New documentary shows Minneapolis father’s journey to learn why son tried to join IS

Updated: January 19, 2020 11:20 PM

Yusuf Abdurahman walked out of the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis back in November 2016 after watching his 20-year-old son Zacharia be sentenced by a judge.

Zacharia Abdurahman went off to federal prison that day after pleading guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State group.


"I’m glad what my son said he took responsibility, said a lot of stuff, he exposed the ISIS propaganda and how they trick kids," Abdurahman said to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that day in 2016.

A new documentary airs nationally on Monday night called “Accept The Call” on PBS that captures this father’s quest for answers from his son as to why he tried to join the terror group.

"He was privileged, he was born here. You abandoned your family, and you are going to place like Syria?" Abdurahman said about his son’s plans to leave the country before being caught by the FBI.  “It’s very hard to understand."

“I'm glad he was stopped and was sent back and he's alive," Abdurahman said. "I couldn't tell this story if he wasn't here. It would be a different story."

Abdurahman moved from southern Somalia more than 25 years ago to the Twin Cities, where he’s worked as an early childhood educator while raising his family in Minneapolis.

The father allowed the documentary crew to follow his three-year quest for answers from his son as to why he was lured to ISIS propaganda.

"That makes him a victim of this brainwashing ideology," Abdurahman said. "All youth are the same: those who end up in white supremacists, those that end up into gangs. They all show the youth something that they like or don't have at home or that they didn't get in their community."

Abdurahman said he was very angry with the choices his son made but the film brought him closer to his son.

"It's about forgiveness. It's your son — this is your child. As a teenager he did a very poor mistake," Abdurahman said.

Zacharia Abdurahman sits in a medium-security prison in Illinois awaiting release in about four years.

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Eric Chaloux

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