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Children of Jihad [Hardcover]

Jared A. Cohen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham Books (1 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592403247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592403240
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,335,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Documents the author's travels to the Middle East in search of an understanding of radical Islamic violence, journeys during which he focused his research on Muslim youth and learned about his interviewees' perspectives and experiences at the risk of hisown life.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It still baffles me that I was ever let into Iran. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Young Arab's Perspective 23 Nov 2007
A rather impressive publication from a very accomplished individual... An exciting and informative insight into whats deemed to be almost forbidden territories.. Most would find this book a revelation, but to those knowledgable about the Middle East, a clarification... Its refreshing to witness the age of ignorance slowly being combatted.. Thank You Mr Cohen..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
58 of 71 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a shame. 26 Nov 2008
By Pat - Published on
Are you looking for useful insight into the minds of Middle Easterners? You won't find it here, but you will find a good amount of ego and misconception. The book has some interesting accounts from the youth in Iran and Kurdistan, but the merits of this book are completely outweighed by an irritating narrative of an American constantly projecting his Orientalist fantasies while trying to confirm pre-formulated views about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Right away he looses all credibility with his exaggeration. He fondly describes how risky it was to sneak into an African Civil War on a truck of bananas. Is this necessary? Lines like "I was flirting with the idea of crossing from Iran into Basra." But he didn't, so why would he write this? To stroke his ego of how adventurous he is to ignorant people back in America who will never travel over here. The whole part leading up to entering Kurdistan and how he was going into a war zone is fabricated. He obviously knew this wasn't the case beforehand if he was a guest of the KRG, so why the long drawn out blabber about how he might die. People travel freely in Kurdistan and it is hardly dangerous, and he knew this going in. Much of the Middle East is very safe for travel, so why the constant reminders that he might die at any second? He is concerned with painting a picture of himself as a risk taker, regardless of the actual circumstances. This holds true in much of his writing about Arabs. He has a picture he wants to paint regardless of the actual situation.

The section that Cohen writes about Hezbollah is absurd. I am an American student at AUB, and what he says about hundreds of Hezbollah "operatives" "infiltrating" the university is ridiculous. Yes of course there are Hezbollah supporters at the school, since Hezbollah is a huge political party and the de facto government for half of the country! He can't get past the American "terrorist" designation to actually learn about these people. To someone that lives in Lebanon this book is infuriatingly naive. He does not make any effort to understand the people from the South, just has a few conversations and describes the "shivers sent down his spine" as an American Jew.

Now let's try to understand how these people view Israel, not as American Jews, but as the ones who have suffered under Israeli occupation and war. In the end Cohen describes how Hezbollah bursts back onto the scene with a "blast of rocket fire" to attack Israel and he describes the 2006 summer war as one sided attack against poor Israel. Look at the facts. It was started by the capture by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers, and the retaliation was the largest aerial bombardment in the history of the Middle East. Bigger even than the Yom Kippur war. The targets were largely civilian, the Israeli strategy being depopulation of civilians in the hope that they would put blame for their problems on Hezbollah. In the last 48 hours of the war, right up to the cease-fire, Israel dropped 4 million cluster bombs in civilian areas all over the south. And they won't release the maps of the cluster attacks for clean-up, because if the international community saw the targets they would absolutely condemn this attack as a war crime. Children and farmers continue to lose limbs and be crippled by these mines while trying to rebuild their villages, and Israel keeps the maps to themselves for political reasons. This example is very typical of Israeli action.

So yes of course they are going to view Israel as the enemy. The conflict is very lopsided, and Cohen does not even attempt to look at the other side, blindly assuming that the Israeli government is always in the right. Why doesn't he travel to Israel for this book? Or to the West Bank or Gaza where humans are treated like animals? Not one mention of the events that forced the Palestinians from their home and into the camp he visits in Lebanon. He brands them as extremists and quickly moves on. Anything he says about the Arab-Israeli conflict was decided before his travels.

This book only serves to confirm ignorant American perceptions of the Middle East, while working towards its main purpose which is ego-building. To anyone who lives here this book is infuriating. This book was written to impress people back home, not to write justly about the people living in the Middle East. How this book got the praise of Vali Nasr is beyond me. Enjoy your job in the State Department Mr. Cohen.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sharp, surprising account of youth politics in Iran and the ME 28 Oct 2007
By J. Kim - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I expected Jared Cohen's "Children of Jihad" to read either like a travel journal (author in foreign land feels foreign, learns Lessons), or a collection of Friedman-style essays/episodic dispatches from the Arab street.

