I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad

Souad Mekhennet

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad
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I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad

Souad Mekhennet

As a journalist she has confronted some of the world’s killers, unmasked Jihadi John, and gone deep into Muslim communities in the west. She wants to know why young Muslim women and men rejecting their parents' dreams of economic betterment and personal freedom in favour of radical rebellion in the Middle East.


And why we should especially listen to her is because she is an independent, progressive Muslim woman who grew up in Germany. She can express of the sense of ‘betweenness’ that she feels, between Islam and the West, Sunni and Shia, Morocco and Turkey, between objective reporting and fellow feeling.

Born to immigrant parents - her father is Moroccan and her mother Turkish - who came to Germany in search of a better life, she has experienced the benefits of growing up in a democracy but also how it feels to be treated like an outsider in the land of her birth. She tells us that story.

And along the way she guides Western readers through the complex world of global jihad, beginning with how the meaning of the word ‘jihad’ has changed since her grandparents' time. Jihad means ‘struggle’ in Arabic, but it also connotes striving, as her parents and the parents of many others, did when they came to Europe in search of a better life. How has jihad’s progressive meaning been transformed into one that sanctions the often-senseless killing of unbelievers and Muslims alike?

Part of the answer lies in the experience of Muslim immigrant children growing up in the progressive societies of Western Europe. She takes us into the restive immigrant enclaves of Germany, Britain, France, and elsewhere, and shows us what the transformation from docile striver to rebel looks like up close. And all of the book is rooted in her own life story.

Her journey is both fascinating and distressing, both illuminating and perplexing. She asks the questions those of us who are not steeped in the traditions of Islam want to ask. Why? Why is this happening? And what can we do about it? And crucially, how do we - ordinary citizens of the world - reconfigure our sense of a world that resists obvious borders, that no longer promises safety, that sees people and ideas on the march. We need someone like Souad Mekhennet to help us make sense of it all.

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