The online activity of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect, reveals a fascination with militancy and Islam, including an Australian preacher named Feiz Mohammad whose life has some interesting parallels to the bomber.
While it remains unclear to what degree Tsarnaev was influenced or radicalized by any of the materials he was viewing online, he apparently added at least two videos of Feiz Mohammad, who is known for his extreme anti-West views, to his YouTube channel.
Mohammad, who blames non-Muslims in the West for Muslim victimhood and has glorified “martyrdom,” has a large collection of English-language Islamic lectures available online. In a video posted to YouTube in 2007, he claims that Muslims today are not sufficiently dedicated to martyrdom and therefore are “the most humiliated nation on the face of this earth.” He adds, “It is not as appealing as it was to those ancestors — the great warriors.”
In a lecture posted on YouTube in December 2010, he teaches his students that followers of other sects of Islam, such as Sufi Muslims and Shite Muslims, are not true Muslims and according to Islamic law deserve execution.
In addition to promoting militant themes, Mohammad seeks to appeal to a younger generation of Muslim immigrants by sharing his personal story as a lost young immigrant who found an identity by strictly adhering to Islam.
Several of his lectures focus on warning Muslims living in the West of the dangers of adopting the lifestyle of non-Muslim Westerners. In a lecture posted on YouTube in April 2012, he warns Muslims against loving non-Muslims or befriending them: “Isn’t this why we are a slave by them [non-Muslims]? Because we are loving their ways, we are mixing in their ways. We are being a Kafir [infidel] ourselves by enjoying their lifestyles.”
An interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev published while he was training for the 2009 Golden Gloves boxing competition revealed Tamerlan’s difficulty assimilating into American culture. He is quoted in the interview saying, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”
Like Tsarnaev, Mohammad’s family emigrated from a war-torn country. Mohammad’s family immigrated to Australia from Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Also like Tsarnaev, Feiz Mohammad spent his teenage years boxing, which he later denounced. The names he acquired as a boxer included “Frank the Killer” and “The Beast.”
At the age of 19, Mohammad reportedly decided to embrace a conservative form of religious teachings known as Salafism and became popular among the Salafist groups in Sydney. After pursuing an Islamic education in Medina, Saudi Arabia, he returned to Australia. He then founded the “Global Islamic Youth Centre” (GIYC) and opened a Madrassah, a traditional Islamic religious school.