Radical Islam in America


Radical Islam in America

Salafism's Journey from Arabia to the West

Chris Heffelfinger

182 pages


April 2011


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eBook (PDF)
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September 2011


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About the Book

The radicalization of Muslims and Islamic institutions in the United States, Europe, and across the Islamic world has fostered a new generation of Islamist activists, many of them willing to use violence to achieve their aims. In Radical Islam in America, Chris Heffelfinger describes the development of the Islamist movement, examines its efforts and influence in the West, and suggests strategies to reduce or eliminate the threat of Islamist terrorism. The book distinguishes Islamism (the fundamentalist political movement based on Islamic identity and values) from the Muslim faith and explores Islamists’ substantial inroads with Muslims and Muslim educational institutions in the West since the 1960s, as well as the larger relationship between Islamist political activism and militancy. Heffelfinger argues that the West has often mischaracterized jihadists as a nihilistic, irrational force desiring nothing but death and destruction. Instead, we need to recognize that Islamists are part of a much broader struggle over the political, social, economic, and legal direction of Muslims around the world. Our failure to understand the motives behind terrorist tactics has resulted not only in ineffective counterterrorism strategies but also in the proliferation of Islamist militants and sympathizers. Among the hundreds of terrorism-related arrests since 9/11, a large number were young, socially alienated Muslims who were moved by the jihadist message but not directed by jihadist networks overseas. That phenomenon—and the ideology behind it—is what Western society and governments must fully understand in order to construct a viable policy to confront it. This book will appeal to scholars and general readers interested in global politics, current affairs, Middle East terrorism, and counterterrorism.

Author Bio

Chris Heffelfinger, an FBI fellow, provides instruction for the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Forces on radical Islam and terrorism at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point). He is also a researcher and analyst of militant Islam for the CTC. He lives in Washington, D.C.


“Effective counterterrorism strategies require a sophisticated knowledge of ideologies. Through his book, Chris Heffelfinger helps us develop a critical understanding of an extreme religious ideology that motivates and inspires a network of ‘true believers’ to conduct terrorist violence in the United States. His well-researched insights make an important contribution to the study of modern terrorism by addressing a central dilemma faced by Salafists and Western leaders: Can globalization and liberal democracies co-exist with a radical interpretation of Islam? Throughout the world, a network of Islamic centers and Muslim organizations are trying to shape the perspectives of Muslims in ways that contribute directly to the terrorism threat we face in America today. This book offers a vitally important inside look at the ideas of the Salafi movement and how they have inspired violent acts by individuals in the United States and around the world.”—Dr. James J. F. Forest, associate professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell

“Cogent, accessible, and timely! Heffelfinger has written a meticulously crafted analysis of Salafism and its movement westward. Anyone interested in better understanding the Salafist body of thought and those who subscribe to it will find this book a ‘must have.’”—Jarret Brachman, managing director, Cronus Global

"Heffelfinger makes a thoroughly persuasive case that Saudi oil money is fueling a massive effort to force the Salafi (essentially Saudi/Wahhabi) brand of radical Islam upon America--through the Internet, our prisons, and many other channels."—R. James Woolsey, Jr., former director of the Central Intelligence Agency