I Was Told to Come Alone
"I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification, and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel. . . ."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, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods 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 her travels across 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 her native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization.Mekhennet's background has given her unique access to some of the world's most wanted men, who generally refuse to speak to Western journalists. 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.Souad Mekhennet is an ideal guide to introduce us to the human beings behind the ominous headlines, as she shares her transformative journey with us. Hers is a story you will not soon forget.

I Was Told to Come Alone Details

TitleI Was Told to Come Alone
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 13th, 2017
PublisherHenry Holt and Co.
ISBN1627798978
ISBN-139781627798976
Number of pages368 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, History, War

I Was Told to Come Alone Review

  • Maggie
    June 12, 2017
    ScrappyMags.com one of my best of 2017!!!Scrappymags 3-word review: Alarming. Entrancing. Disturbing.Genre: Non-fiction/MemoirShortest 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 m ScrappyMags.com one of my best of 2017!!!Scrappymags 3-word review: Alarming. Entrancing. Disturbing.Genre: Non-fiction/MemoirShortest 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. Recommend to: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.
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  • Fran Soto
    June 20, 2017
    I won this book on Goodreads. I could barely put this down. It is a Muslim woman journalist's account of her exploration of jihadists, al-Quada and ISIS. Everyone should read this book for a better understanding of why much of the rest of the world hates America and Americans so much. I highly recommend this, and I especially hope that government and military leaders will read it.
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  • Rachel Dows
    May 28, 2017
    This one was slow going, but definitely worth it. It was fascinating, but a thinker. Several times I had to put this down and get a little distance because the topics hit so close to home. As someone who has tried to gain a full understanding of the Muslim faith, this account sharply highlights the struggles that modern Islam faces in the modern world. More than anything, this book is fair. It truly delves deeply into all sides of every argument. Mekhennet searches for truth above all else, and This one was slow going, but definitely worth it. It was fascinating, but a thinker. Several times I had to put this down and get a little distance because the topics hit so close to home. As someone who has tried to gain a full understanding of the Muslim faith, this account sharply highlights the struggles that modern Islam faces in the modern world. More than anything, this book is fair. It truly delves deeply into all sides of every argument. Mekhennet searches for truth above all else, and shows readers the slivers of truth she has found thus far, allowing them to put the puzzle pieces together themselves and form their own opinions.
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  • Laura
    April 10, 2017
    Souad Mekhennet is of Moroccan descent and German birth. As such, she has always walked a line between the Muslim and Western worlds. Fortunately for the rest of us, she is a journalist of the first order and seeks to educate these two worlds about one another's beliefs, experiences, and cultures by writing for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others.I am in awe of Mekhennet's bravery, tenacity, and her ability to make connections with some of the most shadowy figures of jihad. Souad Mekhennet is of Moroccan descent and German birth. As such, she has always walked a line between the Muslim and Western worlds. Fortunately for the rest of us, she is a journalist of the first order and seeks to educate these two worlds about one another's beliefs, experiences, and cultures by writing for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others.I am in awe of Mekhennet's bravery, tenacity, and her ability to make connections with some of the most shadowy figures of jihad. Her memoir is a paean to investigative journalism and its increasing importance in our world.
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  • Rusmir
    June 20, 2017
    In a world trying to build walls, and coming from the country with the most famous wall of all, Souad is determined to build bridges. Her journey leads to an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. Even knowing that she will be alright in the end, I was at the edge of my seat through so many parts of this book - you just don't believe these things happen outside of movies! The incredible thriller action is paired with astute observations on what's making the Muslim word 'tick,' through first- In a world trying to build walls, and coming from the country with the most famous wall of all, Souad is determined to build bridges. Her journey leads to an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. Even knowing that she will be alright in the end, I was at the edge of my seat through so many parts of this book - you just don't believe these things happen outside of movies! The incredible thriller action is paired with astute observations on what's making the Muslim word 'tick,' through first-hand interviews with jihadi leaders. If you're the kind of person who wants to understand the crazy world we live today - and understand it both emotionally and intellectually - this is the book for you. Souad is a superb story teller, drawing you in so close that you can feel the Middle East heat, and then zooming you out so you keep asking the question by one of the widows of 9/11, which echoes through the book: 'why do they hate us so much.' As a Muslim but a blond one, and coming from Bosnia where the lack of Western intervention apparently inspired many jihadis to action, this book left me questioning my own identity. I think I finally realized that jihadis ultimately don't think they are doing anything wrong. I know it's so simple to say it, but Souad's ability to get into their hearts and minds is what really painted their own feelings about the world. In the end, you'll feel awed. Awed by this incredibly brave woman who still loves 80s pop, despite having seen the worst of humanity, or maybe because she witnessed the best of it. Souad may have come alone, but you will walk away from this book wanting to tell everyone you know all about it and making them read it.
