For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for The Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other.
In this compelling and evocative memoir, Mekhennet journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German cities where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. She then returns to Europe, first in London, where she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John,” and then in France, Belgium, and native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization.
Mekhennet’s background has given her unique access to the world’s most wanted men, and she is not afraid to face personal danger to reach out to individuals in the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and their affiliates; when she is told to come alone to an interview, she never knows what awaits at her destination.
About the Author
Souad Mekhennet is a national security correspondent for The Washington Post, and she has reported on terrorism for The New York Times and other news organizations. She is the coauthor of three previous books and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and has also held fellowships at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the Geneva Center for Security Policy.
"An enthralling and sometimes shocking blend of reportage and memoir from the centers of jihadi networks in the Middle East and North Africa. . . . Mekhennet has a singular perspective on the modern crisis of terrorist violence, intimate and constantly questioning."
The New Yorker
"A work of significant merit.... One could hardly imagine a more suited writer.... [Mekhennet] is, first and foremost, a brave, resourceful, canny and tireless reporter."
The Washington Post
"Much more than a book of journalism, admirable as hers is: it is a remarkable record of a Muslim woman struggling to understand those who kill in the name of her religion, and to explain their actions to the uncomprehending Western world to which she belongs. . . . There is much wisdom in her observations."
"If only every journalist with Souad Mekhennet's culture-straddling perspective and access would write an incisive book like this. It will haunt you, because the truth on the page is vaster than anything we're usually offered."
Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad and Honeymoon in Tehran
"Souad Mekhennet delivers a brilliant narrative of risky first-person interviews and encounters across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe"