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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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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