ISIS and the horrible acts it commits have been very hot topics in the news as of late, but the terrorist group is nearly always viewed from an outsider’s perspective. Just yesterday, however, NBC’s Nightly News With Lester Holt aired an unprecedented interview with a NYC man who actually stepped into the belly of the beast by joining ISIS for five months.
The man said that his decision to join ISIS, though short-lived, was “obviously the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
The ISIS member-turned-informant, who preferred to go unnamed and asked to be referred to as “Mo,” is a Muslim graduate of Columbia university who grew up in New York.
Mo said that he had joined ISIS willingly after being duped by ISIS online propaganda promising a pure Islamic state.
“I lost sight of how people could be so evil,” Mo said.
He recounted one of his first indoctrination sessions in the Syrian ISIS camp to which he was assigned, in which a senior ISIS member showed off a suicide vest to new recruits. Most of the other recruits, who were on-board with ISIS and its terrorist activities, admired the belt, which they were not allowed to try on.
“People were gravitating towards it, touching it like it’s an exhibit, and people were just in awe of it,” Mo told the network.
Meanwhile, Mo’s own stomach was churning.
He says he had not planned on becoming a terrorist when he joined ISIS — presumably, the organization did not have the widespread awareness it does today — and that his membership with ISIS, which he was quickly realizing was a “death cult,” was a “misunderstanding.”
But the ISIS suicide belt was far from the worst of what Mo witnessed during his time with ISIS, he continued.
“At one point towards the end as things were getting more and more serious, I did see severed heads placed on spiked poles. Like a lot of things, I just blocked it out.”
If it wasn’t clear before, sights like that made Mo realize his ISIS “superiors” were absolutely insane – and definitely not people with whom he should be associating.
“You could see madness in their eyes,” he claims.
Mo wanted out of ISIS, but he also learned that once someone is admitted into ISIS, they cannot just leave. Because of that fact, he said, he had to stage an extremely risky escape from the ISIS camp in the dead of night back in the fall of 2014.
He made his way from the Syrian ISIS encampment to the closest U.S. embassy, located in Turkey, a journey which Mo recalls was a heart-pounding experience, during which he was constantly afraid of being recaptured and killed by ISIS forces.
“It was a tremendous relief [when I arrived at the embassy],” he said.
“When I got to the door of the consulate, I literally just banged on the door and I’m like, ‘Let me in!’”
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara has warned its citizens of threats by terrorist groups in Turkey on May 19. pic.twitter.com/W48XXeSDdv— ÇapaMagENG (@CapaMagENG) May 18, 2016
But even after he was safely out of ISIS’s control, Mo’s hardships were far from over. He was a criminal, after all, and as soon as he set foot at his arrival gate in the United States, he was slapped in handcuffs for the crime of conspiring with ISIS.
The former ISIS member is currently incarcerated based on two counts, reports the FBI: “providing material support to a terrorist organization” and “receiving military training from a terrorist organization.” Thanks to his short stint with ISIS, Mo will remain behind bars for 10 to 25 years, a time frame that may be lessened by his ongoing cooperation with the U.S. government in its war against ISIS.
Although Mo knows he will be in prison for a long time no matter what happens, he is doing his best to help bring down ISIS, the organization that stole away so many years of his life.
“I’m helping in every sense that I can to help rid the world of the evil that I saw. And it’s an arrow in my quiver every time I help.”
Above all, Mo emphasized that the insanely violent doctrine being practiced by ISIS is completely different from the Islam being practiced by roughly 1.5 billion others all over the world, most of whom hate everything ISIS stands for.
“The Islamic State [including ISIS] is not bringing Islam to the world, and people need to know that. And I’ll say that… till the day I die.”
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]