Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels among the Youth of the Middle East

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While still an undergraduate at Stanford University, Jared Cohen ran with guerrillas in the Congo, survived numerous close calls with local warlords, and witnessed the awful aftermath of decades of sectarian violence, all to try to understand the continent's troubled state of affairs. After seeing radical Islamist violence beginning to spread across Africa, he came to the conclusion that, in order to fully understand the phenomenon, the Middle East had to be his next destination. Studying on a Rhodes Scholarship ...
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Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East

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Overview

While still an undergraduate at Stanford University, Jared Cohen ran with guerrillas in the Congo, survived numerous close calls with local warlords, and witnessed the awful aftermath of decades of sectarian violence, all to try to understand the continent's troubled state of affairs. After seeing radical Islamist violence beginning to spread across Africa, he came to the conclusion that, in order to fully understand the phenomenon, the Middle East had to be his next destination. Studying on a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford, he took a crash course in Arabic and read voraciously on the history and culture of the Middle East; in 2004 he embarked on the first of a series of incredible journeys to the region. Despite the fact that he was a Jewish American, he reached out to Middle Eastern youth in areas few Westerners would ever venture into, putting himself in incredible danger in order to understand their culture and their views on government, Israel, and America.

Children of Jihad is Cohen's account of his travels in the Middle East. Written with candor and insight, Cohen's trip begins in Lebanon, where he interviews Hezbollah members at, of all places, a McDonald's. In Iran, he defies government threats and sneaks into underground parties, where bootleg liquor, Western music, and the Internet are all easy to access. His dangerous itinerary also takes him to a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, borderlands in Syria, the insurgency hotbed of Mosul, and other frontline locales. At each turn, he observes a paradoxical culture at an uncanny crossroads: Bedouin shepherds with satellite dishes that provide Western TV shows, young women wearing garish makeupdespite religious mandates, teenagers sending text messages and arranging illicit trysts. A gripping and essential read for understanding the evolving Middle East, Children of Jihad shows us the future through the eyes of those who are shaping it.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An intrepid writer journeys to the Middle East at the dawn of the 21st century to document the lives of young people whose countries are immersed in social and political upheaval. In this engrossing book, Cohen artfully combines his natural confidence and flare as a writer to produce a revealing look at the youth of Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. He gives a loose overview of the history of each region and then eloquently details his encounters with the young people he meets. The trip begins in Iran with Cohen clutching a piece of paper listing all the important political figures he wants to interview. But a chance meeting with two sisters at the University of Tehran, and an introduction to the city's nightlife, propel the author away from these lofty goals and toward a documentation of youth culture. Once he hits his stride, the highlights come thick and fast, with tales of illegal alcohol consumption in Iran, encounters with Hezbollah members in fast-food restaurants, a pulse-racing scenario in a Palestinian refugee camp and a daring entrance, and terrifying exit, from Iraq. But the real revelations come from the author's conversations with the people he meets along the way. Many express pro-American sentiment, and despite some healthy debate, particularly in Cohen's meetings with university students in Iran and Iraq, he is never subjected to overt hostility, even from Hezbollah. The author also makes some telling observations on how the Internet and cable television have provided a vital, and heretofore unthinkable, link between the Middle East and the rest of the world. To his credit, Cohen rarely hides the fact that he is Jewish and American, and his openness appears tohave been highly respected among the people he encountered-it's also one of the primary reasons why this book makes for such compelling reading. Riveting from start to finish.
Media
“A riveting read from start to finish.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Children of Jihad is a very smart, insightful account of a young Jewish- American (and rhodes scholar) trying to understand his generation across the line in the middle east.”
— Tom Brokaw, NBC Universal

"This young gutsy writer knows that the East-West struggle is being fought over the cafe tables of the Near and Middle East. Do the youth of the Islamic world dream of an engineering degree from Michigan State or a martyrs death? This young American has had the moxie to sit and listen for hours at those tables. In the words of the poet, Jared Cohen has taken the road "less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
—Chris Matthews, Host of MSNBC's Hardball and NBC's The Chris Matthews Show

"Jared Cohen has written a unique book. Imagine a young American circulating in the back alleys and cafes of Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Palestinian refugee camps, and Iraq meeting other youth on their terms and asking pointed questions about their aspirations, concerns and attitudes toward their rulers and toward the United States. There are breathtaking descriptions of flirting with danger and fascinating dialogues that provide deep insights into the politics and sociology of four key countries in the Middle East. It is a fascinating read which I recommend to anyone who wants to develop a better understanding of the [Middle East] and Arab world."
— Frank Carlucci, Former Secretary of Defense

"An enlightening and entertaining story that is part travelogue and part cultural analysis. Gaining insights through simple conversation, Cohen paints a compelling picture of the politically awakened youth of the Middle East."
—Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor

