Zacarias, My Brother
The Making of a Terrorist
by Abd Samad Moussaoui, with Florence Bouquillat
Trans. from French by Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003. 143 pp. $14.95, paper.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
In one of the more complete and insider accounts on the men of al-Qaeda, the elder brother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the "twentieth hijacker," tells his brother's story in a slim volume published by Noam Chomsky's and Howard Zinn's favorite press. The tale has a long run-up—grandparents, parents, childhood, teenage years—and a brief denouement, for the two brothers were close only until Zacarias went Wahhabi. Born in 1968, Zacarias experienced a childhood in which his parents (immigrants from Morocco) divorced; he moved from city to city, had no education in Arabic or Islam, and did quite well in school and socially. Still, he was increasingly alienated from French life ("they're all racists and fascists") to the point that racism became his obsession.
Partly to flee this and partly to learn English and become a successful businessman, Zacarias moved to London in 1991. Over the next four years, however, he fell in with a militant Islamic crowd. By 1995, he told his sister-in-law that she should not work outside the house and responded approvingly to a television husband hitting his wife ("Serves her right, that's what women need"). More generally, he had "become a stranger" to his family. On a visit to Morocco, he physically accosted the imam of a mosque in disagreement over his understanding of Islam. After an absence of several years, the next Abd Samad knew about his kid brother was his alleged complicity in the 9/11 atrocities.
Abd Samad draws some interesting conclusions from his experience. One is that Muslim children in the West need to learn their religion at home or they are susceptible to the extremist forces of the sort that seduced his brother. Another is that the Muslims with a public voice need to address the roots of the problem: "Though they condemn attacks and assassinations, they do not denounce Wahhabi ideologists … and Muslim Brotherhood ideologists."
Related Topics: Radical Islam, Terrorism | Daniel Pipes | Winter 2004 MEQ
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