An investigative journalist profiles American jihadists over three decades.
Debut author Berger draws on intelligence sources, public documents, interviews and newspaper accounts to portray a diverse collection of naturalized and native-born Americans convinced that Islam is under attack worldwide. As Muslims, they have a religious obligation to defend their faith—even if it means killing other Americans. The killing is made all the easier, writes the author, by their nearly universal conviction that the United States is leading the attack. Inspired by al-Qaeda leaders and radical clerics, the most committed among them go beyond belief to action, with horrific outcomes. Among those Berger profiles in this expansive collection is Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American imam with ties to al-Qaeda, who in the vacuum created by Osama bin Laden's death is now regarded as one of the biggest threats to America. The author’s thorough examination plots the individual paths taken by these homegrown jihadists, but can only hint at what is in their hearts. A fuller understanding of that, albeit fictionalized, can be found in John Updike’s novel Terrorist (2006). Otherwise, the large number of names, both given and adopted, becoming confusing, but this is no fault of the author. Nor is it his fault that the revolutions sweeping Muslim lands including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond in 2011 are so recent that their impact on the current generation of budding jihadists is not yet clear.
Incisive, but to some degree upstaged by recent history.