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Terrorists in Love

Terrorists in Love

The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals

Foreword by: Peter L. Bergen
  • reading group guide
  • freshman reading
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.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451609226 | 
  • October 2011
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Video

Ken Ballen & Peter Bergen discuss: TERRORISTS IN LOVE

Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen discuss the work that gives readers a window into the world of violent extremism with profiles of six terrorists, their lives, loves, and deadly missions.

Read an Excerpt

1

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

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Terrorists in Love includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Ken Ballen. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

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

More Books from this Author

About the Author

Ken Ballen
Photograph by Sven Bannuscher

Ken Ballen

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.

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