Terrorists in Love

Terrorists in Love

The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals

Book - 2011
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Drawing on unprecedented access, a leading terrorism expert profiles six terrorists to offer an astonishing new portrait of our enemies as we have never seen them before.

Imagine a world where a boy's dreams dictate the behavior of warriors in battle; where a young couple's only release from forbidden love is death; where religious extremism, blind hatred, and endemic corruption combine to form a lethal ideology that can hijack a man's life forever. This is the world of Terrorists in Love .

A former federal prosecutor and congressional investigator, Ken Ballen spent five years as a pollster and a researcher with rare access--via local government officials, journalists, and clerics--interviewing more than a hundred Islamic radicals, asking them searching questions about their inner lives, deepest faith, and what it was that ultimately drove them to jihad. Intimate and enlightening, Terrorists in Love opens a fresh window into the realm of violent extremism as Ballen profiles six of these men--from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia--revealing a universe of militancy so strange that it seems suffused with magical realism.

Mystical dreams and visions, the demonic figure of the United States, intense sexual repression, crumbling family and tribal structures--the story that emerges here is both shocking and breathtakingly complex. Terrorists in Love introduces us to men like Ahmad Al-Shayea, an Al Qaeda suicide bomber who survives his attack only to become fiercely pro-American; Zeddy, who trains terrorists while being paid by America's ally, the Pakistani Army; and Malik, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's personal seer. Lifting the veil on the mysterious world of Muslim holy warriors, Ballen probes these men's deepest secrets, revealing the motivations behind their deadly missions and delivering a startling new exploration of what drives them to violence and why there is yet an unexpected hope for peace. An extraordinarily gifted listener and storyteller, Ballen takes us where no one has dared to go--deep into the secret heart of Islamic fundamentalism, providing a glimpse at the lives, loves, frustrations, and methods of those whose mission it is to destroy us.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Free Press, 2011
Edition: 1st Free Press hc ed.
ISBN: 9781451609219
Branch Call Number: 363.325092 BAL
Characteristics: xvi, 313 p. ; 24 cm.


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Feb 14, 2015

Page 239:

Kamal found that his love for Moad must be right because Wahhab himself wrote in his “Risalah fi al-Radd ala al-Rafidah” that the true test of love in God’s eyes is always whether love is equal. The only practice that his illustrious forefather found unequal in lovemaking was to penetrate another from behind. But Kamal’s lovemaking with Moad was equal in practice and in spirit. And it no longer came as a surprise that the Original Sheikh had also written in his “Kitab al-Nikah” that men who loved other men—indeed, any man who could love another—were welcome at the Wedding Feast itself.

. . . Kamal launched into a lengthy and, at least to my mind, learned exposition on the equality of love, women, men, and human sexuality he found in the Qur’an, far different from not just the radical view but current mainstream Islamic doctrine. The widespread Muslim tradition of treating women as subservient to men was also far removed from the “equal love” his forefather had written about.

But I’ll leave it to Kamal to tell the world when he considers the time is right. While I could re-create literally his nuanced and powerful exegesis, it is better voiced by someone with Islamic authority and knowledge.

Pages 240-41:

Indah with her secret spirit knew what was right. He had no one else to ask for the truth.

“I’m in love.” It just popped out.

“I’m surprised your father picked a wife for you before you completed university,” Indah wrote.

“Is that love? What’s custom isn’t love,” he now wrote in the Instant Messenger. “I have Equal Love. You remember Moad?”

The screen went blank. He waited for her to type something. Maybe he should’ve just told her over the phone. Like a schoolboy, he couldn’t wait. What if she thought it a sin?

Kamal knew that many latter-day, so-called Wahhabis preached that love between men was a sin. Certainly his uncle, Moad’s father, did; his own father likely felt the same way. But Kamal thought he and Moad were following the true teachings of Wahhab, with equal love before God (and no penetration from behind). He also knew Indah Mother would give him the right answer now too.

“My dream last night saw you, Kecil,” Indah wrote. “You had a long beard and wore the white robes of the Prophet himself, peace be upon him. Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s most loyal follower, was now an imam from Yogya’s Round Mosque. He was holding your hand, and the two of you were addressing the entire umma. Everyone was there: Widi, his Islamic Martyrs, and the banci all together, listening in peace to your words of love. Now, Kecil, you know.”

“Mash’ Allah,” Kamal wrote back.

“You have the truth. Moad is blessed as your lover. Just remember your mission,” Indah wrote.

“I cannot forget,” Kamal promised.

“The best in university, so you can be the best leading the faith.”

Kamal was now the best in his class—no mean feat among the more than ten thousand in his year. Moad excelled at Imam U. too. Their fathers would never need to speak to them again. Over the next three and a half years, they could just be the equal lovers their famous ancestor had written about, praising God in all His infinite glory.

With Indah’s blessing too, Kamal and Moad became inseparable.

Page 242:

They were no longer “Kamal” and “Moad.” The closest term of endearment for any two men—even closer than for many husbands and wives—was to call each other “Abu” (father of), then the name of their first son—whether or not they had a son. So Kamal became “Abu Muhammad” and Moad, “Abu Musa” (after one of the first prophets, Moses): affirming their heritage, living their faith, and loving the future to be born. In their own world, they meant everything to each other.

For “Abu Muhammad” and “Abu Musa,” while their love did not give birth to first sons, they were reborn together instead.

Nov 03, 2014

This is a fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking book. It offers explanations I'd never before considered as to what truly drives young Middle Eastern men (and women, but especially young men) to dedicate their lives to the violence of Islamic terrorism.

Author Ken Ballen presents here the stories of six former jihadis--as they preferred to be called--using as his narrative the florid language of their religious and cultural upbringing and worldview. He gains their trust, and they tell him things about themselves they could never share with their own countrymen-- especially those like Kamal, the highly intelligent and university educated gay man who tells his poignant story in the final chapter. Kamal's insistence on learning and sharing with his fellow countrymen the true meaning of the Koran gives Ballen hope for the future.

In the process we learn how much lack of knowledge of, and access to education about, the larger world around them; the breakdown of family ties and traditions; adolescent insecurities; repressed sexual and romantic longing; chronic joblessness; and even sheer boredom combine to make Arab teens and twenty-somethings easy marks for cynical and ruthless adults eager to use them as tools in an endless "holy war" against the United States, the convenient scapegoat for the corruption, greed, hypocrisies, shifting loyalties, and political upheavals within their insular and complex societies.

A compelling, urgently important account of a little understood world; one can only wish all of the western Powers-That-Be were taking note.

Aug 19, 2012

I enjoyed learning about the diverse motivations of Muslim extremists, but the prose was a bit clunky.


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Feb 14, 2015

Pages 240-41:

Kamal knew that many latter-day, so-called Wahhabis preached that love between men was a sin. Certainly his uncle, Moad’s father, did; his own father likely felt the same way. But Kamal thought he and Moad were following the true teachings of Wahhab, with equal love before God (and no penetration from behind).

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