BOOK REVIEW: ‘Jihad Joe’: The Other 1 Percent — of American Muslims — Who Go to War in Name of Islam

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Jihad Joe': The Other 1 Percent -- of American Muslims -- Who Go to War in Name of Islam

I’m playing catch-up time with important books that I’ve missed so far this year — and none is more important than J.M. Berger’s “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam” (Potomac Books Inc. 280 pages, bibliography, notes, index, $29.95, also available in a Kindle eBook from Amazon).

Investigative journalist Berger  makes it clear that no more than 1 percent of American Muslims get involved with radical Islam to the extent that they kill Americans. He says that the other 99 percent or so practice their religion peaceably, like Christians, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Scientologists and others in an America guided by a Bill of Rights that has — thank God or Darwin. but especially James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights — no established religion.

On page 211 Berger says that the tiny minority who’ve practiced terrorism on U.S. soil — Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter and those who aided the 9/11 al Queda terrorists, and the others like the Times Square bomber whose efforts failed or where thwarted —  have been “inducted into what is essentially a cult” and are “likely to follow rather than to lead.”

That doesn’t make them less dangerous, Berger says,  and we shouldn’t discount their often laughable efforts. It’s no joke when a clueless U.S. Army ignores the warning signs of jihadism present in Hasan that lead to his killing 13 and injuring at least 29 more on Nov. 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas. On pages 141-145 — and elsewhere in this well-researched book, Berger traces the influences that led to Hasan’s terrorist act.

 J.M. Berger

J.M. Berger

Some would say all religions are cults, but that’s probably going to far, as a good friend of mine in the greater Dallas area reminds me! He’s the guy who recommended the book to me and I bought it used on, rather than request a review copy. Thanks, Joel!   Berger is fair and balanced, but there’s no doubt that he believes our home-grown jihadists, native born, naturalized citizens, blacks, whites, a couple of women, even Jews who’ve converted to Islam (he cites two in his book, Californian Adam Gadahn, AKA Azzam the American, and Brooklyn-born Joseph Cohen, who changed his name to Yousef Al Khattab,  the co-founder of Revolution Muslim (pages 181-185 and elsewhere) should be taken seriously.

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 that aligned with U.S. interests, while others have carried out violence against Westerners abroad, fought against the U.S. military, and even plotted terrorist attacks on American soil. This story plays out over decades and continents: from the Americans who took part in the siege of Mecca in 1979 through conflicts in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, and continuing today in Afghanistan and Somalia.

Berger profiles several “Jihad Joes,”  including some who joined al Qaeda and others who chose a different path. He portrays, among others, Abdullah Rashid, who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan; Mohammed Loay Bayazid, who was present at the founding of al Qaeda; Ismail Royer, who fought in Bosnia and Kashmir, then returned to run training camps in the United States;  Gadahn, a Jewish Californian who is now al Qaeda’s chief spokesman; and Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-American imam with links to 9/11 who is now considered one of the biggest threats to America’s security.

Here’s a link to a video promoting the book:

“Jihad Joe” is a must-read book that is on my informal list of Notable Books of 2011.

About the author

J.M. Berger has been a journalist for 25 years, working in every form of media from newspapers to New Media, radio and television. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, the CTC Sentinel, the New York Daily News and the Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio, Public Radio International and the National Geographic Channel.

In addition to working internationally as an investigative reporter studying terrorism, he is an award-winning business writer and has covered science, technology and religion. He is currently working on a book about the FBI’s infiltration of white supremacist and militia groups in the United States.

Berger consults on homegrown terrorism and online extremism and has presented his research to counterterrorism professionals such as the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Division, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University and more.  His website:


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