18 June, 2021

A Bringer Of Brimstone

The raised, inflamed Islamism of Maryam Jameelah, and her portrayal of her mentor, Maulana Maududi

A Bringer Of Brimstone

How does a middle-class Jewish girl from Westchester County, New York, end up as a propagandist for the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan? What mysterious alchemy transforms the awkward and troubled Margaret Marcus into the ideologue known to legions of Islamist faithful as Maryam Jameelah, author of countless tracts berating the West and extolling armed jehad? How much can a single life reveal about a battle of ideas couched by many in grand civilisational terms?

These are some of the questions Deborah Baker sets out to answer in this slim and beguiling book. In the shadow of the US raid on Abbottabad, and with India’s troubled western neighbour careening from one crisis to the next, her timing could scarcely be better.

At the heart of The Convert lie two compelling characters culled from the pages of recent history. By far the lesser known is Maryam Jameelah, a somewhat obscure author and pamphleteer whose papers Baker stumbled upon by accident in the New York Public Library. Born in 1934 to comfortable secular Jews in...

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