‘My Dinner with al-Qaeda’ – Prospect magazine, UK
The May 2010 edition of Britain’s leading intellectual magazine Prospect has run a three-page excerpt that its editorial staff cleverly adapted from a chapter in Dining with al-Qaeda. In it I tell of my encounter in Saudi Arabia with a missionary from al-Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan. Editor David Goodhart sent me a copy of the magazine with a kind note of thanks saying he thought the episode was ‘spine-chilling’. Here’s how it starts:
It was a couple of months after 11th September 2001, but it never occurred to me that I was at risk from al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. I was there as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and I still believed in the cloak of innocence: the idea that my reporting represented an honest, universal right to know…
This is the story I’ve been asked to retell to audiences most often while presenting Dining with al-Qaeda. Naturally, people focus on the way the missionary said he would kill me – as I did at the time, unsurprisingly. But beyond saying it was because I was an ‘infidel’, I don’t delve much deeper in this excerpt into why he would even consider such drastic action. The ‘Islamic’ explanation has never satisfied me. As I try to show elsewhere in the book, Middle Eastern actions, even inexcusable ones, are often better explained as the result of Western actions upon them over decades, which Westerners just don’t understand because it hasn’t been done to them. If you poke someone, you always feel it less than if that person pokes you.