CAIRO — Al Mu’tasim Billah, Sufyan al Omari and Omar al Masri are 21-year-old students at Cairo’s al Azhar University, the oldest and most prestigious institute of Sunni Islamic learning in the world. But none of them is planning to graduate. Al Mu’tasim Billah – the name means “he who seeks Allah” – traveled to Syria six months ago to join the Islamic State. Al Omari wants to follow as soon as possible. Al Masri is looking closer to home: He hopes to join Wilayat Sina, an extremist group in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. The names are not real. They are the noms de guerre the men have chosen for their new lives as holy warriors. And that, they say, is the logical consequence of the education they received at al Azhar. “The Islamic State is only putting into practice what we have been taught by al Azhar,” said al Omari. “It is doing what people always hoped al Azhar would do one day if they were not a mouthpiece of the ruling regime.” In a world where the Obama administration, its allies in the Arab world and counterterrorism officials everywhere are searching to understand how Muslim youth become radicalized, it is possible, many say, to look no further than al Azhar, whose influence spreads far beyond its Cairo campus.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment