Terrorists in Love
The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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.
Kenneth Ballen is President and founder of Terror Free Tomorrow, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, which investigates the causes of extremism. Ballen has regularly contributed to CNN, and his articles have been published in The Washington Post, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others. Learn more at KenBallen.com.
What motivates someone to become a terrorist? That's the question former prosecutor Ken Ballen set out to tackle when he traveled to Saudi Arabia and Indonesia to interview more than 100 Islamist extremists. "We've never sat back and said, 'Let's really understand our adversaries,' " he says. More at NPR.org
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- The title of the book is Terrorists in Love. How does love—or the lack of love—play a role in each of these stories? Why do you think Ballen gave the book this title? Do you think it the best title to encompass the stories?
"Revealing, often touching interviews with six young Islamic men.… [Their] stories cast a revealing light on an exotic, unfamiliar culture."—Kirkus Reviews
“The 9/11 Commission grappled with the question of what drove the 19 hijackers to their terrorist acts in 2001, but we did not have time to investigate and fully understand their motives. Ken Ballen’s exhaustive research, scores of interviews, and gripping writing make Terrorists in Love a uniquely valuable––and sometimes chilling––behind-the-scenes account of the extreme beliefs that often fuel the actions of jihadist militants.”—Lee H. Hamilton, former Congressman and Co-Chair of the 9/11 Commission
“Ken Ballen has managed the impossible for an American. He has worked his way into the intimate thoughts and frustrations and family conflicts that drove six young Muslims toward the jihadist movement, and he presents his findings in a series of compelling narratives.”—David K. Shipler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Arab and Jew and The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties
“It’s simply astonishing how much Ken Ballen, an outsider, penetrated the closed world of Islamic radicals. In a fast moving, absorbing and at times shocking narrative, Ballen destroys stereotypes and defies conventional wisdom by allowing the ‘enemies’ to speak for themselves. America, meet the terrorists, really for the first time. And if you find yourself in the strange position of empathizing with them, don’t recoil in horror, for you might just have stumbled upon that unexpected insight that could help design a more effective response.”—Ammar Abdulhamid, former Islamic radical and leading pro-democracy activist in the Arab world
“Many authors write about terrorism. Ken Ballen took the rare step of talking directly to terrorists. If you want to understand them, read their stories, in their own words. By giving them voice, this book offers a rarely-seen glimpse into another world, the world of terrorists, not just terrorism.”—Philip Mudd, Former Deputy Director of the Counterrorism Center at the CIA, former Senior Intelligence Advisor for the FBI, and Senior Global Advisor, Oxford Analytica
“A valuable, even-handed and insightful window into the mindsets and emotions of jihadi terrorists. Ballen draws a telling portrait of the human side of terrorists, from childhood traumas to moments of transformation to radicalism and, in some cases, to renunciation of terrorists cause. A compelling, if at times frightening study, one that should be read by anyone interested in the roots––and possible deterrents––of terrorism.”—Karen Greenberg, author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days
“Terrorists in Love shatters the dominant dispassionate treatment of modern day Islamic purveyors of death and destruction and instead offers a profoundly intimate portal into the fragile, emotional, even sexual factors that drive their behavior. Ballen blasts past the clichés about what animates terrorists and takes readers to places that no one has gone before. The profiles and revelations in this book are at times as uncomfortable as they are vital to appreciate what lies in the mind of some terrorists. I couldn’t put the book down.”—Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic and Senior Fellow & Founder, American Strategy Program
“Deploying techniques developed during his two decades as a prosecutor and investigator, Ken Ballen interviewed more than a hundred Islamist terrorists in depth, evincing from them their inner stories. Here he profiles six of these men, and the results are eye-opening and full of startling implications.”—Daniel Pipes, founder and president of the Middle East Forum, and author of Militant Islam Reaches America
“Ballen not only gets beneath the skin of terrorists, but all the way into their hearts, revealing unimaginable emotional and personal secrets. He has shed surprising light on the never-ending question about militant jihadis––what are they thinking? Anyone who wants to know ought to read this unusual book.”—Jane Mayer, bestselling author of The Dark Side
“An unusual atlas of extremism — a riveting, behind-the-scenes look at the events that turned six young Muslims into terrorists.” —Washington Post