Terrorists in Love
The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals
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.
Ken Ballen & Peter Bergen discuss: TERRORISTS IN LOVE
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Read an Excerpt
AHMAD’S TRIP TO HEAVEN AND BACK
CNN LED the news on Christmas Day 2004:
On the heels of a visit to Iraq by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a fuel truck driven by a suicide bomber exploded Friday in western Baghdad….
At least eight people were killed and 20 others wounded by the explosion…. Fifteen people, including women and children, were in critical condition, and many had suffered severe burns, hospital officials said….
Baghdad police said they were looking for another fuel truck in the area and a BMW that they believe is associated with the... see more
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Reading Group Guide
Recounting the personal stories of six current and reformed Islamic terrorists, Ken Ballen presents a moving and elucidating view into the motivations of radicals, their loves, and, for some, their ultimate regrets. Ballen was granted unprecedented access in Pakistan to current and former Taliban fighters and in Saudi Arabia to jihadists who fought in Iraq, including residents of a prison facility designed to re-integrate former jihadists into the mainstream culture. His profiles expose the very hearts of these militant jihadists, showing that there is hope for peace.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. 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?
2. Dreams play an important role in Ballen’s accounts of these six very different individuals. Discuss the “true night dreams” that were mo see more