Muslims have spoken out in horror about the ‘Bedford boy made bad’ who plotted to become a terrorist in Syria.
Naseer Mirze Taj was considered a normal, respectful member of the town’s community until his shocking secret plan was revealed, they say.
The 26-year-old taxi driver spent months quietly preparing to leave his pregnant wife in Bedford and flee to Syria to become a jihadist.
He tried to obtain fraudulent travel documents and even found himself a jihadi bride who was prepared to marry him once he arrived.
But Naseer was arrested two days before he was set to leave, a court heard last week.
This week his family and friends were reeling at the news of his conviction.
“We didn’t suspect a thing,” said one friend. “Naseer was just a normal Bedford boy, educated and raised in the town by a very nice, hard-working family.
“He was very respectful to his parents and his elders, and he was always polite and friendly. Nobody would ever have expected him to be involved in anything so terrible.”
Friends are convinced Naseer was recruited by extremists from elsewhere in the country during a “weak moment”.
One said: “We don’t have people with extreme views in Bedford. It’s just not something that happens here.”
Naseer, who now faces a prison sentence, lived in a flat in Tudor Court, Victoria Road, with his unsuspecting wife Rabia Khalique and their small son.
At the time of her husband’s arrest, Rabia was heavily pregnant with their daughter, who is now 11 months old.
Naseer’s parents, who live in Queens Park, are said to be devastated by their son’s conviction.
A spokesman for the popular Queens Park mosque said Naseer was not a member.
“We were all shocked to hear about him,” he said.
A former Biddenham Upper School pupil, Naseer worked as a taxi driver .
A former employer at AGS Cars said: “He was a good worker and never caused trouble. Nobody would have thought he’d be a terrorist.”