The Al Qaeda Reader
by Raymond Ibrahim
New York: Doubleday, 2007. 352 pp. $15.95, paper.
Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Middle East Quarterly
Ibrahim, an Arabic language specialist at the Library of Congress at the time he wrote The Al Qaeda Reader, has compiled a collection of screeds by Al-Qaeda’s top figures, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, that reveal in full the deranged world-view that drives the global Islamist terrorist network.
Ibrahim’s translations are an important contribution to the field. Rather than serve as a middleman, as most analysts do, Ibrahim allows Al-Qaeda to articulate for itself the anti-Semitism, xenophobia, paranoia, anti-modernism, and anarchism that drive its terrorist agenda against the United States and America’s “infidel” allies.
In tract after tract, bin Laden and Zawahiri draw inspiration from radical exegetes Sayyid Qutb, Abul A’la Mawdudi, and Ibn Taymiya to justify their terrorist actions. These and other extremist scholars help Al-Qaeda build a Qur’anic case for killing Americans, Jews, moderate Muslims, and even Muslims caught in the crossfire during a jihad operation.
More than 300 pages of invective leave little doubt that Al-Qaeda seeks nothing less than mass murder to overturn the world order. As Ibrahim notes in the foreword, “millions died as a result of the world’s indifference to Hitler’s straightforward words. This book provides the world with Al-Qaeda’s ultimate vision. The same mistake should not be repeated twice.”