The Way of the Strangers

Graeme Wood's The Way of the Strangers, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction, examines the ideology of ISIS and the followers that believe in their mission.

Graeme Wood

The Way of the Strangers is an intimate journey into the minds of the Islamic State's most radical true believers. From the streets of Cairo to the mosques of London, Graeme Wood interviews supporters, recruiters, and sympathizers of the group. The Islamic State is bent on murder and apocalypse, but its followers find meaning and fellowship in its utopian dream. Its first caliph, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has declared that he is the sole legitimate authority for Muslims worldwide. The theology, law and emotional appeal of the Islamic State are key to understanding it — and predicting what its followers will do next.

Through character study and analysis, Wood provides a clear-eyed look at a movement that has inspired so many people to abandon or uproot their families. Many seek death — and they will be the terror threat of the next decade, as they strike back against the countries fighting their caliphate. Just as Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower informed our understanding of Al Qaida, Graeme Wood's The Way of the Strangers will shape how we see a new generation of terrorists. (From Random House Publishing Group

Excerpt | Author interview

From the book

The Islamic State's war for the end of the world began for me the same it way it has for many others: with a lesson in etiquette.

In October 2011, two and a half years before the declaration of the caliphate of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, I came to Cairo, the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world. That Cairo is also the most ill-mannered city in the Arab world is not in doubt; whether one loves it or reviles it for its discourtesy is a matter of taste. Short-term visitors are cheated by cab drivers or browbeaten by tourist guides, and they board flights home denouncing Cairo as a city of rogues. But Cairo's disobedience often breeds cleverness — artistic, social, literary — of a productive and admirable sort. Nine months before, it had made Cairo a crucible of political renewal, when the Tahrir Square revolution ousted Hosni Mubarak and put in his place a provisional government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore far friendlier to religious politics. Now the country faced uncertain fate, and all factions were plotting, with varying competence, to press their advantages.

From The Way of the Strangers by Graeme Wood ©2017. Published by Random House Publishing Group.

Author interviews

For more than a decade, journalist Graeme Wood immersed himself in the world of the Islamic State. His new book is called The Way of The Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. 26:00

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