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Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu

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An eye-opening political travelogue that reveals the Muslim world as never before

Drawing on reporting from more than a dozen Islamic countries, Faith at War offers an unforgettable portrait of the Muslim world after September 11. Choosing to invert the question of what "they" have done to "us," Wall Street Journal reporter Yaroslav Trofimov examines the unprecedented American intrusion in the Muslim heartland and the ripples it has caused far beyond the battlefields of ...

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Overview

An eye-opening political travelogue that reveals the Muslim world as never before

Drawing on reporting from more than a dozen Islamic countries, Faith at War offers an unforgettable portrait of the Muslim world after September 11. Choosing to invert the question of what "they" have done to "us," Wall Street Journal reporter Yaroslav Trofimov examines the unprecedented American intrusion in the Muslim heartland and the ripples it has caused far beyond the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. What emerges is a penetrating portrait of people, faith, and countries better known in caricature than reported detail. The ordinary Muslims, influential clerics, warlords, jihadis, intellectuals and heads of state we meet are engaged in conversations that reveal the Muslim world to us from a new, unexpected perspective.

In Mali, one of the most successful democracies in Africa, we encounter Ousmane Madani Haidara, an influential cleric who sees Wahhabi extremists, rather than his country's secular government, as the real enemy of the true faith. In Saudi Arabia, we explore the bizarre world of exporting dead bodies from a kingdom that bars the burial of non-Muslims. On a US Navy aircraft carrier floating just off the coast of Pakistan in October 2001, we witness the mechanics of war: the onboard assembly of bombs that, hours later, are seen on T.V. exploding in Kabul. And in Iraq, we accompany Trofimov as he negotiates his escape from an insurgent mob, rides in a Humvee with trigger-happy GIs, and gets lectured by a Shiite holy man on why America is the foe of mankind.

Whether exploring the badlands of the Sahara or a snow-covered village of Bosnian mujahedeen, Faith at War helps us understand the hidden relationships and often surprising connections, so crucial to America's future, that link the Islamic world to our own.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"To read Yaroslav Trofimov's dispatches from around the Muslim world in The Wall Street Journal was to find the unexpected, the interesting and the true. Now he has delivered a beautifully written book that is at once enormously well reported, humane and amusing, even as he takes on such serious subjects as the deeply flawed occupation of Iraq. I could not recommend it more highly."

—Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst, author of Holy War, Inc.

"Yaroslav Trofimov writes in such an eloquent and vivid way that, while reading this fascinating book, we involuntarily travel with its author through the lands of Islam. It is an immensely instructive expedition inside a world that amazes us with its richness, variety, and astonishing paradoxes."

—Ryszard Kapuscinski

"Yaroslav Trofimov's Faith at War is not only a breathtaking account of what a sharp-eyed reporter sees, feels and understands under fire and duress while crisscrossing the Muslim world set ablaze by the consequences of 9/11; it is also a great contribution to the intricate relation between faith, war and terror which is at the core of the new century and will be molding the state of world affairs for quite a while. A brilliant narrative, with a vibrant human dimension."

—Gilles Kepel, Professor and Chair of Middle East Studies, Institute of Political Studies, Paris; author of The War for Muslim Minds and Jihad

"Faith at War is a clear-eyed and compelling narrative from behind the front lines of the ever escalating conflict between Islam and the West. From Jeddah to Baghdad, from Kabul to Beirut, Trofimov's stories of death, honor, intrigue and war provide a penetrating, nuanced, and necessary antidote to the bland homilies of the nightly news."

—Craig Unger, author of House of Bush, House of Saud

f0 "A landmark book about the crisis of Islam today. Trofimov takes us into a Muslim world as much at war with itself as it is with American cultural hegemony, to places where McDonald's competes with Wahhabi fundamentalism and memory of the Crusades is as fresh as rage over the most recent air strike by American F-18s. His work brings to mind the best of V. S. Naipaul."

—Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill

Steve Coll
Even where I found myself quarrelling with some of Trofimov's analysis, I felt grateful for his detailed eyewitness accounts and independent point of view. Wherever the road twists next, American readers can only hope that its journalistic travelers include more like Trofimov, who has the language and courage to climb over daunting barriers, to report plainly on what he sees and hears and feels on the other side.
— The Washington Post
William Grimes
The stylishly written, keenly observed dispatches that make up Faith at War deliver mostly bad news. The United States is regarded, across large swaths of the Muslim world, with a mixture of suspicion and hatred that military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has fanned to a white-hot intensity. Moderate Muslim voices are being drowned out by the screaming of fanatics.
— The New York Times
Philip Caputo
… this book deserves a wide readership. The Muslims don't understand us, we don't understand them. Faith at War goes a long way toward solving the second part of that dismal equation.
— The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Trofimov covers Islamic culture for the Wall Street Journal, a wide beat that has him reporting stories from West Africa to Central Asia and even in Eastern Europe. This political travelogue includes dispatches from the front lines of the American invasion of Iraq and the subsequent attempts at creating a democratic regime. There are plenty of by now familiar stories of American troops and politicians bumbling through an increasingly resentful Iraqi society (including the deaths of an Italian diplomat and legitimate Iraqi politician at the hands of U.S. troops). But Trofimov gets fresh material on Saudi Arabia, where, despite severe economic downturns, men continue to hire thousands of foreign workers because they refuse to trust fellow "sex-obsessed" Saudis to chauffeur their wives who are forbidden from driving. By contrast, in the African nation of Mali, Islam exists comfortably alongside indigenous religions, resulting in a healthy democratic environment. If there isn't much of a theme to all this globe hopping beyond showing that Islam is a lot more diverse than most Americans realize, Trofimov puts just the right blend of cultural perspective and personal experience into his tour. Agent, Jay Mandel. (May 4) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eye-popping peregrinations in places where people are most likely to succeed in hating Americans-and in killing us, too. Soviet-born, Rome-resident Wall Street Journal correspondent Trofimov-his Italian passport comes in handy, we see-has been traveling about the Muslim world for years, speaks Arabic and knows his way around the Arab street. It's a dusty road, filled with people who have lately come to dislike the U.S., thanks to "a nagging suspicion among some Muslims, a firm belief among others, that what started as a war against terrorism in 2001 is mutating into an intractable, almost apocalyptic conflict between the West and Islam." But out in the tonier neighborhoods, where the doctors and government folk live, hating Americans has been de rigueur for years now; even the staff of the Jeddah Chuck E. Cheese, by Trofimov's account, is likely to assume that any Westerner is a Zionist spy. The fact is, several interviewees suggest, the greater the American influence in the region, the more likely it is that Islamists will flourish. (Not all Americans are verboten: one semiofficial Yemeni newspaper Trofimov thumbs through features a long op-ed piece by Klansman David Duke.) Trofimov roams the Arab world looking for evidence of how we're doing out there. The answer is not encouraging: having weathered ethnic slaughter, many Bosnian Muslims are drifting into the fundamentalist camp; secular democracies such as Tunisia are steadily losing ground to the mullahs; a steadily poorer Saudi Arabia is ever more "defiantly different from the West in its core"; the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, where, relative to the size of the force there, American casualties are as high as in Iraq, whilein Iraq, those who were supposed to cheer our liberating them are counting coup on the bodies of our soldiers. As one mullah says, "We only believe in American technology. We don't believe in American democracy, because the Americans themselves don't have any."Essential for readers walking the minefield of U.S.-Arab relations-for anyone trying to follow the news.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805077544
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/4/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Yaroslav Trofimov, who reported from the Middle East for a variety of publications during the 1990s and speaks Arabic, joined The Wall Street Journal in 1999 and became the newspaper's roving foreign correspondent for the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Balkans in 2001. He lives with his family in Rome. For more information, please visit www.faithatwar.com.

Biography

Yaroslav Trofimov was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in July 1969, and spent his childhood on the African island of Madagascar before moving to New York to study journalism and political science at New York University.

In 1999-2007, Trofimov traveled all over the Middle East as a Rome-based roving staff correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. A speaker of Arabic, he extensively reported from Saudi Arabia and from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. He described these experiences in Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu. This book of nonfiction reportage, published in 2005, was long-listed for the Lettre Ulysses award for literary journalism and selected as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post.

A vivid description of the 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of al-Qaeda was published to great acclaim in 2007. Trofimov continues his journalistic career as an Asia-based roving correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, reporting in-depth stories about religion and social change in a region that stretches from Indonesia to Pakistan.

Author biography courtesy of Random House.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Yaroslav Trofimov:

"I was born into a totalitarian society, albeit a deeply corroded and crumbling one -- and so the natural reaction, instilled in me by my parents, was to be deeply skeptical of authority and to question assumptions. This happened to be a crucial skill for my journalistic and writing career, in countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia or Bangladesh."

"In that world, where some of the best books were banned, it was also natural to treasure the written word - and literature had an immense value that's hard to understand today. I still remember how my classmate had lent me an illicit, almost illegible photocopy of Mikhail Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita" in the 1980s - and how I spent a whole night typing up my favorite passages on my grandfather's vintage typewriter."

"I was lucky to have sent much of my childhood in Africa, on the island of Madagascar, where my father taught at the local university. But, after that, it was back to the USSR, a country where foreign travel was still the rarest of privileges. It's probably because of this childhood shock of finding myself entrapped again within the Soviet confines that I still suffer from uncontrollable wanderlust, spending my life in planes and crossing every border I can."

"The biggest pleasure that I can derive is from scratching my itch of curiosity -- finding out things that were not public before." On unwinding: "Nothing beats a few days of diving in the deep blue sea. The words disappear under water, and primeval instincts kick in."

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    1. Hometown:
      Singapore
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 29, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kiev, Ukraine
    1. Education:
      BS Equiv, Kiev Institute of Economics, 1990; MA, New York University, 1993

Table of Contents

1 Saudi Arabia : Abdel Wahhab's sons 1
2 Saudi Arabia : Chuck E. Cheese and Richard the Lion Heart 22
3 Tunisia : teaching Freud to the mullahs 43
4 Yemen : you're here to pinpoint air strikes against our mosque 63
5 Kuwait : to Tora Bora and back 83
6 Iraq : tell Mr. Bush that I have dirty clothes 95
7 Iraq : one Saddam for every neighborhood 123
8 Iraq : we don't count their bodies 147
9 Iraq : even if you turn this country into heaven 173
10 Afghanistan : the brandy of Kabul 193
11 Afghanistan : why are you afraid of the soldiers? 212
12 Lebanon : even the goats come from Hezbollah 229
13 Mali : a ballot box in Timbuktu 249
14 Bosnia : all these books, I got them from the Arabs 271
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