The Twitterverse has spoken: Emma Green's in-depth Atlantic piece detailing "How Two Mississippi College Students Fell in Love and Decided to Join a Terrorist Group" is "amazing journalism."
As Tony the Tiger might say, it's grrrrreat!
What can I add to all of the above?
Not a whole lot, except for this: Amen!
The story hooks the reader from the beginning as it describes the couple's plans to travel to Turkey and then Syria. At the end of the first section comes the kicker — the sudden twist around which the rest of this magnificent, heartbreaking story revolves:
The reporting is deep and nuanced — enhanced by crucial interviews with friends and relatives and close inspections of court records and federal investigators' practices.
Green, a Godbeat specialist, blends a religion writer's sensitivity to the complexities of faith with an investigative reporter's dedication to pulling back every layer of the onion to uncover the truth.
Readers learn how a young Christian woman raised in a church where her mother teaches Sunday school converted to Islam and quickly became radicalized. Readers also learn how a young Muslim man who "went through the motions of religious ritual" but "was not particularly devout" married that young woman and became fascinated, like his new wife, with the Islamic State.
Just a small section of that journey that eventually caught the FBI's attention:
That spring—it’s not clear exactly when or why—Jaelyn started watching videos featuring Anjem Choudary, the British extremist imprisoned in 2016 for swearing an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State. Friends say she started asking questions about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and circulated an article claiming Muslims were supposed to pledge allegiance to the caliphate. She downloaded at least one issue of Dabiq, ISIS's online propaganda magazine. Moe joined in: He allegedly downloaded the organization’s guide to making the trip overseas and started watching the videos with Jaelyn. In one clip the couple viewed, ISIS threw a man, presumed to be gay, from the roof of a building.
There's much more — too much for me to attempt to describe or copy or paste into this post. But suffice it to say that Green avoids the simple "Islam is peaceful" or "Islam is violent" generalizations that sometimes afflict media reports. Instead, her meticulous reporting and precise details illustrate that there is, in fact, no single Islam. As regular GetReligion readers know, that's a point we repeatedly emphasize here.
Rather than attempt to come up with another superlative to characterize Green's story, I'll stop typing and simply urge you to read it.