I Was Told To Come Alone:My Journey Behind the Lives of Jihad
By Souad Mekhennet, release date: 6/13/17
Scrappymags 3-word review: Alarming. Entrancing. Disturbing.
Shortest summary ever: Our author Souad Mekhennet is a reknowned German journalist who has written for many top publications like the NYTimes and Washington Post. Her many interviews with Jihadists and insiders in ISIS and Al Queda is astounding. She grills them, asking important questions, trying to remain unbiased, veering to that key question, “Why do they hate us so much?”
What’s good under the hood: This should be required reading. Everything is good. I was visibly tensing despite knowing she is safe (duh she’s written this book). My anxiety level was at an 8, nearly too high for me to settle down to read, yet I flipped through pages like a Tom Clancy novel. Written with candor and class, Mekhennet’s story captures her Muslim upbringing, which I appreciated, because as much as journalists (and myself as a teacher) try to stay unbiased, we have them and Mekhennet made clear statements about how difficult this was for her. Her own memoir as a Muslim youth was notable, where often she was ostracized in German society. In that respect, she could understand some of the anger jihadists grew living (and born in) Western nations feeling unwelcomed, but her upbringing (with strong parents and the beauty of Islam) turned her one way, while jihadists turned another. The book then focuses on her travels while reporting, the many faces of both sides of the story from those in the government to those in the middle of the desert – hiding. Straight up jihadists. I remember a professor telling me in college, “One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” and Mekhennet touches on this, staying in the middle yet challenging both sides with issues of torture, lack of due process, and questioning the logic of jihadist views that oppose mainstream Islam along with their depolorable actions. Her experience shows a balance of both sides, yet make it clear – she does NOT support terrorism in any shape or form, but the book vividly shows WHY these jihadists came to be. The remaining question is – how do we deal with this on a global scale?
Watch for the lines of Mekhennet’s marriage proposals/wooing by jihadists and government officials. It adds just a touch of laughter in an otherwise serious and intelligently laudable narrative.
What’s bad or made me mad: The surprising part, nothing was the author’s fault that made me mad, it was merely the truth that angered me. Mad at Western governments for not caring about Muslim people and mad at jihadists for spreading terror and hate. In that respect, it’s a thinking book, and it will pull at your mind long after the final page.
- Everyone. Most appropriate for those age 16 and up as it does mention jihadist beheadings.
- I used to teach AP Human Geography and this would be a fantastic book to read for that class or many Poli Sci classes (Politics and Revolution).
- Anyone looking to answer the question “why do they hate us?” It certainly opens that question to consideration and understanding.
Read with an open mind and always try to place yourself in the life of the “other” person. My remaining questions are how to reach these youth who turn to radicalism and not a more positive path and how do we hold all accountable for atrocities, both jihadists and those who commit crimes under the guise of “government”. Those thoughts haunt me…
Sincere “shukraan” to NetGalley, Henry Holt and Co. and the Ms. Mekhennet for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review and for making me consider, think, ponder, wonder and feel.