October 12, 2003


Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill by Jessica Stern (C-SPAN, October 12, 2003, 8 & 11pm)

For four years, Jessica Stern interviewed extremist members of three religions around the world: Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Traveling extensively -- to refugee camps in Lebanon, to religious schools in Pakistan, to prisons in Amman, Asqelon, and Pensacola -- she discovered that the Islamic jihadi in the mountains of Pakistan and the Christian fundamentalist bomber in Oklahoma have much in common.

Based on her vast research, Stern lucidly explains how terrorist organizations are formed by opportunistic leaders who -- using religion as both motivation and justification -- recruit the disenfranchised. She depicts how moral fervor is transformed into sophisticated organizations that strive for money, power, and attention.

Jessica Stern’s extensive interaction with the faces behind the terror provide unprecedented insight into acts of inexplicable horror, and enable her to suggest how terrorism can most effectively be countered.

A crucial book on terrorism, Terror in the Name of God is a brilliant and thought-provoking work.

-Jessica Stern: Lecturer in Public Policy (Harvard)
-BOOK SITE: Terror in the Name of God (Harper Collins)
-ESSAY: Meeting with the Muj (Jessica Stern, Jan/Feb 2001, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
-ESSAY: The Protean Enemy (Jessica Stern, July/August 2003, Foreign Affairs)
-ESSAY: How America Created a Terrorist Haven (Jessica Stern, 8/20/03, NY Times)
-ESSAY: How Terrorists Hijacked Islam (Jessica Stern, October 1, 2001, USA TODAY)
-ESSAY: Pakistan's Jihad Culture (Jessica Stern, November/December 2000, Foreign Affairs)
-INTERVIEW: Interview with the Author Jessica Stern (foreignaffairs.org, November 2000)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Questioning Terrorists (Here and Now, October 09, 2003)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Hearts of Terrorists (On Point, August 22, 2003)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Faith and Terror (Leonard Lopate Show, August 20, 2003)
-ARTICLE: In God's name, the most mortal of combat (Susan Page and Jack Kelley, 7/16/02, USA TODAY)
-REVIEW: of Terror in the Name of God (Peter I. Rose , CS Monitor)
-REVIEW: of Terror in the Name of God (Scott Bernard Nelson, Boston Globe)
-REVIEW: of Terror in the Name of God (Jack Fischel, Philadelphia Inquirer)
-REVIEW: of Terror in the Name of God (Anne Grant, Providence Journal)

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2003 5:35 PM

One is reminded that Jessica Stern was the model
for the Nicole Kidman NSC official, in the Peace
Maker, whose release coincided with that of her
tome on proliferation; (On second thought, Valerie
P, might have been the model)Apparently, this was
also the source of geopolitics expert, George Clooney

Posted by: narciso at October 12, 2003 8:59 PM

I hate the term "Christian Bomber" applied to McVeigh. He was not religious and his atrocity had nothing to do with his having been raised a Catholic. That kind of lying spin is disgusting.

Posted by: NKR at October 12, 2003 9:48 PM

Terrorists are almost ineluctably anal orifices. No other term fits, whether Palestinian, Iraqi, Iranian, German, Italian, Basque, Colombian, or American. Monster is too generous for most of them; criminal is just too legal.

Hairy hanging hemorrhoid seems to work best, because it includes workplace killers, schoolyard killers, day trading killers, and the rest. Minus the putative ideology, a terrorist is just another loser with a gun.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 12, 2003 11:09 PM

I agree with your statement and to this day I don't know that I have any idea what McVeigh or Nichols were all about. I will accept they were "right-wing", but it's not clear to me that religion, property rights, individualism, or any other conservative idea motivated them. Probably some romantic notion of anarchy based on movies, video games was more important.

Posted by: h-man at October 13, 2003 6:47 AM


I think Stern's analysis holds for them, too; that terrorism is a response to a percieved humiliation and impotence. To be irrelevent is more unbearable than being evil.

Posted by: Mike Earl at October 13, 2003 10:01 AM

I don't know in what sense a McVeigh is "disenfranchised"?

Bitter losers are bitter losers. Most end up as drunks. A few, like McVeigh, manage to destroy more than just themselves.

But even if McVeigh cannot be explained by religion, that doesn't let religion off the hook.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 13, 2003 5:48 PM

What hook?

Posted by: OJ at October 13, 2003 6:28 PM

The Jim Jones hook?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 13, 2003 9:11 PM

Oh, I was thinking about the war between East and West Pakistan back in the humanist 1970s.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 13, 2003 10:01 PM

Wow, you guys are really groping.

Posted by: OJ at October 13, 2003 11:28 PM


In the secular West, we have to grope, as all those sectarian freeriders dying of old age should realize.

The hook religion is hung on is its inherent tendency to claim absolute truth, then the divine warrant to enforce same.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 14, 2003 8:21 AM

Ah, I see. The absoluteness seems to work better than the groping, as a comparison of the US to Western Europe reveals.

Posted by: OJ at October 14, 2003 8:41 AM

OK, name me some humanist highlights of the '70s.

I can think of exactly one: building artificial hill refuges on the coastal plain of Bangladesh, which brought the death toll from cyclones down from 600,000/storm to under 1,000/storm.

Otherwise, the '70s stand out, for me at least, for such great moments in history as the war in Biafra, the attack on Israel. Stuff like that.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 16, 2003 4:17 PM