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Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam Hardcover – May 15, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker Berger (Triple Cross) lifts the veil on the phenomenon of American jihadists in this timely and chilling examination. While most Americans were shocked when John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" and a U.S. citizen, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, American citizens had been joining the international jihad for decades—Berger argues that at least 1,400 Americans have taken part in military jihad over the past 30 years. While most activity has taken place abroad, American jihadists also have struck at home—the 2009 Fort Hood, Tex., massacre, for example. Berger fears "it is likely that the American jihadist movement will succeed in a spectacular attack on home soil," and believes that knowing "why Americans take up the banner of jihad is the first step" will help to counter this problem. Drawing on detailed case studies of individual American jihadists, the author concludes that they are a diverse group and their "path to radicalization begins with a rock-solid belief that Muslims are a victim class." Berger's exposé painstakingly lays out the scope and character of the American jihadist movement and points the way to a national debate on solutions. (June)

Review

New York Times: "J. M. Berger's "Jihad Joe," a sober, factual account of the Americans who have been lured to the cause of religious violence, offers a useful reminder that this phenomenon is nothing new, long predating the Sept. 11 attacks. ... At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective."

Zenpundit: "Berger's work is detail-packed and focused, and a useful resource for that reason alone. But it is also and specifically the work of someone who has read and talked with and listened to the people he is writing about, and his work carries their voices embedded in his own commentary. It thus joins such works as Jessica Stern's Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill... Berger's is a book to read, certainly -- and more significantly perhaps, a book to admire."

Publisher's Weekly: "...Berger lifts the veil on the phenomenon of American jihadists in this timely and chilling examination. ... painstakingly lays out the scope and character of the American jihadist movement and points the way to a national debate on solutions."
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; First Edition edition (May 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597976938
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597976930
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
AT A TIME when so many books on politics, religion, and world events are little more than puffed-up pamphlets which are simultaneously high on hyper-partisanship and low on facts, J. M. Berger's Jihad Joe, a treatment of the radicalization and actions of American Muslims who have dedicated themselves to "violent jihad" (the author's chosen term), is a breath of fresh - and troubling - air. Painstakingly researched and heavily footnoted (the author, an investigative journalist, consulted thousands of pages of court records and documents obtained through FOIA request, as well as source material from the making of multiple documentaries on jihadi activities in Bosnia and in the U.S.), Jihad Joe does not couch opinion as fact, but instead makes use of often disparate stories and information sources to weave together a factual account of radicalized American Muslims, from their diverse motivations and processed of radicalization to their actions.

The bulk of Jihad Joe is a lesson in recent history, recounting the motivations and activities of Americans who have "go[ne] to war in the name of Islam" from the siege of Mecca in 1979, where two Americans were involved, to the present. It traces the heady days of the heavily-endorsed (by Islamic leaders and the U.S. alike) jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, when Muslims from America and around the world traveled to fight against the Russian invaders, to the founding of al Qaeda, where an American from Kansas City served as note-taker, through the Bosnian conflict, to the "war on America" that al Qaeda began in the 1990s (which included action in Somalia during the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident), and which is currently ongoing.
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Format: Hardcover
Very readable, thoroughly researched book on an uncomfortable topic. Easily accessible for people who are not as familiar with the field and players as the experts. I would recommend it to anyone who wants some insight into why our fellow countrymen take these actions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard about this book from a friend, and since I knew nothing about the subject I decided that this would be an opportunity to educate myself.Keeping the names straight proved to be a little difficult for me,but understanding the threat that looms before us is criticl. In my opinion all Americans should have access to this information.
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Format: Hardcover
There is a great deal of hyperventilation in America about the threat of Americans --primarily Muslim Americans--embracing jihadist ideology and seeking to become violent or actually committing acts of violence. The very limited literature breaks down into two categories on the topic:

-Books that grossly misunderstand and hype the threat: These include works by authors who would have you think that thousands of Muslim American terrorists are going to start marching down the highways of America and impose a shariah state by force on us Americans.

-Books that "see no evil": These absolutely refuse to accept the fact that some Muslim Americans have embraced violent extremism and more infuriatingly act as if September 11 never happened and that things like the Patriot Act happened in a complete vacuum fueled by rampant anti-Muslim sentiment.

"Jihad Joe" mercifully falls into neither category. The book gives the truth...that some dozens of Americans --mostly Muslims-- have embraced violent extremism. And while this number is miniscule, people such as that can kill a lot of people and harm a country nonetheless.

"Jihad Joe" is very well researched and well written. I only wish it had some diagrams to depict the networks of individuals it discusses because all the names can get rather confusing. I also would have welcomed some photographs.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. I was expecting something more polemical, so the book's balance and moderate tone were appreciated. Berger has a very engaging style, and juggles massive amounts of information effectively, staying within a narrow scope. "Jihad Joe" is not an in-depth study of radicalization on all its diverse levels, rather, it examines cases of Americans, who for a wide variety of reasons, chose to engage in jihad, outside of the US, and within. There's an effective timeline here; beginning with examples prior to 9/11, and Berger is very good at compartmentalizing that world-changing event. An author with less focus might have become bogged down with what to include or exclude, but historical events flow very neatly within the narrative.
My only minor criticism is, I would have liked to see just a bit more discussion of the effect of humiliation, real or percieved, on the radicalization proccess. Since this is not a pyschological study of radicalization, it need not have been analyzed in clinical detail, but merely addressed in reference to the subjects and their choices.
I hope that Berger continues to write on this subject, which he clearly has a deep knowledge of. With Americans fighting in Syria as I write this, the world is providing ample material for another book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I became active in community organizing within the American Muslim community in Illinois in the mid-1990s, and it is a bit disconcerting to learn of all the unsavory things that were going on right under our noses. My biggest takeaway from Mr. Berger's book is that my skeptical and critical view of my own faith community over the last 6 or 7 years is a healthy approach when trying to help what is still a very good community during very dark and troubling times.

It was interesting to see the distinction that our government made between jihadis and terrorists in the 1980s and very early 1990s. My own recollections post-9/11 is that any Muslims attempting to go overseas to fight would be considered a criminal even if the group being fought was not an American ally.

I would particularly recommend this book to young American Muslims who are just beginning to take on leadership roles in their mosques and other Muslim community organizations in the United States.
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