Mon | Jan 23, 2017

Parents say hostage converted to Islam willingly

Published:Tuesday | October 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP): The parents of an Indiana aid worker threatened with beheading by the Islamic State group rejected suggestions that their son converted to Islam to save himself yesterday, saying his interest in Eastern religions began long before he travelled to the Middle East.

Ed and Paula Kassig told The Associated Press that their son, who has changed his name from Peter to Abdul-Rahman since his conversion, was inspired by the activism of his grandfather, a pastor and advocate for Muslims in the Middle East for many years. They have no doubt that his conversion to Islam was a personal choice, not one driven by his captivity.

"When our son makes a commitment to something, no holds barred. It's 150 per cent. He goes at it with every fibre of his being. He converted totally," Ed Kassig said.

Exploring Eastern religions

The Kassigs said their son began exploring Eastern religions while in school and initiated his conversion to Islam before being taken hostage, observing the fast of Ramadan three months before his capture on October 1, 2013.

Nicolas Henin, a French journalist who was held with Abdul-Rahman Kassig for several months, said he did not believe Kassig had been coerced into embracing Islam.

"He had been a virtual Muslim already. He had been living among Muslims for some time," he said yesterday.

Paula and Ed Kassig said they stayed silent for a year after their son was detained because his captors had vowed to kill the 26-year-old aid worker immediately if they went public.