When Boston Marathon runners rounded the bend from Beacon Street last week, they were in the home stretch of the race. As they poured through the closed intersection, they ran past a nondescript address: 510 Commonwealth Avenue.
The location was once home to an international support network that raised funds and recruited fighters for a jihadist insurgency against Russian rule over Chechnya, a region and a conflict that few of the runners had likely ever given any serious thought.
One mile farther, life in Boston was transformed in an act of horror that killed three and injured scores. And one week later, everyone in Boston and around the United States is thinking and talking and asking about Chechnya.
"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." | Full review
"...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." | Full review
"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. ...its combination of information, accessibility, and engaging writing make it a unique and valuable contribution to the field." | Full Review
"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." | Full review
On May 24, the Homeland Security Policy Institute hosted J.M. Berger for a Policy and Research Forum Event to discuss his new book Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam, the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of American jihadists from the 1970s to the present. The book is available now.
The 90-minute session was attended by members of the media, homeland security officials and academics from as far away as Spain. The forum was moderated by Frank Cilluffo, director of HSPI. "What J.M. did exceedingly well is bring together not only the stories [of American jihadists], but also a little empirical research on all of the issues and phenomena we're tracking," Cilluffo said. "And that's really important, really significant. It brings some of the art with the science. It's very comprehensively put together."
They are Americans, and they are mujahideen. Hundreds of men from every imaginable background have walked away from the traditional American dream to volunteer for battle in the name of Islam. Some have taken part in foreign wars aligned with U.S. interests while others have carried out violence against Western interests abroad, fought the U.S. military, and even plotted terrorist attacks on American soil.
"Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam" is the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of American jihadists from the 1970s to the present, and looking ahead to the future, drawing on scores of interviews and thousands of pages of exclusive documents.
The Fox News Reporting special "Secrets of 9/11" explores several unanswered questions concerning the September 11 attacks, including the role of Anwar Alwaki in assisting the hijackers. I am featured in the program discussing some of the research behind my new book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam, the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of American jihadists.
J.M. Berger is a journalist with more than 20 years experience working in every media platform, covering complex topics such as science, business and terrorism. He has worked for NPR, Public Radio International, the National Geographic Channel and the Boston Globe, and runs the terrorism new sand analysis Web site Intelwire.com.