This is an autobiographical account of a journey into extremism. 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, “The World 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.
Khaled al-Berry (born 1972) is an Egyptian writer. He studied medicine at Cairo University, but moved to London soon after graduation. He has lived there ever since. He is best known for his autobiography The World is More Beautiful than Heaven, which was translated into English by Humphrey T. Davies. He has also written several novels, including An Oriental Dance which was nominated for the Arabic Booker Prize.