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

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Macmillan, May 4, 2005 - History - 312 pages
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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 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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Faith at war: a journey on the frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu

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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 ... Read full review

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This book provides a superb overview of political Islam as it has developed since the early twentieth century, and especially since the events of September 11, 2001. Anyone wanting a better understanding of the political landscape not only within Iraq and Afghanistan but also Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world today is well advised to read these stories and perspectives from Yaroslav Trofimov. I would not categorize this book strictly as being about "religion," as its Google Books category might indicate, but also about politics, history, and current affairs. There are so many aspects of the Islamic faith about which I was ignorant, and now have a little more knowledge as well as perspective thanks to Yaroslav's writing.
His book leaves me with many mixed emotions, but paramount among these is a desire for grace and forgiveness. These gifts do not appear to be a part of Wahhabi (or Muwahiddun) Islam, and the cause of peace in our world relies upon those who would not continue to escalate violence in an unending spiral.
If only we could learn from the Muslims of Mali, as Yaroslav writes in his book, who model the importance of separating religion and politics.
If you have any interest in better understanding global geo-politics, the relationship between the West and the Arab world, and the importance of history in shaping current military conflicts, I strongly encourage you to read, "Faith At War."

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About the author (2005)

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

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