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Confessions of a Mullah Warrior

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Overview

"Masood Farivar was ten years old when his childhood in peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan was shattered by the Soviet invasion in 1979. Although he was born into a long line of religious and political leaders who shaped his nation's history for centuries, Farivar fled to Pakistan with his family and came of age in a madrassah for refugees, where he was introduced to Islamic fundamentalism and became a devout Muslim. At eighteen, he defied his parents and returned home to join the jihad, fighting beside not only the Afghan mujahideen but also
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Overview

"Masood Farivar was ten years old when his childhood in peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan was shattered by the Soviet invasion in 1979. Although he was born into a long line of religious and political leaders who shaped his nation's history for centuries, Farivar fled to Pakistan with his family and came of age in a madrassah for refugees, where he was introduced to Islamic fundamentalism and became a devout Muslim. At eighteen, he defied his parents and returned home to join the jihad, fighting beside not only the Afghan mujahideen but also Arab and Pakistani volunteers." "Farivar was stationed at Tora Bora and spent the next two years training for, fighting in, and reporting on the conflict. He learned to gauge the proximity of enemy fire in order to say his prayers between shellings. He aided in the takeover of a Soviet garrison that killed more than one hundred Communist soldiers. He shared a room with dead comrades when there was nowhere else to sleep. Toward the end of his time at the front, Farivar was introduced to Carlos Mavroleon, an enigmatic international adventurer from a privileged background who had converted to Islam and was fighting with the mujahideen. Mavroleon took Farivar under his wing and encouraged him to apply to Harvard." "After the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, Farivar made his way from the caves of Tora Bora to the rolling green lawns of elite American schools. His first stop was the Lawrenceville School, a private academy in suburban New Jersey, where he spent a year shoring up his academic credentials before moving on to Harvard. At every turn there were culture shocks: girls in short skirts, radically different ideas about personalhygiene, plentiful drugs and alcohol. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in history and politics, Farivar traveled the United States by car and finally moved to New York City to pursue a career in journalism. During his ten years in the city, he witnessed the horror of 9/11, made several heartbreaking trips home to visit his family, and was ultimately propelled home for good in 2007. He now serves his country by running a national radio program." At a time when the war in Afghanistan is the focus of renewed attention, and its outcome is more crucial than ever to our own security, Farivar draws on his unique experience as a native Afghan, a former mujahideen fighter, and a longtime U.S. resident to provide unprecedented insight into the ongoing collision between Islam and the West. He paints a vibrant portrait of his family and his nation's history; exposes the world of militant Islam by taking us deep inside the madrassahs; vividly recounts his experiences on the battlefield; and movingly conveys the culture shock of a Muslim living in contemporary America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

One would be forgiven for assuming that the reader of Farivar's memoir of war, religious fundamentalism and escape is, like its author, a native Afghan. With his mellifluous accent, and Britain-by-way-of-Kabul pronunciation, Christopher Lane superbly echoes the sound of Afghan English without any shade of parody. The result is a deeper immersion in Farivar's story of growing up in the relatively peaceful Afghanistan that predated the Soviet invasion of 1979, his time spent passionately devoted to the Qur'an in a religious school, and his studies at an East Coast prep school and Harvard after his arrival in the United States. An Atlantic Monthly hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 20). (Mar.)

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Library Journal

This timely memoir looks into the life of a man who has experienced war in Afghanistan from a side not normally reported on by the American media. Farivar explores his experience in the war with Russia that raged from 1979 to 1989, showing how his life circumstances influenced his attitude about war and religion and what jihad really means to someone who is Muslim. Not just a chronicle of war, it is also a coming-of-age story about a child raised by a secular father who as a young man becomes a refugee in Pakistan drawn to radical Islam, joining the mujahideen fighting in his homeland. A chance meeting with an English convert sets him on the path to America, a turn from radicalism, and a degree from Harvard. After years in America, Farivar has decided to return to Afghanistan and a very uncertain future. This invaluable memoir shows the other, non-American side of the Middle Eastern coin, explaining how a normal person can get caught up in radical Islam-not because he is anti-American or anti-West but because he is pro-Afghanistan. Farivar humanizes the experience for us. Recommended for larger public and especially academic libraries, where its discussion of hot-button issues will generate good discussion.
—Jenny Seftas

Kirkus Reviews
Memoir about growing up in war-torn Afghanistan by an Afghan refugee who joined the jihad against the Soviets and later studied at Harvard. The only son of a well-educated mechanical engineer who worked for an oil and gas company near Sheberghan, Farivar was nine when the Soviets invaded in 1979. Since his father was fiercely anti-Soviet, the family fled the country and settled in Peshawar, Pakistan, where Farivar attended a madrassa and received full indoctrination in Koranic and Arabic teaching. Fired up to join the jihad, he returned to Afghanistan and joined the mujahideen base at Tora Bora in the late '80s. As the war was winding down, Farivar met a curious Mexican-Greek journalist, Karimullah, who was impressed by the author's scholarly bent and encouraged him to apply to Harvard. He studied for a year at Lawrenceville Prep before landing at Harvard, and he humorously describes the culture shock he encountered in his first visit to America. Despite his campus legend as the "Afghan freedom fighter," Farivar maintained a low profile. He shaved his beard, moved to New York and tried to find work and a green card, just as the Taliban began their ascendancy. The end of the book is a bit vague, as the author notes he worked as a "roving war correspondent" and his immigration status was imperiled after 9/11. Following several trips back to Afghanistan, he recognized that his heart was there and that "only when Afghan refugees in Pakistan return to Afghanistan can there be stability in Afghanistan." Finally, Farivar returned in 2007 for an extended stay to assist Afghan journalists in Kabul, and he leaves his memoir as open-ended as the fragile state of his country. Eye-opening chronicle ofcultural exchange. Agent: Tina Bennett/Janklow & Nesbit
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802144546
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,398,294
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in 1969 in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, Masood Farivar fought in the anti-Soviet resistance in the late 1980s before attending Harvard University, from which he received a degree in history and politics. His journalism has appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, and Soldier of Fortune. He lives in Afghanistan.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great, enjoyable read for anyone looking to understand a misunderstood part of the world

    Masood Farivar provides an enjoyable and digestible first hand account of a complicated region and nation. His upbringing at the crossroads of tribal life and what was then the closest thing in Afghanistan to 'suburbia' life, combined with his journey to becoming a warrior fighting communism in the 1980s would serve well for any literature. Yet, Masood adds the cherry on top; he left Afghanistan for a Harvard education in the 1990s, and then returned to his country a couple years ago. As such, he applies a unique lens that provides a viewing angle for "western" readers. The outcome is a great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 31, 2010

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