by Samira Ahmed

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Internment Summary

Internment is a young adult dystopian novel about a teenage girl imprisoned in an internment camp for Muslim Americans.

  • When the president introduces the Muslim Registry and Exclusion Laws, Layla Amin and her parents are forced to relocate to Mobius, an internment camp.
  • With the help of new friends and neighbors; her boyfriend, David; and a sympathetic guard, Jake, Layla exposes the truth about conditions at Mobius to the media.
  • Though targeted by the camp's director, Layla courageously leads an uprising, with protestors supporting the detainees from beyond the fence. She and the other inmates of Mobius are released.


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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Internment by Samira Ahmed is a young adult novel about the forced detention of Muslims in America. Set in a dystopian alternate universe described by the author as "fifteen minutes in the future," Internment is a response to the growing Islamophobia sweeping the globe. The story begins with a recently elected president introducing Muslim Registry and Exclusion Laws while creating a "model camp" called Mobius. The site for the construction of Mobius Camp is near the notorious Manzanar War Relocation Center, an internment camp used to imprison Japanese-Americans during World War II. The anti-Muslim climate shifts quickly from burning books written by Muslims to a curfew for Muslims to Muslims losing their jobs based on their religion to, finally, the passing of a law that rounds up all Muslims and places them in internment camps.

Layla Amin, the novel's protagonist, is a high school student recently suspended from school for kissing her boyfriend in public. Her father, a former college literature professor, is accused by local police of writing seditious material. His books of poetry are among the books by Muslim authors that are burned at the beginning of the novel. The family is forced onto a train, taken to an internment camp, and tattooed with ID numbers. Throughout the novel, there are parallels made to the treatment of Jewish people in Nazi Germany as well as to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Once inside the internment camp, the family are monitored by security cameras, drones, and searchlights. Razor-wired electric fences surround their FEMA-styled trailers. The director of the camp implements a divide-and-rule method of controlling the internees. This method involved separating the Muslim groups by race, nationality, and ethnicity, intentionally dividing them to prevent any organized uprisings. Layla seeks out members from each of these communities to create a unified front against the internment camp director.

Layla and her allies—her boyfriend, David; Ayesha; Soheil; and a sympathetic security guard named Jake—are determined to expose the human rights violations of the camp. She organizes a rebellion among the young people of the camp against its director and his guards. It is a decision not without its perils, as Layla witnesses others who have spoken out against their treatment get beaten or dragged away and sent to even more dangerous sites. At one point, Layla's parents are taken away and put in jeopardy because of her actions. Layla must choose between staying silent and protecting her family or speaking up and fighting for the rights of Muslims across America.

Throughout the novel, there is a stark contrast between the way the adults cope with their imprisonment and the way the youths of the camp view their detention. The adults try to maintain a sense of normalcy through compliance out of fear for the safety of themselves and their families, while the young people in the novel are more concerned with shaking up the system that is actively trying to suppress them. David is Jewish and not imprisoned in the camp. Layla uses her connection with him on the outside to expose the human rights violations in the camp via blog posts and messages, ultimately freeing her family from imprisonment and ending the use of internment camps throughout the country.

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