"In this remarkable book Cohen provides a fresh perspective on the Middle East. Seen through the eyes of the youth, and poignantly describing their hopes and despairs, Cohen provides a timely commentary on the troubled relations between America and the Middle East. Looking at the habits and passions that binds the youth across the cultural divide as well as the politics that which divides them this book provides much food for thought for Americans and Middle Easterners alike."
—Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam will Shape the Future

"Astonishing."
Washington Times

"Children of Jihad succeeds at breaking down some inaccurate generalizations and replacing them with more accurate generalizations, and it does a good job of humanizing Middle Eastern youth by telling their individual stories"
Haaretz

"An important book to read."
— Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC Morning Joe

"I admire Jared Cohen's courage, vigor and insight. He has been a wonderful source of information and understanding about Iran, particularly youth attitudes and ideals. His advice is helpful in fostering better relations, better public diplomacy and progress toward greater democratic freedoms and openness in Iran."
—Senator Richard Lugar, Ranking Member on Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“Cohen’s chronicle is fine fieldwork for students of the Middle East”
Booklist
 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592403240
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

After witnessing the awful aftermath of decades of sectarian aggression and radical Islamist violence, Jared Cohen decided that he must go to the Middle East to better understand the phenomenon. After extensively studying Arabic and the history of the Middle East, he journeyed into the region and reached out to the youth in the area, putting himself in danger in order to understand their culture and views on government, Israel, and America. Children of Jihad is Cohen’s account of his travels and interviews with the people he met.
 
In September 2006, he was named the youngest member to the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff, where he focused on counter-terrorism, counter-radicalization, and Middle East/North Africa issues. Prior to his work at the State Department, Cohen received his BA from Stanford University and continued his education at the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Currently, he is the director of Google Ideas and is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves as a member of the National Counterterrorism Center’s Director’s Advisory Board.
 
Jared Cohen is also the author of One Hundred Days of Silence and most recently co-authored The New Digital Age, with Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google.
 

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Destination Iran 9

2 Removing the Shackles 30

3 Democracy after Dark 49

4 Nuclear Pride 73

5 "Death to America" 85

6 The Calm Before the Storm 108

7 The All-Night "Party of God" 137

8 Struggling for Dignity 156

9 Babies in the Ba'ath Party 177

10 The Road to Mesopotamia 203

11 Iraqis Who Like Us 224

12 Waking Up in the Insurgency 252

Epilogue: The Youth Party 266

Acknowledgments 276

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    He makes the world his own...

    Jared Cohen was young when he wrote this, and so can be forgiven some of his more obnoxious asides, but I grew to appreciate his relentless inquisitiveness on political issues, and to appreciate the almost verbatim conversations. Obviously he took the time to make notes shortly after his encounters, so as to remember clearly. I believe the transcriptions are largely true, judging from the ordinariness of most of the responses to his questions. I came to appreciate his eye, as he grew in knowledge as the trip progressed. I see the value in the trip and the writing of it. I think one of the most astonishing revelations for me was the outrageous behaviors of Iranian youth, despite the overhang of the oppressive government we are used to seeing. In addition, the satellite receivers that the desert Bedouin of Syria use was a revelation. These folks don't seem so remote, and I'm sure we don't seem so remote to them, either. Now, if we can just hook up Afghanistan so that they can watch "Office" if they want.

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  • Posted August 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Most False Information about Middle Eastern Culture

    Jared Cohen makes it seem like arabs have no freedom especially the children of Jihad muslim-arab people such as myself are happy of their way of lives. We are fine with wearing hijabs or covering up all over there is no reason to show anything f ourselves so w are fine with what the Qur'an says about how we should ive our lives. Mr. Cohen interviews children of Iran which they themselves dont consider themselves arab so what does Iranian kids have to do with Arab culture. In reality in Middle east we follow the Qur'an and Islamic laws. Children do have the ability to play games hangout with same-sex fiends and to live a normal muslim arab life. Which i obviously different than American way of life or adults and children. I think an Arab who knows their religion and culture should write a book about the same thing and truthful facts!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2008

    Youth can change our world!

    Children of Jihad is an enlightening book that gives us hope for America's relationship with the Middle East. The author shows infinite possibilities to bridge the gap between the youths of both America and the Middle East. Similarities between two are as shocking. Moreover, the guts the author demonstrates during his adventure are impressive! This book presents realistic opportunities both groups can take advantage of to shift the views of one another. I highly recommend this book! It's a page turner!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2007

    Extraordinary narrative

    Cohen in his brilliant book dives into an oft-misunderstood cross section of society, walking an untrodden path through the hopes and fears of this critically-important segment of the world. A must-read book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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