The mom of a suburban teenager accused of attempting to join ISIS in Syria has told terrorist recruiters to “Leave our children alone!”
Tearful Bolingbrook mom Zarine Khan made her demand Tuesday morning, after her 19-year-old son Mohammed Hamzah Khan entered a not guilty plea to charges of providing support to terrorism.
The teen was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in October as he allegedly tried to travel to the Middle East with two younger siblings. His mom — a devout Muslim — said on Tuesday that he was the victim of “brainwashing” by online radical jihadist rhetoric.
Visibly emotional, she said her family “felt compelled” to speak out against terrorism after the “unspeakable acts of horror perpetrated by the recruiters for jihadist groups in the name of Islam” in Paris last week.
A total of 17 victims were killed in the attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market in France.
Zarine Khan, who was supported by her husband, Shafi Khan, in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, said, “The venom spewed by these groups and the violence committed by them find no support in the Koran and are completely at odds with our Islamic faith.
“We condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms. We condemn the brutal tactics of ISIS and groups like it. And we condemn the brainwashing and the recruiting of children through the use of social media and Internet.”
She concluded by personally calling out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“We have a message for ISIS, Mr. Baghdadi and his fellow social media recruiters,” she said. “Leave our children alone!”
Her son’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, said there was no doubt that Mohammed Hamzah Khan had been radicalized online before he was arrested at O’Hare.
The feds say that following the arrest, they found doodled drawings of the ISIS flag in a notebook at Khan’s home and a letter he left his parents, urging them not to turn him in.
Khan learned of the Paris attacks while being held at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, Durkin said. He was told in advance of his court hearing Tuesday that his parents would be making a strong statement against the Paris attacks.
Durkin said that he did not care whether his client supported his mother’s statement, but added, “that is not how he was raised.”
He described Khan as “intelligent” and said Khan would still like to live in an Islamic caliphate, though he pointed out that many Muslim scholars do not believe ISIS is a legitimate caliphate.
Khan, who spoke during a brief court hearing Tuesday only to wish the judge a good morning, is next due in court March 3. It remains unclear whether his two teenage siblings, aged 16 and 17, will also eventually be charged.