Monday, July 28, 2008
An engrossing novel that leads up to the worst attack on United States citizens on American soil, Marwan: The Autobiography of a 9/11 Terrorist is difficult to read, but also difficult to put down.
Marwan doesn't worship Allah and he certainly isn't ready to die for him, so how did he get involved in a plot that would hijack planes with the intent of crashing them into strategically chosen buildings on American soil? From that first meeting in Hamburg, Germany until the moment the planes take off, Marwan has doubts about the plan that is meant to cripple America, tear at its belief system, and return people to the one true God. But in the end, those doubts aren't enough to keep him from doing what must be done.
I approached Marwan with a fair amount of trepidation. As I asked the author when he stopped by The Book Connection in February, did it occur to him that Americans might not be ready for such a book? I wasn't sure I was ready for it, having not been able to watch a single documentary or read one book about September 11th since it happened.
Schefrin does an excellent job of approaching this controversial topic. He mixed known facts with fiction and came out with a balanced look at how the events of September 11th could have unfolded.
There were moments when this reader was disturbed by the thoughts and dialogue:
"If Jesus saw what they've done to him, the next time he would kill himself. Jesus' truth, if he has one, is Islam, not Chritianity." (Page 93)
"'I want you to understand that what we are asking you to do will remake the universe. It will bring down America, and restore the world to Islam....No Muslim has done more for the faith than you will do....And all of Islam will know it. You will be eternal in their eyes.'" (Page 115)
"'Americans are the most filthy of human beings!'" (Page 131)
But those moments are countered by the moments of doubt that Marwan and Jarrah experience. You're dealing with complex and conflicted men whose internal battle is a struggle for what they want versus what is good for Islam.
Marwan begins in New York City in June 2000 and then travels back and forth in time to provide the reader with the necessary backstory to bring them to the final days leading up to the attacks on September 11th. Another book that used this format is Carole Whang Schutter's September Dawn--an equally controverisal title with strong religious ties. In both instances, I found this time traveling format challening to follow, and in Marwan it is further complicated by the changing point of view--which fluctuates between first person and third. This challenge was removed when the time line began to constantly move forward from July 2001 up to the moment when the planes took off.
Schefrin's attention to detail and knowledge of the facts lends much to this novel. And I do believe that the author achieved his objective: "you have to understand your enemies if you want to defend yourself."
In Marwan readers will find a fair and well-researched novel that sheds light on one of the worst moments in American history.
Title: Marwan: The Autobiography of a 9/11 Terrorist
Author: Aram Schefrin
U.S. Price: $17.95