Family Suggests Tamerlan Was Influenced By Mystery Radical

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 23 2013 5:46 PM

Family Suggests Tamerlan Was Influenced By Mystery Radical, Conspiracy Website

167006479
Tamerlan Tsarnaev (L) gave up boxing because of the influence of a mystery radical, according to several of his family members

Photo by Glenn DePriest/Getty Images

Government officials who are speaking with reporters off-the-record today about what exactly Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is telling investigators from his hospital bed have suggested that the 19-year-old Boston bombing suspect and his elder brother, Tamerlan, were largely "self-radicalized" through Internet sites and their interpretation of U.S. actions in the Muslim world. While that may be true, the Associated Press does a little digging and discovers that the elder Tsarnaev may have had some help transitioning into the extremist his brother and others say he was:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.
Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world. "Somehow, he just took his brain," said Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who recalled conversations with Tamerlan's worried father about Misha's influence.
Advertisement

The AP wasn't able to track down the mystery man in question, and it remains unclear if the FBI is on the case or not. But based on the AP's reporting—which is supported by on-the-record interviews with both Tamerlan's uncle and former brother-in-law—Misha appears to have played a large role in Tamerlan's apparent religious transformation. According to Tamerlan's family, the elder Tsarnaev brother rarely discussed religion or visited a mosque until 2008 or 2009, when he met Misha, described in the AP's words as "a slightly older, heavyset bald man with a long reddish beard" and "an Armenian native and a convert to Islam." From then on, it was all Misha, all the time, as far as Tamerlan was concerned. "I heard about nobody else but this convert," his uncle said. "The seed for changing his views was planted right there in Cambridge."

From there, however, the narrative presented to the AP begins to catchup with the self-radicalization being suggested by federal sources. According to his brother-in-law, Tamerlan more recently turned to the Internet, where he took an interest in InfoWars—a conspiracy theory website that has since suggested that the Boston bombing was a "false flag" operation—and attempted to find a copy of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic work claiming a Jewish plot to take over the world. Federal officials, meanwhile, say that the brothers got instructions on how to build bombs from an online magazine published by al-Qaida.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.