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Faith at War

A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu

Yaroslav Trofimov


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ISBN10: 0312425112
ISBN13: 9780312425111

Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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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 U.S. 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 television 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.


Praise for Faith at War

"Part travel book, part political and cultural commentary, part adventure story and altogether [a] superb, gracefully written guide . . . Each tile is exquisitely wrought . . . 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."—Philip Caputo, The New York Times Book Review

"Yaroslav Trofimov's far-ranging Faith at War: Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, From Baghdad to Timbuktu is a humane, beautifully reported trip around the turbulent Muslim world."—The Washington Post

"Trofimov covers Islam for The Wall Street Journal, speaks Arabic, and is well positioned to comment on events surrounding the war against militant Islam. His book provides firsthand reports from the Islamic world from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iraq; not the theorizing of talking heads we often get on the news, which is so often mistaken."—Bill Crawford, National Review Online

"A book full of bleak stories about the state of America's relationship with the Islamic world. Trofimov is at his best when he pairs his impressive reporting skills with provocative analysis."—Austin Merrill, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Stylishly written, keenly observed dispatches. Trofimov deals in vivid tableaus."—William Grimes, The New York Times

"Yaroslav Trofimov's political travelogue, Faith at War, is an illuminating arrival in this season of fog. Trofimov is an intrepid, Arabic-speaking traveler who moves in landscapes few other Westerners traverse. As a roving foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, he has often produced newspaper stories rich in detail and nuance, and he has established himself as one of the best in the business. Now he has taken his sweat-stained notebooks and pulled together what he describes as a 'personal account of what's happening on the ground' in the Islamic world. At his best, Trofimov is a master of microcosm. His voice is arch and skeptical—an itinerant Dashiell Hammett of the Middle East . . . Trofimov is an entertaining, serious, surprising reporter. It is a pleasure to go with him. 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."—Steve Coll, The Washington Post Book World

"Trofimov, a Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent, spent the three years since September 11, 2001, visiting nine countries: Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali, and Bosnia. There he discovered conflicted sentiment after the 9/11 atrocity: while some mourned, others celebrated this lashing back at a Western world seen as arrogant. Most curiously, he notes, it was 'not the downtrodden and ignorant masses' who celebrated but the middle and upper classes, who could afford Western luxuries like eating at McDonald's and emulated Western customs, such as dress. Trofimov casts a wide net and comes up with gems. This well-written and thought-provoking volume is sure to give researchers and those seeking to understand the nuances of that region's response to the West something to talk about. Recommended."—Ethan Pullman, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads