3 books to understand terrorism: Egypt

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3 books to better understand “how terrorism is born” through the words of some of the greatest writers of the “Islamic world”. Second episode dedicated to Egypt

The series

Given the tension unleashed in Europe after the barbaric terrorist attacks, I thought it was appropriate to start a reflection on “how terrorists are born”. To do this, I chose to use one of my favorite tools: literature. In fact, until Friday there will be 3 episodes in which we will analyze this phenomenon through the writings of 3 great writers of the “Islamic world”, in order to fully understand a phenomenon that is so sad and about which many absurd and imaginative theories have been formulated.

(temporary photo, I loaned “The Great Leap”)

The countries will be: Morocco with Mahi Binebine’s “Horses of God”, Egypt with‘Ala al Aswani’s “Yacoubian Building” and Pakistan with Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”; enjoy the reading.

Immense work

Although not the epicenter of the novel, “Yacoubian Building” manages to offer precious remnants of early Egypt “00, bringing with it many of the themes of that time, including terrorism. The book came out in 2002 and it is useless to explain that the topic had become more popular than ever, affecting the minds of millions of innocent people around the world. With the story of Taha, a young doorkeeper from Cairo, al Aswani gives us an extremely thorough and accurate vision of the terrorist phenomenon, trying to dig deep into the human soul.


His reading will prove to be more correct than ever once the war in Syria has broken out, a moment in which many young Egyptians will find themselves traveling through a story more than ever similar to that of the novel, making it even more an essential reading.


Taha’s story resembles that of many: he is the son of the building’s doorman, engaged to a young neighbor and with the dream of being a policeman. His path to hell will begin at the police academy when, after hearing his humble origins, he is denigrated and unjustly rejected, thus seeing his dream destroyed. In the meantime, due to some financial difficulties, the girlfriend is forced to give in to the advances of one of her superiors, thus finding herself forced to interrupt the relationship with Taha. Without a job or a love, the young man will return to university, where he will meet some “on the edge” subjects, letting himself be fascinated by their words and thus participating in his first meeting.


Unfortunately for him, the police will raid the place and, not believing the protagonist’s words, will begin to impose cruel and humiliating torture on him. Once his sentence is over, Taha will have nothing more to lose, yielding with little resistance to the court of a self-styled shaykh who will train him and even find him a wife. It will be in the decisive moment, however, that the young man will show his true nature, messing up the attack and his own life, only to take revenge on his torturer.

The fallen angel

I particularly wanted to bring this novel because, compared to the previous one, it brings two great and decisive sufferings: Taha was not as poor as the boys of Sidi Moumen and could have a future. Obviously he was not a rich aristocrat, but he would have had the opportunity to do something else, it was not “the only choice”. All this has been built with a series of “falls” that have closed more and more doors to the protagonist, culminating in prison.

‘Ala Al Aswani

Taha’s mind had already been weakened by previous “defeats”, one of which, being provoked by the police itself, prison was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The tortures of the state have clouded his heart and soul, giving his life a single goal to cling to: revenge. Paradoxically, the protagonists of the last book were more unconscious and will do more damage, while in this one the anger expressed is so much that it cannot be controlled. At the end of both stories the protagonists die as terrorists, in both they lose everything and cling to the light in the abyss, but it is the beginning and the why that are radically different, thus focusing more than ever “how a terrorist is born “.

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