Atran book includes interviews with jihadist leaders

May 28, 2012

Scott Atran has interviewed dozens of terrorist leaders and operatives, and he has collected his insights from those conversations in his book, "Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists." He discussed those insights on the National Public Radio program, "To the Best of Our Knowledge."

Atran said members of terrorist networks are often motivated by a sense of community, rather than brainwashed to follow a cause.

"They're talked about as either psychopaths or cowards. They're normal people who follow a career, mostly through friends and family and fellow travelers, like anyone gets into a network," Atran said. "It's people at a certain stage in their lives, usually young men trying to find, as young men do everywhere, significance and adventure and glory in their life."

Atran is a research scientist at the University's Research Center for Group Dynamics and a former professor of public policy at the Ford School.