UK newspapers are reporting that a young British man, who has been found guilty of plotting to behead a soldier, was radicalized into Islamic extremism after being kicked out of his home by his Jehovah’s Witness parents.
Brusthom Ziamani, from Camberwell in South London, was raised by Congolese parents. His mother is a nursery nurse, and his father a psychiatric nurse. In his hearing at the Old Bailey it emerged that the 19-year-old had a “strict religious upbringing” against which he rebelled, getting involved in boxing, parkour and rap music. He also began stealing credit cards and went to a “play house” to have sex with prostitutes.
But Ziamani claims it was his love of rap music that drew him towards Islam. He converted in the Spring of 2014 and would hide his Islamic robes from his father when he went home. But after his father found images of people in Islamic clothing on his phone he was confronted, at which point his father is alleged to have thrown a bible at him.
Given an ultimatum to either stay and abide by the family’s rules or leave home in pursuit of his newfound faith, Ziamani chose the latter option. He thereafter found himself sleeping at a flat that served as a focal point for members of the banned group Al-Muhajiroun who were followers of Anjem Choudary – a hate cleric.
Things quickly escalated from there, and Ziamani was radicalized into extremist ideology within weeks. He came to idolize the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby, a British soldier who was beheaded in a gruesome attack on the streets of London in May 2013. He was stopped while on his way to carry out a similar atrocity after he showed his weapons to his ex-girlfriend and told her of his plans.
Few people are aware that shunning of people who leave the faith is an intrinsic element of life as a Jehovah’s Witness – even if the “apostate” happens to be a member of your own family. Witness parents are repeatedly coerced in Watchtower literature to believe that casting out their wayward children is a loving form of discipline. But in this case, it would seem that the severing of family bonds through shunning has had an unintended and devastating consequence – that of sending an impressionable young man into the arms of extremists.