MORE

Shannon Conley, teen accused of trying to aid ISIS terror group: Her rebirth as "Slave of Allah"

Shannon Conley. More photos and a document below.
Shannon Conley. More photos and a document below.

Thus far, the photo of Shannon Conley seen above -- it's cropped from a larger family snapshot shared by her mother, Ana Conley, on Facebook -- is the only image to have surfaced since news broke that the Arvada nineteen-year-old had been arrested for trying to "provide material support and resources" to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. See the recently unsealed criminal complaint against her below.

At this writing, however, more online footprints exist, including a Facebook page in which she brands herself "Halima" Conley and lists her workplace as "Slave of Allah," plus a testimonial in which she describes how she sampled other religions before embracing Islam.

The current profile photo on the Halima Conley Facebook page.
The current profile photo on the Halima Conley Facebook page.

The Halima Conley Facebook page was created on February 16 and was active for around a month. Not every post relates to Islamic matters; there are items about abortion, misogyny and even a meme declaring that because cocoa comes from a tree, chocolate counts as salad. But a majority relate to the Islamic faith. Among them is the aforementioned "Slave of Allah" workplace note (it connects to an Islam education page of the same name), plus a link to a video entitled "Rabbi Jewish converts to Islam, but why?" and, most notably in this context, a clip about British women joining the jihad in Syria.

There's also this post, directed as Conley's sisters:

Shannon Conley, teen accused of trying to aid ISIS terror group: Her rebirth as "Slave of Allah"

In addition, the Islamic website Seeking the Truth features a testimonial written by Conley (still identifying herself as Shannon) back in October 2012. The essay traces Conley's attempts to find God through explorations of various religions -- efforts that led her to Islam. We've reproduced the entire testimonial at the end of this post, but here's an excerpt:

While flipping through channels for background noise, I happened across a show about Muslim responses to Islamophobia. Interested in anything having to do with terrorists, I decided to watch the program.

To this day, I cannot remember a word of what was said, I just remember being fed up with the constant berating of a religion that I was not informed enough about to even have an opinion on the subject! So while the program was on commercial I got up and asked my dad if I could read the family Quran again. He said yes, and I sat there in my room until the time I had to sleep, reading the Quran. And then, that same wondrous feeling that came over me at the youth conference came over me again, and I knew that Islam was my religion. Siratal mustaqim.

Now I am a Muslim, AlhamdulAllah. I have found my home, and God, in this religion and here I will stay until Allah lifts me from my grave.

Aside from the brief reference to an interest in terrorism, the essay doesn't promote violence. However, the criminal complaint against Conley maintains that she drifted in this direction over time -- and ultimately made plans to wed an alleged ISIS fighter and move to the Middle East. Continue for more about the allegations against Shannon Conley, including more images and the criminal complaint.

 

Another profile image from the Halima Conley Facebook page.
Another profile image from the Halima Conley Facebook page.

The complaint notes that Conley first came to law enforcement's attention as a result of comments she made at Arvada's Faith Bible Chapel, an institution that takes threatening talk seriously for understandable reasons.

In 2007, as you'll recall, teenager Matthew Murray killed two missionaries at the chapel as part of a spree that left a total of four people dead and several others injured in Arvada and Colorado Springs.

Here's the complaint's description of the November 2013 incident that heightened staffers' concern:

Conley was observed by staff on the FBC campus wandering around and taking notes in a notebook that appeared to FBC staff to be consistent with taking notes of various locations and the layout of the campus. Church staff confronted Conley and asked to see her notes, to which Conley refused. Conley then became confrontational with FBC staff, citing her own Islamic religious views. Conley made spontaneous statements to church staff to the effect of: "Why is the church worried about a terrorist attack?"; and, that terrorists are: "...not allowed to kill aging adults and little children."

The teenager was asked not to return to FBC and was soon being quizzed by law enforcers. The conversations continued over a series of months; here's a passage from the document that references one of them:

After a while, Conley noticed she was being followed and felt they treated her like a terrorist. Conley stated that she reasoned that, "If they think I'm a terrorist, I'll give them something to think I am." She started keeping a notebook and acted like she was diagramming the church to alarm them. After that, Conley got into an argument with the pastor and was asked to leave. Conley stated that Jihad to her is war against "kafir" (derogatory Arabic term for non-Muslims) to protect Muslim lands, although she acknowledged that Jihad can also mean internal religious struggle. When asked her opinion about harming innocent people while waging Jihad, Conley stated that it depended on the circumstance. To Conley, it is okay to harm innocents if they are part of a target. She felt that if wives, children, and chaplains visiting a military base are killed during an attack, it is acceptable because they should not have been at a legitimate target. She repeatedly referred to US military bases as "targets."
A meme from Halima Conley's Facebook page.
A meme from Halima Conley's Facebook page.

