Al-Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror
by Paul L. Williams
Indianapolis and Gary: Alpha, 2002. 240 pp. $14.95, paper.
Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Middle East Quarterly
Williams, a Ph.D. and seasoned terrorism consultant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), had all the right credentials to produce a path-breaking book on al-Qa‘ida, given that few authors on the subject have come from inside the intelligence community. Sadly, Al-Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror falls far short of expectations.
For one, the book begins with the sensationalist testimony of one "Tex Barker," the pseudonym for a soldier of fortune who requested anonymity. Based on his experiences in Afghanistan, Barker dispenses advice on "meeting al-Qaeda and staying alive" during an interview with the author in Las Vegas. Among Barker's absurd advice, he states, "never gaze at a man, not even in passing. A member of al-Qaeda might assume you are gay." To prove you are a Muslim, Williams relays, "you will have to expose your member to show proof that you have been circumcised."
It can't get any worse from there. Still, pages 18 through 72 are maddening in other ways. Rather than addressing the subject of the book (al-Qa‘ida), the author puts on the hat of a theologian and attempts to sum up the intricate belief systems of the Islamic faith and its 1,400 years of rich history. Oversimplifications abound. One chapter bears the ridiculous title "The Jewish Invasion," and attempts to explain in ten pages why Muslims take issue with the state of Israel, leaving the reader with more questions than answers.
The book improves after that but only in the sense that it addresses al-Qa‘ida. The most interesting segments are directly lifted from The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, Time, and even another book on the subject, Yonah Alexander and Michael S. Swetnam's Usama bin Laden's al-Qaida.
To learn more about al-Qa‘ida, the reader would be advised to read only appendices B and C of William's book. They provide a bibliography of websites and books on the subject written by persons more qualified.
 Yonah Alexander and Michael S. Swetnam, Usama bin Laden's al-Qaida: Profile of a Terrorist Network (Ardsley, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers, 2001).
Related Topics: Terrorism | Jonathan Schanzer | Summer 2003 MEQ
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