A New Book on Islam, Women, and Counter-Terrorism

  Twenty years of research on women, Islam and terrorism is captured in a new book and written as a collection of stories. I traveled to numerous cities and countries in the Muslim world, including Western countries, to answer this oft-repeated question: If Islam is a loving and peaceful religion, why do some Muslim women kill? What are the reasons why some women and girls join violent … [Read more...]

Why Girls Join Violent Groups: An Update On My New Book

  The threat is real. We live in an unsafe world, haunted by criminals, gangs, serial killers, murderers, rapists, and religious extremists. The latter is relatively new and has troubled me for nearly 20 years. As an American Muslim woman, I've been asked over and over again "why" and "how" ordinary-looking Muslims join violent groups. The truth is that the majority of Muslims are kind, … [Read more...]

Honest Writing Is Daring: Why Write About Violence

The cliche is true. Study something you love to-death and in-depth. Over the years, many people have asked me, "Why do you study violent behavior?" or "Why conflict?" On a lecture tour in Muscat, Oman, I had to tell my audience that studying violence and violent behavior chose me. (By the way, Oman is a beautiful, peaceful Muslim country. You can read more about Oman in my next post.) What you … [Read more...]

Undocumented Children Are Prime Terrorist Recruits

Earlier this year, I spent some time with experts working in Lebanon who track ISIS recruitment of children. Given the sensitivity of their work, their names are not mentioned in this brief report, but their insights are worth sharing. Given a variety of factors, multiple sources believe that ISIS recruiting has steadily increased in Beirut. ISIS’s recruiting strategy in Lebanon leverages a … [Read more...]

Can We Engage Muslims To Counter Violent Extremism (CVE)?

Years ago, winning the 'hearts and minds' of Muslims worldwide was Washington's solution to disrupting and defeating terrorism. The 'hearts and minds' campaign was intended to do many things, which included motivating Muslims to 'take back Islam.' Some Muslims viewed the campaign with skepticism; others distrusted and denounced it. Today, the new terminology in the world community is CVE or … [Read more...]

Immediate Analysis: Attacks in Turkey Linked To Syria, The Root of All Evil

Today, a terror attack in Istanbul left 36 people and 3 suicide bombers dead. Hundreds are wounded. The airport is closed. As of this writing, there has been no claim of responsibility.However, most experts, including U.S. intelligence, say this attack has the hallmarks of ISIS. It was well-coordinated; suicide bombers were armed with AK-47s; and a hard target was symbolically chosen. What We … [Read more...]

Why Do Extremists Kill During Ramadan?

It astonishes me that religious extremists choose to kill during one of Islam's holy months, Ramadan. As a young counter-terrorism analyst, I have been asked every Ramadan to explain why religious-based violence occurs and increases during the sacred month of fasting. According to devout Muslims, there is no justification for fighting during any one of the four sacred months ordained for worship. … [Read more...]

How To Stop Girls From Joining the Islamic State (ISIS)

It’s not that simple. A lesson on the true principles of Islam can help counter some vulnerable girls /women, but it’s not enough. Girls need more than a lecture on Islam. They need love, support, family, and confidence-building measures. As one Muslim mother told me, "We need to empower our daughters.”I have been doing this for a very long time. I began my career in The Counter-Terrorism Center … [Read more...]

First Annual Narrative Strategies Conference

A team of scholars will share their experience and expertise this Friday, May 6th on a subject of great importance. Countering violent extremism (CVE) with sound solutions and strategies that actually work. Presently, there is a renewed focus on CVE and a robust discussion is taking place worldwide on what constitutes the right CVE policy and practice. I've been in several meetings in Washington, … [Read more...]

A Man On A Mission To Help Radicalized Youth

  Former extremists are leading a movement to help at-risk youth renounce the use of violence. The Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network includes charismatic speakers and former radicals, including Mubin Shaikh. Based in Canada, Mubin--called 'the undercover jihadi--travels to different locations in the West to talk openly about his recruitment into radical Islam and why he finally … [Read more...]

Discrediting Extremists With Teachings of Islam

The movement has begun. Increasingly, Muslims are questioning radical interpretations of Islam and lashing out against extremists. While this momentum began years ago, there is a greater push in the West and the Muslim world to reaffirm their faith by understanding the Quran and the Sunnah, the oral traditions of Islam's Prophet. Short films are one way to reach young audiences across the Islamic … [Read more...]

3 Things I Said On The Radio About Radicalization

The Spy Museum in Washington, DC is a true adventure. Through dark hallways, you'll find real and make-believe characters (read James Bond)--all of whom lived a mysterious and under cover life to protect this great nation. Given my work with the U.S. Government, I was invited to a radio interview to talk about faith and the myriad of threats we face today. "We don't often have a Muslim woman … [Read more...]

Can Refugees Become Terrorists?

There is growing concern and fear that refugees will become tomorrow's terrorists. We've seen some evidence of this. The latest attack in Istanbul was perpetrated by a a young man who allegedly claimed refugee status when he entered Turkey via Syria. The attacker, Saudi-born Syrian Nabil Fadil, used his refugee status to enter Istanbul's main tourist center and killed 10 foreign nationals, … [Read more...]

Tashfeen Malik, The Female Terrorist We Should Have Known

Every time a woman participates in a terrorist attack, analysts and authorities (and curious journalists) look back. We search for clues, trying to find the 'tipping point' to explain how and when a seemingly normal-looking (girl or) woman turns rogue. In San Bernardino, when Tashfeen Malik gunned down 14 people, the media began to look for new ways to understand female terrorists. Some … [Read more...]

Losing Islam: When Female Radicals Join Violent Groups

Bob Shacochis fictional book, set in Haiti and the rumination of death, can easily be used to describe the hundreds of girls and women who joined the Islamic State or ISIS. Did they lose their soul? Or just want to belong to something much bigger than themselves? A cause greater than life, itself? So much of my research over the past 15 years on why (Muslim) women kill or join violent groups has … [Read more...]

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