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  • Les Gehman
    April 19, 2017
    In this thrilling memoir Souad Mekhennet recounts her upbringing and how it influenced her to always seek the truth. As a child of Sunni and Shia muslim parents, she saw first-hand that there is no need for the divisiveness that seems so prevalent in the muslim community today. As a journalist, she used her muslim background to gain access to many of the people in the radical muslim community to try to find out why people became radicalized. In response to terror attacks, she actually went out a In this thrilling memoir Souad Mekhennet recounts her upbringing and how it influenced her to always seek the truth. As a child of Sunni and Shia muslim parents, she saw first-hand that there is no need for the divisiveness that seems so prevalent in the muslim community today. As a journalist, she used her muslim background to gain access to many of the people in the radical muslim community to try to find out why people became radicalized. In response to terror attacks, she actually went out and asked, "Why?" instead of using the standard western assumptions about the cause of terrorism. She also spends much time in Iraq trying to understand why Sunni and Shia people that had previously gotten along together suddenly are killing each other. The answers are not encouraging.This is a fantastic book, well written, and constantly engaging. Highly recommended to anyone trying to understand the evolution of extremist Islam.(Note: This book was provided to me by the publisher as a LibraryThing early reviewer.)
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  • Tori Keller
    June 28, 2017
    "I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad" is one of the most enlightening books recently written about the factors fueling Islamic jihad and a fascinating window into investigative journalism. Be prepared for an emotional and intoxicating read!Regarding jihad in the Middle East and Europe, Souad Mekhennet is in an excellent position to understand what radicalizes people whether they come from the East or the West, are rich or poor, or are born into Muslim or secular famili "I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad" is one of the most enlightening books recently written about the factors fueling Islamic jihad and a fascinating window into investigative journalism. Be prepared for an emotional and intoxicating read!Regarding jihad in the Middle East and Europe, Souad Mekhennet is in an excellent position to understand what radicalizes people whether they come from the East or the West, are rich or poor, or are born into Muslim or secular families. Mekhennet is a Moroccan-Turkish German citizen who grew up facing the same discrimination as other Arab and Muslim immigrants. After 9/11, she sets out on a quest to answer an American widow's question: "Why do they hate us so much?" And why had no one told them? Wasn't that the job of journalists?Mekhennet succeeds in her journey; she is an incredibly brave, tenacious, and compassionate journalist as she builds her sources behind jihadist lines to get both sides of the story and inform the public about the true nature of jihadism: "I felt that I needed to be in Iraq, to see with my own eyes what was happening there. I didn't want to be like those foreign affairs 'experts' who lived comfortably in Germany but went on TV day and night to talk about global hot spots they never dared to visit". She never settles for one source or weak evidence but takes considerable risk to discover the truth.Contrary to popular belief, Mekhennet shows that radical jihad is not solely caused by the teachings of Islam. In her words, "Religion doesn't radicalize people; people radicalize religion". There are two main radicalizing factors that I gathered from her book: 1. Isolation from society due to broken families, racism, and poverty. 2. Lack of a conversation about what Islam does and does not permit.It is not just religion that causes violence, but how it is interpreted through the prism of social grievances and used as a vehicle for retribution. Mekhennet does not blame one party for this phenomenon but places blame where it is due: on Western foreign policy blunders, racism & hypocrisy, radical jihadists themselves and anyone who breaks bridges for political ends. The confluence of these factors has led to the radical violence terrorizing Muslims and non-Muslims alike. According to Mekhennet, it will take a generation to fix this problem. In one disturbing scene in Lebanon, after interviewing militant leader Shaker al-Abssi, she witnesses another militant praising his young son for playing jihad and killing pretend "kuffar". However, the first step to defeating this ideology is understanding it. To that effect, Mekhennet succeeds immensely and has turned her experiences into an invaluable piece of the solution.
