In 2009, Ruslan Tsarni and his nephew Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a bitter argument over the implications of their faith. Tsarnaev announced he had chosen “God’s business” over work or school. “I was shocked when I heard his words, his phrases, when every other word he starts sticking in words of God,” says Tsarni. “There is someone who brainwashed him, some new convert to Islam.” The falling out ended their relationship.
This was more than a family disagreement. It is a debate being conducted, in various forms, in Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Caucasus, the Palestinian territories and other places. Over the past several decades, traditional forms of Islam have been challenged by radical variants, which often latch onto ethnic and tribal resentments. Disaffected, angry young men can be particularly receptive, causing turmoil in families, mosques, regions and countries.