THE INITIAL IDEA begins with a spark, a curiosity. Sometimes it comes from deep inside, from a secret longing for strange lands I read about as a child in the art and archeology books my parents had stacked in collapsing piles in our living room. An intense introvert, I voraciously analyzed them while the other children played in the sun, going over the mystical images and reports, hoping one day to visit.
Now with wars raging in the desert sands, my reading is often of a more journalistic, urgent nature. Sometimes the desire to travel and report comes from reading a well-written article relating stories of distant lands in peril, such as some of the investigative work by Doug Ireland. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, I might come across a story so homophobic and xenophobic, and projecting the arrogance of an occupying force—such as a 2002 article by the British publication The Scotsman on “gay” farmers in Afghanistan trying to seduce British troops— that the issue calls out for thorough, direct, unbiased investigation.
I have become known for my work on gays and the Islamic world, doing what I do by heading directly into Muslim countries.