In her soon-to-be released memoir, I Was Told to Come Alone, Souad Mekhennet, a young Washington Post security correspondent who grew up as a Muslim in Germany recounts her work exploring the roots of Islamic radicalism. Born in Germany to a Turkish mother and a Moroccan father, Souad Mekhennet’s unique cultural identity granted her access to some of the most wanted terrorist operatives in the world where she has attempted to discover “what is in the minds of these young jihadists, and how can we understand and defuse it?”
Her travels take her from the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, all the way to the Turkish-Syrian border, encountering with intelligence agents, and secretive meetings with members of the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS all along.
In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her terrifying run-ins with various intelligence services and reveals why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. Returning to Europe, she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John” a British Arab living in London who had been shown on gruesome videos of radicals beheading captives. In France, Belgium, and her native Germany, she reveals how terror has infiltrated the heart of the Western civilization.
Based on copious interviews with members of jihadi groups, torture victims, families of men drawn into terrorism, refugees, and desperate citizens, Mekhennet exposes the sources of rage against the West. She is as frustrated with the West’s insistence that all Muslims are terrorists as she is with the horrific image of the West held by indoctrinated jihadi militants, who watch videos of atrocities carried out by Western-backed regimes as part of the recruitment process. Mekhennet is also frustrated by the Western media’s glossing over reality: she wonders, for example, why the uprisings known as the Arab Spring were not shown to be “turning formerly stable countries into security threats” roiled by sectarian rift.
However, her memoir detailing her interactions with radicalized groups across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe begs the question why Pakistan is targeted by the international community as a major culprit of terrorism and the mother of evil when growing evidence has emerged of incubators existing in countries like Germany, France and the UK that create home grown terrorists. The plotters of 9/11 were radicalized in German neighborhoods, yet the US and the international community was quick to react by invading Afghanistan, a country far away from the real culprits of the attack.
The origin of the 9/11 attackers was actually traced to be Saudi and, as CNN’s Fareed Zakariya recently stated, almost every terror attack in the west has had some connection to Saudi Arabia. A leaked email of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 2014 showed that in recent years the Saudi Arabia government along with Qatar have been “providing clandestine financial and logistical support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Not to mention, Saudi nationals make up the second largest group of foreign fighters in the Islamic State and, by some accounts, the largest in the terrorist groups in the Iraqi operations.
Ironically, despite the growing evidence of the links between Saudi Arabia and terrorist organizations, Trump has adopted the Saudi line on terrorism and signed up for a relentless series of battles against Shiites and their allies throughout the region. the US has partnered with Saudi Arabia to fight ISIS. President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia following the bombing in Manchester which was claimed by the ISIS, shows the ability of Saudi Arabia, a country CNN’s Fareed Zakariya terms as central to the spread of terrorism, to evade and deflect any responsibility for it.
Fareed Zakariya, in his commentary last week, singled out Saudi Arabia as the largest source of Wahabi-inspired terrorism for the last five decades which he stated was originally practiced almost nowhere else. Osama Bin Laden, he stated, was Saudi as were 15 of the 19 terrorists of the 9/11. A leaked German intelligence report further also showed that charities closely connected with government offices of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have been funding mosque schools and Imaams to disseminate a fundamentalist, intolerant version of Islam throughout Germany. It is time the real mother of the evil is dealt with by the international community and genuine efforts are taken to deal with the culprit before terror infiltrations become irreversible for the global community to tackle.
Sitwat Waqar Bokhari is a Research Fellow at the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).