BIRMINGHAM, England — I gripped the phone, trying to make out the words on the crackling line. There was a moment of silence before the voice at the other end spoke: “I’m sorry, but your son is dead.”
It was the call I had feared for months. How was I going to tell Rasheed’s sisters that their brother, a fighter for the so-called Islamic State, had been killed in an airstrike somewhere on the Syria-Iraq border? How would I answer their questions? I had none myself. Nor any body to grieve over. All I wanted was to hold him for one last time and say goodbye.
Rasheed was born on April 26, 1996, in the town in Wales where I had lived for most of my life. I was brought up an Anglican but converted to Islam in my late teens; my new faith gave me solace and meaning after a difficult childhood. The man I later met and married was also Muslim, from Algeria. Life as members of a Muslim minority in a small provincial town was not easy, so we moved our growing family to Birmingham.
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