Jennifer Williams is an average American girl, born in Texas and raised a Southern Baptist. She has platinum blonde hair, blue eyes and is heavily tattooed. However, she is Muslim now, speaks Arabic and holds a Master's degree in International Security with a focus on terrorism and the Middle East.
But one may wonder why ISIS supporters are enthusiastically following her on Twitter and proposing marriage to her.
Early last week, "#MuslimApologies" was trending on Twitter in retaliation to those, like right-wing radio host Laura Ingaraham, who in the wake of the Westerners being beheaded by the ISIS, urged Muslims to denounce terrorism in the name of Islam more vocally.
Wary of apologising for the behaviour of a few evil individuals, who happen to identify with the same faith as they do, Muslims on Twitter started sarcastically apologising for everything from the Twilight saga, the two World Wars and Pluto not being considered a planet.
AyA fAhAm posted, "#MuslimApologies i'm sorry for creating Algebra, the concept of drinking coffee, and inventing the camera"
Rania Ousellam tweeted, "I'm sorry I'm uneducated because apparently Fox News knows more about my religion than I do" #MuslimApologies"
Munna Bint Muhammed posted, "I am sorry that we dress to please Allāh ﷻ, while you dress to please men who disrespect and objectify you.☕️ #MuslimApologies."
However, it was Williams' tweet, "Sorry I read the Quran to learn abt terrorist beliefs but ended up converting to Islam b/c of what it said. #MuslimApologies #sorrynotsorry," that caught the attention of ISIS supporters.
"Last Monday, had 60 followers on Twitter. Today, I have more than 4,300." She posted in an article for New Republic on 3 October. "But here's the problem: A healthy number of them are Islamic extremists, including no small number of supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A lot of them live in Saudi Arabia...And some of them want to marry me."
She woke up the following morning to find that it has been retweeted numerous times and that she has a lot of new followers, most of whom were Muslims who welcomed her to Islam though some others were unhappy with her "treachery."
Many of those who were following and retweeting her had the ISIS black flag as their Twitter profile photos, while some others had images of themselves holding swords, in the background of the black flag.
— الاسلام باقي (@Cell1980Kassab) September 18, 2014
Following this, Saudi men with an interest in marrying her started popping up on her Twitter feed. "One guy told me how beautiful I would look in hijab (in other words, how beautiful I would look once I covered myself up and stopped looking like an infidel). Another just straight up asked me to marry him."
Mariam Angel(Social) posted, "@jenn_ruth I had exactly the same experience, it was amazing! #MuslimApologies #sorrynotsorry"
While this storm was gathering, Williams made a poor choice of judgement in posting the picture of some pro-ISIS graffiti on Twitter, so her fellow counter-terrorism researchers could see it as well.
N St. & Connecticut Ave. in D.C. It says Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar ISIS pic.twitter.com/yg86wemgNU
— Jennifer Williams (@jenn_ruth) September 24, 2014
However, this picture made her seem like a supporter of the Islamic terrorist group, forcing her to denounce the accusation with the tweet, "JUST SO WE'RE CLEAR: The tweet w/the pic of ISIS graffiti WAS NOT MEANT TO EXPRESS MY SUPPORT OF ISIS. Can't believe I even have to say that"
She is furious about the accusation and asks "So it doesn't matter that I also happen to tweet things in support of LGBT rights, post YouTube videos of The Clash, or actively try to get the "#No2ISIS" hashtag trending. All that matters are the tweet about becoming Muslim and the tweet with the picture of pro-ISIS graffiti."
Williams, who had studied, analysed and written about Islamic political theory and "how jihadist ideologues like Osama bin Laden use the Qur'an to justify their heinous acts of violence," had never actually read the holy book until recently. Once she did, though, she felt a connection to God who is "beneficent, who is merciful, and who cherishes mankind". She found answers to questions that has been plaguing her since youth and converted to Islam three years back.
"I detest the twisted interpretations of Islam espoused by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS just as much today as I did before I converted—in fact, probably more so, since now I see it not only as a sick bastardization of a beautiful religion, but a sick bastardization of my beautiful religion."