Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals

Article excerpt

Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals. By Ken Ballen. New York: Free Press, 2011. 313 pp. $25.

Ballen, a former federal prosecutor, tells the personal stories of six jihadists. With an empathetic, nuanced treatment, he probes these Muslim lives in order to analyze the decisions that led them to Islamist terror. Ballen discovers all kinds of love in Muslim contexts interacting with jihad's nihilistic hate.

Ballen begins with a one-time hedonistic Saudi slacker seeking personal redemption in the murderous piety of jihad in post-Saddam Iraq. The reader also meets another Saudi terrorist who sought martyrdom in Iraq in order to be reunited in eternal paradise with his true love, stolen through family treachery. A third Saudi turned to jihad because of his family's repression of his same-sex attraction for a first cousin.

Love takes on a broader meaning with other jihadists. In Pakistan, Ballen meets an Afghan seer who sought Islamic purity with the Taliban. One Pakistani became a jihadi in reaction to the Anglophile ways of his upper-class Pakistani background. Another member of Pakistan's elite entered the jihad movement through a religious awakening following a personal corporal humiliation in school.

Other jihadists, like Osama bin Laden, the author maintains, are "deeply scared of losing" a competition between the "Great Tempter" embodied in "American ideals of freedom, achievement, and individuality" and the "radical Islamist model of collective identity, personal sublimation, and unquestioning faith. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.