'Islam changed life of terror suspect'
MANILA, Philippines - Because he grew up Catholic, the decision of Ralph Kenneth De Leon to convert to Islam was initially "a source of friction between him and his family," but his father would later discover its "positive influence" on him.
In an exclusive report aired on ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) on Friday, November 23, ABS-CBN reporter Steve Angeles gave viewers a glimpse of the life of the 23-year-old Filipino suspected terrorist who allegedly planned to join al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their plot to kill Americans and bomb US bases abroad, including the Philippines.
De Leon was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), along with 3 others, on Sunday, November 18. He was supposedly trying to leave the US for Afghanistan. He is now in solitary confinement in a detention facility in California.
Off-camera, ABS-CBN's Angeles was able to interview De Leon's father - who refused to give his name but allowed ABS-CBN to take video of their home and his son's room in California.
"Though it became a source of friction between him and his family, Ralph's father said they agreed to respect each other's belief. Mr De Leon noticed that after years of a typical youth life, which included partying and late nights, Islam brought a calm and disciplined side of Ralph," Angeles reported.
"They made it a rule that religion would not be discussed in the house. They wanted him to be Catholic. They let him do his practice. It made him quiet. He came home early and prayed a lot … They didn't see any violent behavior or terrorist-related activity," Angeles added.
Mr De Leon was also able to visit his son in the detention facility. "He remains in high spirits," Angeles reported.
De Leon's family migrated from Laguna to the United States in 2002. He is a permanent US resident but remains a Filipino citizen with a valid Filipino passport.
Angeles said the family didn't see signs of extremism from the young De Leon as claimed by the FBI. According to reports in US media, Ralph expressed extremist points of view on his Facebook page and in conversations on Skype. FBI undercover agents were able to join the Skype conversations.
FBI raided De Leon's house and confiscated his computer, clothes and documents, among others.
De Leon also did not tell his family about any trip to Afghanistan, ABS-CBN's Angeles said. They thought he was going to Turkey for a Muslim pilgrimage, Angeles reported.
"Their message to me was - as far as they knew and from what they saw - their son lived a normal life and was a typical college student who had an interest ina specific culture and in this case that culture was Islam," Angeles reported.
He was a popular kid, a student leader, and excelled in sports, Angeles said in his report. - Rappler.com