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  • Julie A
    June 20, 2017
    Simply astounding. This should be mandatory reading for everyone. A true tour de force. What a book. There are very few times when I finish a book and feel compelled to A) recommend it to everyone I know; and B) buy numerous copies to mail to my favorite readers. This is very much one of those books. I learned so much by reading this. So much. I know that I'll learn more with each reread -- and this is definitely going into the "to be reread" section. Mekhennet's stories are incredible, but her Simply astounding. This should be mandatory reading for everyone. A true tour de force. What a book. There are very few times when I finish a book and feel compelled to A) recommend it to everyone I know; and B) buy numerous copies to mail to my favorite readers. This is very much one of those books. I learned so much by reading this. So much. I know that I'll learn more with each reread -- and this is definitely going into the "to be reread" section. Mekhennet's stories are incredible, but her real achievement is her ability to humanize each of her characters. Everyone in her book gets a fair shot. No one is demonized by their affiliation. Everyone's background is explored; their motivations are related; and she is careful to present them as multidimensional figures. The author truly attempts to act as a bridge. It is very apparent that she wants to present both sides of the story in as evenly and as fairly, without resorting to paradigms or kowtowing to a dominant narrative, as possible. This is not a story about a monolith or about an empire of evil. There is nothing black or white about Mekhennet's telling. This is a story about humans who have experienced different circumstances, but some similar overwhelming trends, who see a particularly way of life as a solution to the problems they encounter in the West.A fascinating read. Mekhennet did a true service by writing this book. I couldn't recommend it strongly enough.
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  • Paige Kinnamon
    June 30, 2017
    I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway and was going to add it to my ever increasing pile of books to get through. As I read very slowly, I don't normally get through a giveaway book before or around the time of its release but I Was Told to Come Alone was different. I picked it up almost immediately after receiving it and finished it about 5 days later. (Record time for me when my reading time is dictated by three fussy dogs who do whatever they please, but I digress.) This book was incredib I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway and was going to add it to my ever increasing pile of books to get through. As I read very slowly, I don't normally get through a giveaway book before or around the time of its release but I Was Told to Come Alone was different. I picked it up almost immediately after receiving it and finished it about 5 days later. (Record time for me when my reading time is dictated by three fussy dogs who do whatever they please, but I digress.) This book was incredibly engaging while being educational and approachable. I learned so much about Islam and the conflicts facing so many Muslim communities around the world. Beginning the book biographically explained the power and enormity behind Mekhennet's achievements. Being a German Muslim woman breaking these stories and gaining such in-depth access is incredibly powerful and inspiring. I loved this book and am recommending it to everyone I know.
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  • Jim
    June 24, 2017
    Written by a daring journalist seeking answers as to why people radicalize and kill in the name of religion. She takes chances confronting those who do. It's a great insight into matters concerning everyone worldwide given the attacks of late in European countries.
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  • Vivian
    June 29, 2017
    I chose this book because I wanted to know a female Muslim's view of how people become so radicalized and violent in the name of Islam. What do other Muslims think about the violence and how do they stand up against it? The author is a brilliant, brave woman with an understanding heart.
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  • Keeley
    June 29, 2017
    I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway. This book was wonderful and very insightful. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read a book that I probably never would have picked up on my own.
  • Andrea
    June 26, 2017
    An incredibly compelling, impressive and painful read.
  • Amy
    June 20, 2017
    AMAZING.
  • Tracee Marie
    June 21, 2017
    So good! This is one of my favorite memoirs. I was engaged the entire book.
  • Melanie
    May 16, 2017
    Crazy true story set in a world that is hard to understand.
  • Dae
    June 26, 2017
    Such an incredibly brave, intelligent woman. I am in awe of you, Souad. Everyone should read this book.
  • Keisuke Ando
    June 27, 2017
    Must readIt's a page turner and compelling in message and should be required reading for anyone in a position of influence regarding policy
  • Guy
    June 23, 2017
    What an eye opener this book is. It is superbly written and I recommend it highly to be read by all
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