Children of Jihad (book review)

The library is my friend. These days it’s because of the audio books available there-“there” meaning the Manatee Central Library just blocks from the church office.

My routine so far this year has been to get an audio book, listen to it while driving around town, return it as soon as I’m done and immediately get a new one. In selecting a new one, I am content to take the first one that grabs my attention. 

The last one to grab my attention was entitled Children of Jihad. I’m guessing it got my attention because of my recent travels to the Middle East. This writer, Jared Cohen, had travelled there-much more deeply than I had or probably will and for completely different reasons. The cd jacket cover said Cohen’s reason was to try to understand the spread of radical Islamic violence by researching Muslim youth. Attention grabbed.

Published in 2007, this book recounts Cohen’s travels for a few years starting in 2004. Cohen was 23, a Rhodes scholar wanting to learn about global affairs by witnessing them firsthand. His travels took him through Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. He visited villages, cities, universities, and even unknowingly drove through the heart of an insurgency war zone landing him in Mosul.

His tales are mind blowing, mind shifting, and even mind altering. He reveals a perspective that only comes from firsthand encounters and perspectives. He challenges, like any good journalist, both sides of the story. In this case, the one side of the story includes the locals he met while the other side includes those back at Oxford and in his home state of Connecticut. 

Again, I haven’t travelled like Cohen. My encounters in the Arab community have been in the bubble of ministry here in the States and in one country where Cohen didn’t include his research. But I agree with his assessment. We don’t have all the story if all we know is what we see on American news. We are not being respectful to the citizens of the Middle East and their relatives around the world when we lump them all under the same profile. We should lower ourselves and engage them to really appreciate their personal story and to respect them as we respect ourselves.

This book will cause you to pause. To rethink. To revisit. Maybe even to confess. If you care to do such developmental work, Children of Jihad can be a tool for you.

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