad can give meaning to a life that seems bereft of it. Back to Hoffer:
Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.It's not particularly surprising that the jihadis find potential converts in places like New Hope, Minnesota. If you have time on your hands but no particular purpose in your life, jihad can fill your days. If you're truly poor, in most instances you don't have time to dwell on your circumstances, because your focus and your energies go to staying alive. Kastigar's mother sums up the motivation well:
Kastigar's mother, Julie, did not come to the door when visited Wednesday by an Associated Press reporter, and she declined to comment on Thursday. In an interview with the New York Daily News, she described both young men as "sort of searching."We all want to be needed, to be of value. If you don't sense you have value in the community you call home, there will always be those who are happy to enlist you into their cause.
"I think both of them had a really strong desire to be needed and (be) of value," the paper quoted her as saying.