Books

Author offers an insightful look at domestic terrorism among Americans

“United States of Jihad” by Peter Bergen; Crown Publishers ($28)
“United States of Jihad” by Peter Bergen; Crown Publishers ($28)

Our children are growing up in a world very different from the world of their parents — one in which threats of terrorism are the norm.

But while acts of domestic terrorism seem to be increasing, an internationally recognized terrorism expert and author points out that no foreign terrorist group has launched a successful attack on American soil since the horrific events of Sept. 11.

In “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists,” Peter Bergen draws on a broad range of experts and sources to explore what’s behind the upsurge in domestic terrorism and the complex factors behind it.

A sinister pattern of domestic terrorism has emerged as American Muslim men and women are radicalized from afar by extremist groups like ISIS, Bergen writes.

He profiles several of these homegrown suspects, including Nidal Hasan and Faisal Shahzad. Virginia-born Hasan was convicted of killing 13 people during a mass shooting at Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas, in 2009. Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, confessed to planting a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square in 2010.

By analyzing the social and political influences that can transform average Muslim Americans into “lone wolf” terrorists, Bergen paints a bleak picture of lonely, disillusioned men and women who are lured by extremist messaging online, radicalized through highly evolved social media strategies employed by terrorist organizations abroad and turned loose on an unsuspecting American public.

As Bergen notes, domestic terrorism has many more victims than we realize. The specter of terrorism affects millions of nonviolent American Muslim men and women who are proud of their religion, as well as Syrian refugees and others who are fleeing tyrannical regimes and the the cycles of terrorism inflicted in their own countries.

Bergen is a journalist, documentary producer and CNN’s national security analyst. His earlier books include the bestsellers “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden — From 9/11 to Abbottabad” and “The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda.” Bergen also is vice president at New America, where he directs the international security and fellows programs.

“United States of Jihad” isn’t just about rehashing crimes and attempted acts of terrorism wrought by radicalized individuals. It also is a book about the evolving sophisticated methods law enforcement use to prevent terrorist acts from taking place.

In addition, Bergen profiles the unlikely friendship of two people diversely affected by domestic terrorism: the cousin of the Fort Hood shooter Hasan and the family member of one of his victims. Together, this pair urges understanding, mutual respect and open dialogue as a means to thwart more acts of homegrown terrorism. In this way, it is a book about hope.

Bob Kustra is president of Boise State University and host of Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show on Boise State Public Radio. Reader’s Corner airs Fridays at 6 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 11 a.m. on KBSX 91.5 FM. Listen to previous shows, including an interview with Bergen, at http://boisestatepublicradio.org/programs/readers-corner, or download our free app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play to listen anytime.

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