Moeed Abdul Salam didn’t descend into radical Islam for lack of other options. He grew up in a well-off Texas household, attended a pricey boarding school and graduated from one of the state’s most respected universities.

But the most unlikely thing about his recruitment was his family: Two generations had spent years promoting interfaith harmony and combating Muslim stereotypes in their hometown and even on national television.

Salam rejected his relatives’ moderate faith and comfortable life, choosing instead a path that led him to work for al-Qaida. His odyssey ended late last year in a middle-of-the-night explosion in Pakistan. The 37-year-old father of four was dead after paramilitary troops stormed his apartment.

His Nov. 19 death went largely unnoticed in the U.S. and rated only limited attention in Pakistan. But the circumstances threatened to overshadow the work of an American family devoted to religious understanding.

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