Radical Islamic forces have many times threatened Steven Emerson's life. From their point of view, he knows too much. His Investigative Project has logged more than 6,000 hours of video and audio tapes, and its library is probably the world's most comprehensive on radical Islam. Emerson has thus for years lived in hiding, emerging only for talks and meetings to impart what he knows. In this book, he reveals an American intelligence system so full of holes that it resembles finely aged Swiss cheese. Readers get a solid, albeit unpleasant, taste.
Emerson reveals the vision of a globe dominated by Islam prevalent among radical Islamic forces everywhere for the last two decades. Emerson's chatty account backs up this seeming scare mongering with enough facts about radical Islam's worldwide network to curdle one's blood. These forces have for 12 years achieved a new level of coordination, owing to their exploitation of civil liberties in the U.S.
"None of these groups was ever able to coordinate its worldwide efforts with the others until they came to the United States," Emerson writes. They use freedoms of speech and assembly with little oversight from the FBI, CIA, Immigration and Naturalization Service or any number of other U.S. agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, and so on. Let us hope that free world leaders are listening.
Emerson opens his first-person account with details on how he was drawn to pursue and document radical Islam. In 1992, as a reporter for CNN, he was covering an Oklahoma City press conference at which of former Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Welsh released a statement from President Bush (le pere), pardoning former Secretary of State Casper Weinberger. He was bored.
On December 25, Emerson passed some men in Arab robes clustered outside the Oklahoma City Convention Center. The Muslim Arab Youth Association meeting inside featured a "bazaar of vendors hawking all kinds of radical material," books preaching Islamic jihad, calling for the extermination of Christians and Jews, even coloring books instructing children 'How to Kill the Infidel'--and speakers from Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood (founded in Egypt in 1920s), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among others. A Detroit FBI agent fielded questions from "a visibly hostile audience" cheekily asking for "advice on how to ship weapons overseas." Emerson's call to FBI headquarters produced the astounding revelation that the FBI could and would do little to monitor these groups.
Although a print journalist, Emerson after the February 26 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center pitched to the U.S. Public Broadcasting System a story on the recruitment and training of radical Islamic warriors inside America. The resulting hour-long program, Jihad in America, aired on November 21, 1994 and is available free on the Internet. In a Brooklyn, N.Y. Yemeni grocery store, Emerson found and bought 20 copies of videos promoting paramilitary training. His reporting took him to Florida, Texas, Chicago, the Middle East and Pakistan.
The first calls for global jihad came from a Palestinian Arab mullah, Abdullah Azzam, whose base in Peshawar, Pakistan recruited and trained Muslim warriors for a jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Azzam was killed in 1989 with his two oldest sons, a murder that went unsolved. But his followers, including a third son in Pakistan and a nephew in Chicago, spread his seditious message everywhere. On a 1993 trip to the West Bank, Emerson and translator Khalid Duran learned from a taxi driver that Azzam's brother-in-law lived in Jenin and from there, obtained more interviews.
El-Sayeed Nosair, who murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York, led to 47 boxes of Arabic material, which police unfortunately ignored until after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Nosair had planned to "thoroughly demoralize the enemies of God" by blowing up and destroying the World Trade Center. The February 1993 WTC bombing killed six and injured more than 1,000 others.
Investigators eventually discovered the error in believing the WTC plotters inept. In fact, they were tied to a global network of al-Qaeda terrorists, including Mohammed Salameh, Palestinian Ramzi Yousef, Ahmad Ajaj, Nidal Ayyad, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric who ran a New Jersey mosque, and Osama bin Laden. One lieutenant, Ali Mohammed, was an officer in the U.S. Army's Special Forces. Their interconnected plots included theft of U.S. government documents, construction and operation of training camps within the U.S. and a 1994 plan to murder Pope John Paul II and blow up 11 American jetliners. The last was foiled only by accident, after Yousef fled the scene of a Manila "work accident" in December 1994, leaving behind a computer full of encrypted plans.
Emerson details his search through the U.S., to jihad academies in Florida and elsewhere. He includes excellent chapters on Hamas; Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam and al-Qaeda; and an appendix exposing the American support these groups get through the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Islamic Circle of North America, American Muslim Council and, last but not least, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Press pundits often and erroneously quote sources from these groups as "moderate." They are no such thing.
More importantly, Emerson maps out plans by which Western governments and agencies can fight back.
Emerson was closely aided by Khalid Duran, whom Muslim terrorists have also threatened with death. A Spanish Muslim descended from Barbary pirates, Duran is a hero and scholar conversant in English, Spanish, Urdu, Arabic and German, and the author of Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews. His book was endorsed by Jordan's Prince Hassan and throughout the Muslim world.
Duran rightly considers Islamic fundamentalism today a descendant of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood of the 1930s, an imitation of European fascism that failed at the end of World War II but survived and spread throughout the Islamic world. It has proved especially appealing to well-educated, moneyed engineers.
Duran taught Emerson that radical Islam is not the real thing. But he also helped to prove that violent Islamic fundamentalism will be a fixture on the U.S. and global political landscapes for years.
This superb book can help us cope. Alyssa A. Lappen