Worlds Apart: A Muslim Girl with the SAS tells the story of the clash between two very different worlds – so different it almost beggars belief that anyone could have survived in both camps for so long. Yet as we come to know Azi Ahmed through this incredible true story we realise that if anyone can do it she can –she works evenings and weekends in her family’s takeaway; excels in her chosen university; starts her own business and buys her own apartment in London when she is just 24. She is a powerhouse, and if anything seems odd it is that her family believed for so long that she was a dutiful daughter who would accept an arranged marriage, not that such a determined person could survive as a Muslim woman in the military.
Ahmed’s unique perspective on the SAS – as a physically slight woman with no previous military experience encountering deep rooted ethnic bias and sexism – makes for interesting reading, especially for those of us who know of it only as the reserve of hard men and hard men wannabes. She is never fully in the SAS – she is in the army for three years, and is one of the miniscule number of women to proceed through the rigorous training and selection process, and so gives unprecedented insight into an elite organization. She details her grueling training, provides insight into the culture not only of the SAS but of the British military, and I imagine anyone with an interest in the military would enjoy this.
However, I preferred parts of the book detailing the (less extreme?) culture clash of her traditional upbringing and her growing determination and sense of self. At one point in her childhood she is waiting at a bus stop and is verbally abused by racist teens as everyone else ignores what is happening… after she escapes on the bus she gives them the finger through the window, only for the same passengers to be shocked and appalled. Ahmed draws attention to the double standards people live by when judging others, which are as interesting as the double life that she lived. I would also have liked to have heard more about her burgeoning political career – although judging by how much she has packed into her life to date, there will be more biographies in the future!
I received a copy of this book via Bookollective in return for an honest review.