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Winner of the IPPY Award for Current Events (Social Issues/ Humanitarian)


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A Radical Solution to Terrorism​

An Islamic militant walks into a bar and hires a stripper. One week later, he blows himself up. Does his act count as terrorism? According to a West Point Combating Terrorism Center study, over 85 percent of the “Islamic” militants in their dataset had no formal religious education. And according to a United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre study, only 16 percent even believed in the idea of establishing an Islamic State or caliphate in the Levant.


Moreover, if we look to the data on how terrorist groups end, the Global Terrorism Index, an analysis of 586 terrorist groups that operated between 1970 and 2007, found that repressive counterterrorism measures enforced by military and security agents achieved the least success with “religious” terrorist organizations—contributing to the demise of only 12 percent.

How can humanizing counterterrorism transform the conditions that lead to violent extremism and enable greater peacefulness? What urban policies have made the Belgian city of Mechelen resilient to radicalization—despite having the largest Muslim population in Belgium? Why does Morocco rank among the countries suffering “no impact from terrorism,” while Moroccan immigrants in Europe are among those most susceptible to violent radicalization? How did love demobilize the ruthless terrorist group Black September? These are some of the questions Compassionate Counterterrorism: The Power of Inclusion in Fighting Fundamentalism answers in a sober yet optimistic analysis of how we can transition to a post-fundamentalist future. 

Compassionate Counterterrorism is published by Berrett-Koehler, a Benefit Corporation, and distributed by Penguin Random House. It is available for purchase at your favorite retailers.

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“This book brings a refreshing alternative to the fiction that state force is the long-term solution to terrorism. A thoughtful, personal, and impressive analysis of why a broader approach to the challenge may yield more effective long-term outcomes.”

—Sir Hugh Orde, OBE, QPM, former Chief Constable, Police Service of Northern Ireland

Gratitude & Acknowledgements

MY GRATITUDE GOES to the collaborative team at Berrett- Koehler—I couldn’t have found a more perfect and values-aligned publisher for this book! My brother, cofounder, and companion in social change, Tariq Al Olaimy, I am indebted to you for carrying our various social ventures—3BL Associates, Public-Planet Partnerships, and Diversity On Board—during my intense and total isolation writing absences. My family, friends, colleagues, and all those who backed my Publishizer crowd-publishing campaign: this book would not exist without your support. In particular, the Intellectual Partners: Jamal Fakhro, Nina Curley, Ingrid Stange, Lena Slachmuijlder, and Arthur Norins.  Thank you for your faith, patience, and investments in peace. To everyone who provided input on content, book titles, designs, sources, and other details—and in particular Luma Shihabeldin and my global family at the THNK School of Creative Leadership—thank you!

And in no small part, my deep gratitude and appreciation goes to all the peace-builders, social entrepreneurs, and disruptors whose work has, in some way, influenced and contributed to shaping my thinking and informed the theories of change in this book. A special thanks goes to those who took the time to engage in lengthy discussions with me: Lena Slachmuijlder, Saji Prelis, and the amazing team at Search for Common Ground, Mayor Bart Somers, Arno Michaelis, Kola Masha, Dr. Fatima Akilu, Basit Jamal, Robert Örell, and the many others who have provided their contributions to this work in P/CVE. My hope is for Compassionate Counterterrorism to be recognized among the best books in counterterrorism, and a must-read for policy makers and the security sector. 

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