Author of the week
Souad Mekhennet takes risks most journalists would never dream of, said Zaina Arafat in Vice.com. In her quest to understand the mindset of Islamist militants, the German-born Muslim reporter has ventured into war zones again and again over the past 16 years to interview terrorist leaders— some who’ve kidnapped and even beheaded other reporters. “There are moments where one sentence or wrong look can lead to the end of your life,” she says. Three years ago, the Washington Post correspondent sat alone with an armed ISIS leader and argued against his interpretation of the Quran. Often, she talks her way in to share tea, then turns down marriage proposals with polite humor.
Mekhennet can’t always be the impartial reporter she aspires to be, said John Williams in The New York Times. Growing up in Germany, she experienced the anti-Muslim bigotry that some militants complain of when they explain how they were radicalized while living in Europe. And she also knows the horrific costs of terrorist violence. Last year, she was on her way to Munich to cover an attack at a shopping mall when she learned that one of the victims killed was family: her cousin’s 14-year-old son. The loss prompted her to tell her editors she couldn’t cover the attack objectively, and also inspired her to add a different epilogue to her new memoir, I Was Told to Come Alone. “No matter if a mother is Christian, Jewish, Sunni, Shia,” she says, “they all sound the same when they lose a child and cry for that child. We have to remember that.”