cover image Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals

Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals

Ken Ballen, foreword by Peter Bergen. Free Press, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-0921-9

Ballen, a former federal prosecutor and the founder and president of the non-profit research institute Terror Free Tomorrow, profiles six former jihadis in this provocative study. With the assistance of Saudi Arabian authorities and well-placed Pakistani journalists, Ballen interviewed more than 100 former jihadis during five years of research, focusing on six very different, very complex individuals whose lives were so different from Western conceptions of the terrorist that he felt compelled to tell their stories. The six include a mama's boy, a homosexual, a sexually abused dreamer, one-half of a "jihadi Romeo and Juliet," a homesick and gullible suicide bomber, and "Pakistan's most notorious terrorist you never heard of." The author's dynamic with terrorists is fascinating ("I was everything he hated: an American, a Jew, and once a prosecutor of terrorists like him"), and he culls fascinating observations from what motivates terrorists ("the story of Islamic radicals and terrorists... is as much about love as hate") and how they can be overcome ("they are, in fact, a small group that can be isolated and defeated"). An unprecedented and unusual look at Islamic radicalism. (Oct.)