OKLAHOMA CITY — Government officials have arrested and charged dozens of American citizens for attempting to join or conspire to join ISIS.
But no other case is more bizarre than that of Muhammad Dakhlalla and his wife Jaelyn Young, the newlywed couple who was stopped dead in their tracks at the airport before their “honeymoon,” where they allegedly planned to fly to Syria to join ISIS.
In an exclusive interview with CNN in federal prison where he is serving an eight year sentence, Dakhlalla, 24, born and raised in Mississippi, alleged that his girlfriend-turned wife’s fascination with Islam and radicalism led him down the wrong path.
Young is serving the harsher sentence–12 years in prison–for being the mastermind behind the plot.
Dakhlalla is the youngest of four brothers and has both Muslim and non-Muslim friends.
He dated very little and had few girlfriends until his senior year at Mississippi State. There, he met and fell for Young, a sophomore studying chemistry who in high school was an honors student and cheerleader.
“In the beginning of my senior year I met this lady,” Dakhlalla said, recalling his strong feelings for her.
“She was beautiful and things like that,” he said, “but also another thing that I find attractive in a woman is one who’s, you know, bright, intelligent, open-minded. And that’s how I got to know her a bit. We started hanging out. She not only was interested in me, but she had told me prior to us being together that she was interested in Islam.”
His father, Oda, is an imam, who originally hailed from Bethlehem in the West Bank before settling decades ago in Mississippi.
Mo’s father, along with his mother, Lisa, a New Jersey-born woman who converted to Islam, helped found and build the Islamic Center of Mississippi in Starkville.
Not long after they became a couple, Young converted to Islam, and it was a complete surprise to Dakhlalla.
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