The 23-year-old Nigerian man accused of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an American airliner apparently turned to the Internet for counseling and companionship, writing in an online forum that he was “lonely” and had “never found a true Muslim friend.”
“I have no one to speak too [sic],” read a posting from January 2005, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was attending boarding school. “No one to consult, no one to support me and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do. And then I think this loneliness leads me to other problems.”
The Washington Post reviewed 300 online postings under the name “farouk1986" (a combination of Abdulmutallab’s middle name and birth year). The postings mused openly about love and marriage, his college ambitions and angst over standardized testing, as well as his inner struggle as a devout Muslim between liberalism and extremism.
In often-intimate writings, posted between 2005 and 2007, he sought friends online, through Facebook and in Islamic chat rooms: “My name is Umar but you can call me Farouk.”
A U.S. government official said late Tuesday that federal intelligence officials were reviewing the online postings but had not independently confirmed their authenticity. Many of the biographical details in the writings, however, match up with facts already known about Abdulmutallab.
All of the postings are on the Islamic Forum website gawaher.com.
Farouk1986 wrote often of the college admissions process, once describing his plans to study engineering at Stanford University, UC Berkeley or Caltech. But he also wrote of his disappointment in scoring a 1,200 on the SAT. “I tried the SAT,” he wrote in March 2005. “It was a disaster!!!”
As a student at the British boarding school in Togo, Farouk1986 wrote that he was lonely because there were few other Muslims.
“I’m active, I socialize with everybody around me, no conflicts, I laugh and joke but not excessively,” he wrote in one posting seeking counseling from online peers. “I will describe myself as very ambitious and determined, especially in the deen. I strive to live my daily live [sic] according to the quran and sunnah to the best of my ability. I do almost everything, sports, TV, books . . . (of course trying not to cross the limits in the deen).”
The deen is a religious way of life.
In the January 2005 posting about loneliness, Farouk1986 wrote about the tension between desire and his religious duty of “lowering the gaze” in the presence of women. “The Prophet(s) advised young men to fast if they can’t get married but it has not been helping me much and I seriously don’t want to wait for years before I get married,” he wrote.
He also wrote of his “dilemma between liberalism and extremism” as a Muslim. “The Prophet(s) said religion is easy and anyone who tries to overburden themselves will find it hard and will not be able to continue,” he wrote in 2005. “So anytime I relax, I deviate sometimes and then when I strive hard, I get tired of what I am doing i.e. memorising the quran, etc. How should one put the balance right?”
The youngest of 16 children and the son of the second of his father’s two wives, Abdulmutallab was raised in Kaduna, a city in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north.
At boarding school, Abdulmutallab was easygoing and studious, earning the sobriquet “Alfa,” a local term for Muslim clerics, due to his penchant for preaching Islam to colleagues, according to family members.
“Farouk was a devoted Muslim who took his religion seriously and was committed to his studies,” an uncle said. “He was such a brilliant boy and nobody in the family had the slightest thought he could do something as insane as this.”