TED Book review: The Terrorist’s Son

Kirsty de Garis

Before he became Zak Ebrahim, the shy son of an Egyptian migrant and a Pittsburg native had an altogether different name. It was one that inspired fear in some, disgust in others, and in a small minority, it inspired adulation. He was born Abdulaziz El Sayed Nosair.

The young American’s life changed for ever the night that his father, El-Sayyid Nosair, shot and subsequently killed a radical Rabbi at a New York hotel. From his prison cell where he was serving time not for murder but for criminal possession of a weapon, assault and coercion, he plotted the bombing of the World Trade Center, carried out in 1993. The bomb, exploding inside a van parked beneath the North Tower, killed six adults in addition to an unborn child, and wounded more than one thousand others.

This story, which comes in at just under 100 pages, is the story of an interrupted childhood when one is born with a terrorist as a parent. It’s also a provocative assessment of the extent to which terrorism culture is imbued in the minds of these children, and where this trail of devastation can lead.

Ebrahim articulates his own evolution as a follower of peace, and stresses that it is not inevitable that the children of a violent hater will internalise such beliefs themselves. But he also describes in agonising detail the isolation, ostracism and disenfranchisement that makes other young people susceptible to the deranged messages they will find if they seek them.

The Terrorist’s Son is a fascinating read, short enough to take in during one sitting, that calls into question what we value in our cultures and our private lives.

TED Books pick up where the talks leave off, to tell a deeper story and engage us further. TED Books continue the mission of TED in the form of small books about big ideas.

The Terrorists’ Son, by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles. Available from Abbey’s Bookstore HERE.

Watch Zak’s TED 2014 talk HERE


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