Such comments guaranteed that Conley would stay on the authorities' radar, and she did. In a later interview, she expressed interest in becoming a soldier, but "if she is not allowed to fight because she is a woman, she will use her medical training to aid Jihadi fighters. Conley is licensed as a Certified Nurse's Aide in the State of Colorado. If she cannot fight or be a nurse for Jihad, Conley stated she will assist Jihadi fighters in whatever manner is needed."

The situation went to a new level on March 14, when Conley's father, John, told a deputy U.S. marshal that Shannon had met a "new suitor" online: "a 32 year old Tunisian male" who "claimed to be in Syria fighting on behalf of 'ISIS.'" John "met" the man while Shannon was talking with him on Skype -- and she "asked for John's blessing for Conley and [deleted] to marry and for John to send Conley to Syria to marry as soon as possible."

Unsurprisingly, John turned down this request, but the rejection didn't dissuade Shannon, the complaint alleges. Early in April, she told her father "she wants to go marry a soldier," adding "that if she cannot fight, she will still be supporting his cause." He subsequently discovered that she'd purchased a ticket with which to travel from Denver International Airport to Turkey.

After John told agents about Shannon's plans, she was arrested at the airport. Found among her belongings were CDs and DVDs about Anwar al-Awlaki, an Al Qaeda leader killed in a 2011 drone strike, and "a folder of material about first aid in the field."

Shortly thereafter, Shannon was arrested for a violation of Title 18 United States Code Section 2339B, described in the document as "Provision and Attempted Provision of Material Support or Resources to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization." She's reportedly in U.S. Marshals custody facing a possible sentence of up to fifteen years in prison. Her next court appearance has not been announced.

Continue to read Shannon Conley's testimonial, a CNN report about her arrest and the criminal complaint.

 

A banner from the Seeking the Truth website.
A banner from the Seeking the Truth website.

Testimony of Shannon Conley

October 26, 2012

A year ago, I had been heading down a dangerous path of crime and drugs, but in my heart I knew it wasn't right. I knew there must be a way that I could live my life without such pain and commotion, and from what I had seen, God change people for the better. So began my search for God.

At first I could not find him; more like I could not feel him. I tried Wicca to see if I could get to Him through nature. It failed. I tried Judaism to see if I could get to Him via tradition and law. It failed. Then I tried Catholicism, the more strict of the Christian sects. Much better results.

I had signed up for a catholic youth retreat and at first the conference did not really resonate with me as a way of reaching God. But after a while, we finally got to the adoration service (where the priest puts the bread into a golden sun statue and people worship it as if it were Jesus pbuh). Some 1000 kids and I got on our knees to worship Jesus (pbuh), and while I was praying for a last-hope sign from God that He was real, I saw kids crying. As the priest walked down the aisles of the auditorium, many teens were weeping as they held their hands out to the statue. This scared me because I had never seen anything like it. So I prayed to God again that He would allow my heart to open and receive his divine love.

And as the priest stopped in front of my row, I FELT IT. I shivered as I felt this mixture of joy, pain, sadness, relief, and weightlessness go through my body like a wind. I was suddenly reminded of all the times God had been trying to show me the Truth, and I had ignored it. I realized that every time I had asked Him for a sign of His existence, He had given it to me.

I wept as my heart opened to God and didn't stop asking for forgiveness until the service ended.

It's hard to explain a feeling so intense like that, but I believe that every revert feels it at one point.

Anyway, after that moment I decided to become a devout catholic, and I succeeded in that endeavor. I began praying often, going to church every Sunday, studying the Bible, and trying my best to be kind to my neighbors. But as the months disappeared, I could feel myself slipping back into sin. I started smoking again, and my friend group began to personify wrong-doing. Afraid of my downfall, I retreated to the church, praying to God that I would not be led stray be such trivial things. The next day, the strangest thing happened.

As always on school nights, I was on my bed frantically trying to complete my homework before it I had to throw it in for the day or risk exhaustion. While flipping through channels for background noise, I happened across a show about Muslim responses to Islamophobia. Interested in anything having to do with terrorists , I decided to watch the program.

To this day, I cannot remember a word of what was said, I just remember being fed up with the constant berating of a religion that I was not informed enough about to even have an opinion on the subject! So while the program was on commercial I got up and asked my dad if I could read the family Quran again. He said yes, and I sat there in my room until the time I had to sleep, reading the Quran. And then, that same wondrous feeling that came over me at the youth conference came over me again, and I knew that Islam was my religion. Siratal mustaqim.

Now I am a Muslim, AlhamdulAllah. I have found my home, and God, in this religion and here I will stay until Allah lifts me from my grave. Thank you for your patience in reading my story, and asalam wa alaikum.

Here's a CNN report about Conley's arrest.

Here's the criminal complaint:

Shannon Conley Criminal Complaint

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Follow That Story archive circa March 2011: "Jamie Paulin Ramirez: 'Jihad Jamie' pleads guilty to one count of supporting terrorism."


Sponsor Content