(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Steven Emerson directs the Investigative Project, which claims to be the largest intelligence and data-gathering center in the world monitoring militant Islamic activities. This book is based on his active, full-time investigation of these activities since 1993 and reveals how large numbers of terrorists, perhaps thousands of them in dozens of organizations, have infiltrated American society. This book argues that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, often referred to as 9/11, were not isolated or random events but were the results of coordinated efforts by organizations and individuals who live, work, and plot in such American locations as Brooklyn and New York City; Chicago; Oklahoma City; Omaha; Ontario, California; and Tampa, Florida. Extremist Muslim leaders such as Abdullah Azzam have called on Muslims to “carry out jihad no matter where they were, even in America. . . . The word ‘jihad’ means fighting only, fighting with the sword.” Indeed, after Emerson’s Public Broadcasting System documentary Jihad in America aired in 1995, he says U.S. officials informed him that a South African Islamist death squad was looking for him and that he should “go underground.”

Emerson traces the activities of a host of Islamic militant organizations: the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslim Council (AMC), the Republican Brotherhood, Alkhifa Refugee Center (also known as the Office of Services for the Mujahideen, which was the predecessor organization to al-Qaeda), El-Sayeed Nosair, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (which has given millions of dollars a year to support Hamas activists), and the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC). To support his claims, he takes his readers inside the meetings of many of these organizations, at which they may hear repeated calls for the extinction of Israel and the destruction of the United States—for jihad. Even organizations that appear on the surface to be engaged in charitable fund-raising to help Palestinians in refugee camps emerge in Emerson’s research as covers for providing funds and supplies to terrorist organizations.

On the other hand, as Emerson acknowledges, “militant Islamist views are confined to a relatively small slice of American Muslims.” He profiles several “courageous” Muslim heroes in this country such as Seifeldin Ashmawy, Khalid Duran, and Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani. Ashmawy has provided strong evidence of militant extremist infiltration of the United States. Kabbani, testifying before the State Department, provided insight into “the Wahhabism movement that has given birth to many of today’s extremists.” Beginning in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but flourishing only after 1920, as a result of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Wahhabism is a fiercely puritanical and iconoclastic belief, the religion of the al-Saud family (the rulers of Saudi Arabia), and firmly tethered to Islamic militancy and the idea that Islam must be reformed with the sword. It is this connection that may result in a “struggle within the United States” according to Sheikh Kabbani. Emerson claims further that Islamic extremists may have taken over 80 percent of the more than twelve hundred mosques in the United States, most of which are funded by Saudi money and most of which subscribe to Wahhabism, which “supports the spread of Islam through violence.” Emerson argues that the militant fundamentalists pose a grave threat “not only to American institutions and lives, but also to moderate Muslims” everywhere.

Emerson provides several appendices to support and elaborate his principal claims. One of the most fascinating is Appendix C, titled “The Terrorists’ Support Networks: The Sea in Which the Fish Swim.” In this section Emerson details the nature, operations, and funding of nine separate militant Islamic networks operating within the United States under the wide protections granted in this country to organizations for research, charitable work, or civil rights activities. These nine groups provide significant support for...

(The entire section is 1722 words.)