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

I Was Told To Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad
I Was Told To Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a work filled with answers, and yet it asks even more questions. There is much to digest here, but we would all do well to try.

The world is not facing a clash of civilizations or cultures, but a clash between those who want to build bridges and those who would rather see the world in polarities, who are working hard to spread hatred and divide us.

I can’t help but draw comparisons between the current ISIS question and times past: the Romans, the Ottomans, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Europeans and their disregard for their own people, let alone for those whom they treated as cattle in the horrendous slave trade. This is not the first time ideology and personal gain have threatened the rest of the known world, although, sadly, it may be the last.

The rise of groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS is not the problem of any one specific country or group. it is the result of many mistakes.

The incredible scope of this book, no doubt worthy of an entire degree in Political Science or Anthropology, brings together Mekhennet’s extensive first-hand experience and research and asks hard questions of all of us.

Is democracy what we really want, or do we instead seek to promote the values we hold dear: the equality of men and women, the rights of minorities to survive and thrive, the freedom to speak our minds and practice whatever faith we choose?

This is especially true when some, apparently, think “democracy means that the majority will win and has the right to rule over the minority, like in the west.” And how can we possibly disavow such thinkers of this notion? Do ‘all lives matter’ in the west? Do we treat all our citizens equally? Are we willing to perform jobs ‘beneath our station’ or are those jobs the domain of minorities?

As Mekhennet says of the 1932 democratic elections in Germany:

Why did people think a voting system was protection against totalitarianism?

Yet it is also a warm and personal story—I challenge anyone not cry or to feel at least a stab of gut-wrenching pain at the loss of at least one human life in this story, or not to feel the tension as this exceptional journalist is shipped off to an Egyptian prison.

And who can blame other nationalities for believing our papers to be ‘lying tabloids’ when we know ourselves their behaviours are questionable and questioned? As for our politicians and intelligence services, at one point, even with all the information Mekhennet unearths, even she struggles to ‘know whom to believe’.

So how can we, as armchair generals, possibly have a black and white opinion on what caused this, or how to solve this?

This is an outstanding piece of work and a comprehensive report on what ISIS is, how it came about, and why it attracts so many followers willing to die for a cause. And all the time, we come back to the burning question:

Why do they hate us so much?

And why do we keep fighting? If there are political experts in the west suggesting we stop retaliating each retaliation, and if ISIS can say “if the US hits us with flowers, we will hit them back with flowers” then why are we still fighting?

Read this, and you will be a step or two closer to understanding.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

View all my reviews

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