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Life Is More Beautiful than Paradise

Life Is More Beautiful than Paradise: A Jihadist’s Own Story

Khaled al-Berry
Translated by Humphrey Davies
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Life Is More Beautiful than Paradise
    Book Description:

    In 1986, when this autobiography opens, the author is a typical fourteen-year-old boy in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Attracted at first by the image of a radical Islamist group as “strong Muslims," his involvement develops until he finds himself deeply committed to its beliefs and implicated in its activities. This ends when, as he leaves the university following a demonstration, he is arrested. Prison, a return to life on the outside, and attending Cairo University all lead to Khaled al-Berry’s eventual alienation from radical Islam. This book opens a window onto the mind of an extremist who turns out to be disarmingly like many other clever adolescents, and bears witness to a history with whose reverberations we continue to live. It also serves as an intelligent and critical guide for the reader to the movement’s unfamiliar debates and preoccupations, motives and intentions. Fluently written, intellectually gripping, exciting, and often funny, Life Is More Beautiful than Paradise provides a vital key to the understanding of a world that is both a source of fear and a magnet of curiosity for the west.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-051-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Paradise
    (pp. 1-32)

    It was just a poke in my shoulder. Sure, he followed it up by pushing his face up close to mine, but the beginning was just a poke in the shoulder. It made my brain stop working. What could I do against him? Should I poke him back? If I did so, he’d beat me ignominiously for sure. Should I walk away? That would be an unforgivable sign of weakness and my friends would never let me live it down.

    It was broad daylight, and there was nowhere to hide from the ordeal, or the scrutiny. My other friends were...

  5. 2 God is mine alone
    (pp. 33-84)

    The Rahma Mosque was the Jama‘a Islamiya’s second largest. It was closer to our house than their main mosque, that of the Jam‘iya Shar’iya, and contained a spacious prayer hall for men. In addition to the main entrance, off which were the bathrooms and the facilities for ritual ablution, there was another entrance, which joined the main room to a patio that would also be spread with reed mats for the Friday prayer. This patio was surrounded by a concrete wall and had its own steps. The interior walls were a light cream and the floor was covered with a...

  6. 3 The message revealed
    (pp. 85-123)

    The most attractive thing about Asyut prison is its location, on the Ibrahimiya Canal close to where it leaves the river Nile. At the end of the day, however, it is still a prison. Its huge gate makes anyone standing before it conscious of his insignificance, even if he is only a visitor. We waited our turn. We passed inside through an extremely small inset door where we had to bend down so as not to hit our heads, despite which we were looking forward to going inside. The inmates to be visited that day were the leading brothers, who...

  7. 4 Temptation
    (pp. 124-160)

    Egyptian movies love to poke fun at well-dressed persons who find themselves in the police lockup along with drug dealers and criminals, the scene usually ending with the well-dressed person receiving a stinging slap on the face and then screaming for help from the sergeant on guard by the cell. In the police car, I was overcome by an unusual calm and all I could think of was the aforementioned scene. I wanted to laugh but didn’t know why. I entered the cell with three or four from the Jama‘a arrested the same day and there were others there who’d...

  8. 5 Life
    (pp. 161-184)

    My room was as I had left it the day I was arrested. My mother had refused to move anything from its place. The folding table on wheels whose leaves I’d opened out the day I was arrested was still in front of the balcony. On the table, where my right-hand had rested was still a tea glass, narrow toward the bottom and widening like a flower toward the top, of a French make that broke only if it fell on its base. It was still half-filled with black tea, which had gone slightly green on the surface. The pillow...

  9. Glossary
    (pp. 185-189)