Instead, COJ succeeds on a whole other level--part page-turning adventure, part history/social study, part conversational reporting--truly unlike anything I've read on the subject. Cohen draws heavily on personal interviews and daily interactions from his months abroad to paint a surprisingly vibrant portrait of young people across the Middle East (most strikingly, Iran); one that is more dynamic, perceptive and pro-American than most of us think.

His interviews and anecdotes compellingly remind us that the campaign for "hearts and minds" is a two-way effort. In public diplomacy, it's not enough for us to get our message out to "them"; we must also actively listen to what "they" have to say to us--about their hopes and aspirations; about the US role and how our policies affect their daily lives--if we are ever to acheive the diplomatic goals we seek. In this respect, the book is an excellent source for public diplomacy scholars and practitioners.

Organized by destination (Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq), COJ reads like an exciting and informative ride across Cohen's death wish of a map. Thematically, the book focuses on what Cohen calls the "Youth Party," which serves as a purposefully broad demographic marker (two-thirds of the ME is under 30), as well as a metonym for an ineluctable, generational thirst for change.

Cohen and the majority of his subjects--ranging from students to taxi drivers to members of Hezbollah--were all under 25 at the time of writing. It makes for a fresh and novel approach, and Cohen is a truly gifted storyteller. He strikes a narrative balance between observation and empathy that feels right, and reads well. Brief historical backgrounders are included where needed for readers new to the subject.

Above all, Cohen allows himself (and the reader) to be surprised and touched by the people he meets because his encounters are rooted in mutual respect. Fluent in Arabic and Farsi, and an area scholar, he is candid about his identity as an American Jew, while remaining sensitive to the repressive political contexts in which he and his new friends must operate.

Whoever said, "Youth is wasted on the young" must not have read this book--energetic and bold, it is a highly accessible, ambitious, and clear-eyed account that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the region. Cohen used his youth and insouciance to his remarkable advantage, and even area experts likely will be surprised by his findings.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising, but a letdown. 21 Dec 2007
By Dave - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book starts out with the oft-familiar and now-trite language of having traveled abroad and having been "changed" by it all. Okay, fair enough--I figured I'd indulge him before he gets to the meat.

But his writing suffers from a couple of flaws. First, he writes about too much history. Now, I love history--I was a history major--but Cohen is not a historian and this is not a historical book. I appreciate that some of what he talks about is useful to understanding the situation in which he finds himself--but the history need not go on for pages. It is amateurish. And second, the whole theme and writing seem rather hackneyed. "As an American Jew, I couldn't believe how nice they were...etc., etc., etc." Every chapter is new scenery, new people, but the same exact story over and over again. Disappointing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing really new if you know anything about the region 19 Sep 2009
By MoMo - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you believe that Muslims and Arabs hate democracy and freedom and that is the reason they want to kill us, then pick up this book. It should enlighten you.

If you believe the reason for the east-west discord is much more nuanced and complicated, then Cohen doesn't provide anything insightful. It's not a new discovery to learn that most people want jobs, dignity and live in peace. That most children in the middle east grow up with a healthy diet of Oprah, Hanna Montana and McDonalds.

Again, if you've ever travelled to or studied in the region in anyway, this book (with the exception of party scenes in Beirut) is dull.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking down stereotypes- Way to go, Cohen!! 9 Dec 2007
By Bookworm - Published on
As an American Jew, Cohen does something that very few Americans would do. He goes to the Middle East on a visa after multiple failed attempts at being granted one. He faces his fears head-on, to learn about the people and culture behind the Jihad for himself. In the process, he learns to break-down his preconceived notions and stereotypes that the American media often feeds us, banking on the fact that the vast majority of Americans will never go to Iran themselves to prove it wrong.

People r generally much more motivated by fear than by the potential of gain. Every experienced salesperson knows this with the "fear, uncertainty, doubt" sales pitch designed to make us "Act know!", "Limited time offer!". By facing a very common fear of Islamic militant countries and its people, Cohen is able to discover that you can't judge individuals by the action of a few. At one point he is speaking with a very animated female Iranian college student, who has an insatiable interest & curiosity in Americans and what what it's like over here? The student mimics the sentiment of many of her peers when explaining the anti-American slogans come from the older established generation of power-hungry leaders, as opposed to the youth of their country. She describes how saddened she & her peers were when they learned of 9/11 and watched the twin towers fall on television. Cohen sheepishly admits to his readers that he could not return the sentiment that many Americans ever "cried" or felt the same way about the Iranians being killed in the current war.

This is a new & refreshing perspective that causes one to question any leader of a country to rally its people's support for a cause by spreading media-indoctrinated fear and stereotypes. It's an easy read of first-hand accounts. I had chosen it for our book club this month and upon buying the last copy at Border's discovered both book stores in town are sold out of it!
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