My Neighbor the Terrorist: A Bizarro Cinderella Story
It’s a Bizarro Cinderella story. Nineteen-year-old Colorado girl, Shannon Conley, meets thirty-two year old Tunisian terrorist online. He asks her to marry him. She enthusiastically accepts and allegedly pledges to devote her life, (between most likely having innumerable babies), to using her nursing skills to bring wounded terrorists back to health.
There’s only one little hitch. This April, the U.S. Marshals showed up at Denver International Airport and arrested Miss Conley before she could hop aboard a jet bound for the Middle East.
Miss Conley lived only a few miles down the road from me. She attended our local high schools, (3 of them before dropping out for a GED), and briefly attended Faith Bible Church, which I drive by every day. Despite her rocky high school years, she ended up at a private university, Regis, and was working as a certified nurse aide. Not bad for a nineteen-year-old in this economy.
How does a local girl born and raised in normalcy start ranting about terrorism? U.S. Marshals laid the transformation at the feet of radical Islam. In a series of meetings with Miss Conley, Marshals tried to dissuade her from terrorism. Accordingly, they asked her to speak with her local mosque and have the elders there teach her about why terrorism is not commanded by the Qur’an.
Miss Conley doesn’t seem to have been interested in speaking with the Mosque elders. (She admitted the only things she knew about Islam were learned online.) Instead, despite having converted to Islam, she hung out at Faith Bible Church. People there thought she was trying to blow the place up. According to her, she first went there to learn about Christianity and then had fun scaring them.
Admittedly, Faith Bible Church, and all the churches in my community, are a bit on the jumpy side as far as security goes. I remember first attending church in Arvada in 2011 and noticing that an off-duty cop sat in the back every Sunday. My eyes widened when I learned he had a concealed gun on his person. The vigilance is because of a sad shooting incident that occurred at a local church-affiliated function in 2007.
Since Miss Conley barely even went to Mosque services yet transformed from regular Colorado girl to radical Muslim in six months, did she really get deceived by violent religious ideas? Is her flight into terrorism actually a result of religious indoctrination? I doubt it. I think her case has more in common with domestic violence victims.
The abuser engages in mind control to get his victim to follow his every whim. Miss Conley was even willing to kill her own countrymen for her fiancé. Yet, Miss Conley said she didn’t want to kill anyone personally. She preferred to nurse the terrorists back to health. Terrorists enjoy killing people; abused women blindly serve their man.
Miss Conley seems more concerned about pleasing Terrorist Fiancé than following Islam. According to Islam, you need the father’s permission to marry. Miss Conley’s dad was wise enough to give an emphatic “no” when Terrorist Fiancé skyped him to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Yet, far from being bound by religious conviction, Miss Conley shrugged that off to fly to meet Terrorist Fiancé anyway.
Abusive men are notorious liars. Miss Conley said nothing of Terrorist Fiancé having other wives. But the Qur’an allows four wives (plus raping female slaves). Do you really think a notorious terrorist made it to age thirty-two without taking any other wives?
Some papers are complaining about Miss Conley’s imprisonment saying, how can you punish someone for a crime they haven’t committed yet? While being in jail isn’t pleasant, the U.S. Marshals rescued Miss Conley. Radical Muslims take the Quranic command to beat your wife very literally. Add emotional abuse to that equation, and a woman can’t even leave the house without her husband’s permission.
Miss Conley might have had honeymoon visions of romance, but in reality she was in for a nasty fate. Despite embracing radical Islam, she wouldn’t have been able to erase the self-respect she was raised with in only six months. Many of the abuses the other women in the camp would have been used to, (imprisonment in the house, husbandly beatings, unwanted polygamy and a cheating husband), Miss Conley would have rebelled against. This “rebellion” would have given Terrorist Fiancé even more reason to beat her, starve her, or worse.
Miss Conley is in an American jail where she’s not getting beaten, is served three meals a day, and can read and pursue some educational interests. The reason the U.S. Marshals found her before she got on the plane, (i.e. the reason she is in jail right now), is because her dad called the Marshals. Dads don’t call the police on their little girls to save the nation. Dads call the police on their daughter when they think the alternative would hurt their girl more.
Miss Conley might hate the U.S. Marshals or be furious at her parents right now, but they saved her life. Terrorist Fiancé would have treated her much worse.
So this is my advice to the U.S. Marshals. What Miss Conley needs is not a moderate Imam speaking to her about Islam. What she needs is an experienced counselor telling her about the warning signs and mind control tactics in an abusive relationship.
Anne Garboczi Evans holds a Master’s in Counseling and specializes in working with domestic violence victims and teenage moms. She is also an author with Hartline Literary Agency and is currently working on a world religions book entitled, No Fear: My Tale of Hijabs, Witchcraft Circles, and the Cross.