American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us

American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us – Book Review

Youssef H. Aboul-Enein

AMERICAN JIHAD: The Terrorists Living Among Us, Steven Emerson, The Free Press, NY, 2002, 261 pages, $26.00.

In American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, which is based on the 1994 Public Broadcasting System documentary “Jihad in America,” Steven Emerson reveals the fact that Islamic militants are living and thriving in the democracy they profess to abhor. Because many Middle East regimes have tough internal security services that snuff out political dissent and give no quarter, many radical organizations find it difficult to operate. They need freedom from scrutiny to raise funds, recruit, publish, and meet. Many organizations have bases in the United States and several European nations.

Emerson reveals that organizations such as Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group, Egypt’s Gammaa al-Islamiyah, Lebanon’s Hizbollah, and the Palestinian Hamas have held major conventions in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Bridgeview, Illinois. Such conventions offered radical groups opportunities to strategize on a global scale.

Many Muslim advocatory groups are actually organizations for money laundering, recruiting, and pamphleteering. The organizations also target moderate or nonradical Muslims, both inside and outside the United States, for harassment or worse.

According to Emerson, the Islamic Committee for Palestine associated itself with the University of South Florida and posed as a mainstream religious group. It enjoyed a tax-exempt status, bolstered the university’s multicultural program, and escaped the scrutiny of law enforcement. In actuality, it was a haven for Palestinians supporting militant activities in the name of liberating Palestine. This kind of militant activity casts a shadow on legitimate Muslim student associations that offer members a chance to practice their faith in peace.

At an Islamic militant conference in Oklahoma City in 1988, Abdullah Shiekh Azzam, one of the first clerics to openly advocate the teachings radicals like Muhammad Faraj, declared that “Jihad means fighting, only fighting with the sword!” One cannot understand al-Qaeda without understanding Azzam’s teachings. Azzam, the “grandfather” of al-Qaeda, influenced Osama bin-Laden to take up the jihadist struggle.

During the 1980s Azzam founded the al-Kifaah network, also called the Maktab al-Khadamat (the services office), which brought order and organization to thousands of Arabs who had volunteered to go to war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Azzam’s organization provided safe houses, training, orientation, and transportation from the Middle East to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan. After his assassination, Azzam’s organization grew into al-Qaeda, with Osama bin-Laden and Ayman Zawahiri as its leaders.

Emerson’s book is important because it helps differentiate between the militant from the moderate Muslim and articulates the threat militant Islamic groups pose to Americans as well as to moderate and liberal Muslims. Unfortunately, Emerson tends to be lumped with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, whose book The Rage and the Pride (New York: Rezzoli International Publications, Inc., October 2002) focuses on proving the superiority of Western civilization and feeds the Islamic militant’s notion of a worldwide conspiracy against Islam.

Books such as Fallaci’s do not solve the problem of terrorism or help identify genuine threats against the United States. Still, counterterrorism specialists and Middle East foreign area officers should read this book.

LCDR Youssef H. Aboul-Enein,

USN, Gaithersburg, Maryland


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