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Reporters on the Job

What Do You Really Think? Correspondent James Brandon didn't have any trouble meeting members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that wants to restore the Islamic Caliphate. "I was talking to a Jordanian journalist who is an expert on Islamic groups. He was in prison with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the terror group Al Qaeda in Iraq, several years ago. I asked if he knew any jihadists who had come back from fighting in Iraq. He said "no," but offered to give me the number for some Hizb ut-Tahrir people instead. I leaped on the offer, called, and met them later that evening in an Indian restaurant in Amman."

But getting beyond their world outlooks was more of a challenge. "During a mammoth five-hour interview, I managed to get to the bottom of their political views. However, I couldn't see what make them tick as individuals."

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At one point, when they were discussing their plans to abolish nation states, James interrupted to ask if they would not even cheer on their countries during international soccer matches. No luck. "We have no time for such things," one of the men replied gravely.

The only time James saw their calm facade crack, James says, was when his translator interrupted another speech on the need for unity among Muslims to announce that he would like to form a political party against the Shiites.

"Two of the activists looked shocked, but the third laughed and slapped my translator on the back," James says. "It felt like a minor breakthrough."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor