The Terrorists Living among Us
by Steven Emerson
New York, N. Y. Free Press, 2002, 261 pp. $26.
Reviewed by Peter Probst
Institute for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence
Middle East Quarterly
In the best tradition of investigative reporting, Emerson has written a must-read account if one is to understand the events of September 2001, and more broadly, the threat posed by the Islamists in the United States. The odyssey of one of America's best and most tenacious investigative reporters began in Oklahoma City on Christmas Day, 1992, when Emerson stumbled onto a meeting of the Muslim Arab Youth Association. Attending, he listened in disbelief and horror as speaker after speaker exhorted the crowd to embrace jihad against the West and the Jews. He was stunned to realize he was witnessing not a clandestine conclave of jihadists in the Middle East but a public meeting held in America's heartland. It is little wonder that when Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Building was bombed some three years later, Emerson's first thoughts were that the jihadists he heard that Christmas day in Oklahoma City had struck. The narrative that follows is all the more chilling for taking place not in Ramallah or Damascus but in American towns and cities.
Emerson recounts the difficulties and political hurdles he faced in making his prize-winning documentary, Jihad in America, and then the efforts of American Islamists and their apologists to silence him. Those efforts culminated one day in late 1995 when Emerson received a phone call from the FBI warning him that a hit team had entered the country with instructions to kill him. Uncowed, Emerson went underground and continued his vital research. American Jihad exposes the myriad of relationships of militant Islam in the United States, involving "charitable" foundations and fraternal organizations, benign-sounding front groups, and university-associated Islamic think tanks. He shows how all these are linked in one fashion or another to foreign terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah, and Palestine Islamic Jihad.
Unfortunately, America mostly slept through Emerson's valiant efforts to wake it. Since September 11, however, Emerson's work has come into its own (the book under review has reached best-seller status), vindicating the vital work of an investigative reporter like Emerson who places truth above political favor and even personal safety.
Related Topics: Muslims in the United States, Radical Islam, Terrorism | Summer 2002 MEQ
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