The Guardian reported that Harith, who was interrogated at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for over two years but was later released, came from a “normal Jamaican family” who believed in “the church of God,” according to his cousin, Trevor Fiddler.
“His dad is very sick now and we all couldn’t quite believe it when we heard it last night,” Fiddler said of news that Harith had joined IS and is now dead.
Born as Ronald Fiddler in Manchester, England, to devout churchgoing parents from Jamaica, he converted to Islam in his 20s, and began traveling to a number of Muslim countries.
The IS militant was found by U.S. special forces in a jail in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in January 2002 where he argued that he was not a terrorist, but an innocent victim.
Fiddler revealed that at first, his family believed him and thought he was being held in Guantanamo unlawfully. Now, however, they are putting the pieces together and figuring out they might have been deceived of his true intentions all along.
“I was surprised when he went that way as the rest of us are all Christians,” the cousin said of Harith’s conversion to Islam. “He was just a bit of a silly boy. There was never anything mentally wrong with him — the only thing I can think is that he was brainwashed.”
Speaking of his detention and interrogation, Fiddler added: “We never thought he should have been in America in the first place. We all believed him and thought he was telling the truth to us. But now we think he must have been lying and must have been training the whole time for this. It was all a lie.”
While Harith’s family is left with unanswered questions as to why he decided to join IS and give his life to the jihadist cause, other captured IS militants have separately shared their stories of why they made that decision.
CNN interviewed three former IS militants in November 2016, with one of the men, Abdelrahman al-Azy, admitting that he was brainwashed into carrying out murders.
“I was a believer. I believed in the caliphate and I believed in the Islamic State,” al-Azy said. “They said the pledge to the caliph is from the days of the [Islamic] prophet [Muhammad] and those who don’t pledge are not Muslims. I was convinced by this.”
Akram Ahmed, a 22-year-old who did reconnaissance and surveillance for IS, revealed that at first he was attracted by the idea of a nation ruled by the laws of Islam.
“The caliphate persuaded us with religion. I am a student of Sharia law in university. So these ideas are convincing to me,” he said at the time.