The United States of Jihad

“This is the story of how a boy from small-town Alabama became a leader, and then a target, of one of the world’s most brutal terrorist organizations. No al-Qaeda affiliate as recruited more Americans than al-Shabaab, and Hammami was, for a time, the group’s most visible face in the West, leveraging his all-American upbringing to serve as a cultural go-between who could translate Binladenism to the West in culturally relevant style. Like Awlaki and Inspire editor Samir Khan, Hammami was part of a wave of Americans who preached jihad from abroad to the English-speaking world, but he advanced the forms with his prolific and creative use of social media. 

Hammami’s story is how Zachary Chesser’s life might have continued if he had made it to Somalia. It is a case study in how rare it is for an American to succeed in jihad abroad, as much as many fantasize about it, but it is also a story in how effective those Americans who do thrive can be.” 

Peter Bergen


Given the political climate now, I largely avoid books about contemporary politics or “modern history.” The United State of Jihad  by Peter Bergen, however, is the exception. It is a fascinating book that reads like a collection of fascinating journalistic essays on a subject that is so important today. Bergen, with experience in international reporting, has done a fabulous job of showing how easily ISIS has infiltrated American society and how home-grown terrorists are not as uncommon as one might think.

This book runs the gamut from the personal stories of accused ISIS sympathizers to the particulars of how terror recruitment has boomed into a business with all-American teenagers being sucked into the promises of the international terrorist group. In this unbelievable book that is as fascinating as it is informative, I found myself simply aghast at how terrorist recruitment could be going on under the radar. For anyone interested in becoming more informed about the realities of the international ISIS situation, The United States of Jihad is a must-read.


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