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Publisher's Summary

In the post-September 11 world, Al Qaeda is no longer the central organizing force that aids or authorizes terrorist attacks or recruits terrorists. It is now more a source of inspiration for terrorist acts carried out by independent local groups that have branded themselves with the Al Qaeda name. Building on his previous groundbreaking work on the Al Qaeda network, forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman has greatly expanded his research to explain how Islamic terrorism emerges and operates in the 21 century.

In Leaderless Jihad, Sageman rejects the views that place responsibility for terrorism on society or a flawed, predisposed individual. Instead, he argues, the individual, outside influence, and group dynamics come together in a four-step process through which Muslim youth become radicalized. First, traumatic events either experienced personally or learned about indirectly spark moral outrage. Individuals interpret this outrage through a specific ideology, more felt and understood than based on doctrine. Usually in a chat room or other Internet-based venues, adherents share this moral outrage, which resonates with the personal experiences of others. The outrage is acted on by a group, either online or offline.

Leaderless Jihad offers a ray of hope. Drawing on historical analogies, Sageman argues that the zeal of jihadism is self-terminating; eventually its followers will turn away from violence as a means of expressing their discontent. The book concludes with Sageman's recommendations for the application of his research to counterterrorism law enforcement efforts.

©2008 University of Pennsylvania Press; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"It might be comforting to think that angry young Islamists are crazed psychopaths or sex-starved adolescents who have been brainwashed in malign madrassas. But Mr Sageman, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, explodes each of these myths, and others besides, in an unsettling account of how Al Qaeda has evolved from the organisation headed by Osama bin Laden into an amorphous movement--a 'leaderless jihad.'" (The Economist)
"Leaderless Jihad discredits conventional wisdom about terrorists by eschewing anecdotes and conjecture in favor of hard data and statistics." (Aryn Baker, Time)
"Sageman's incisive observations based on carefully examined evidence, astute insights, and scholarship make Leaderless Jihad the gold standard in Al Qaeda studies." (Washington Times)
"[an] important, face-the-facts book . . . Sageman is deservedly one of the best-known academics working on terrorism." (The Spectator)

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  • William
  • Woodland Park, CO, USA
  • 02-22-09

Overall a misguided effort

A few useful points, however, the author does not understand Islam or the nature of war, for that matter. The recommended strategy is not practical and is failing daily in Europe. Judging a 1400 year struggle based on the few years is also rather weak. Two stars is a reach.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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An interesting read, but skip chapter 5

I thought the book was quite interesting except for chapter 5 which was absurd stupidity. "Social welfare causes terrorism and Europeans are all racists unlike Americans who are tolerant and friendly"... Are you serious?!

Skip that chapter and you'll love this book.

As for the narrator, I don't like him personally, but that's just me.

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  • Maren Paige
  • 10-27-10

Impressive - Cogent - Fair

The writing reflects Dr Sageman's impressive credentials and understanding of the subject matter. Reflected in his book are his PhD in Sociology, a Doctorate in Psychiatry and decades long involvement in terrorist studies, a spate at the CIA, years in Pakistan and a leading role in operations and support of the Afghan Mujahedin during the Cold War period.

The book itself provides legitimate and empirical understanding to the political and social formations of, and psychological realities behind, each wave of the Global Jihadist movements. Often subverting commonly held beliefs and propaganda right on their illusionistic heads.

Fortunately for the reader, Dr Sageman is able to convey his message in an easy to understand format which doesn't occlude enlightenment to either the novitiate or an existing scholar of the subject matter. In short, this is a book for everyone with an interest in the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

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