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The Al Qaeda Reader


Raymond Ibrahim (View Bio)
Hardcover: Doubleday, 2007.

The Al Qaeda Reader

THE AL QAEDA READER was front-page news when it was sold for publication. The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal Europe, Le Monde, USA Today, New York Daily News, Associated Press, Reuters, The Sunday Telegraph, Publishers Weekly, CNN, and Fox nightly news all reported the sale.

Working at the Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, Ray Ibrahim has had tremendous access to writings by Bin Laden and his cohorts, written both pre- and post-9/11. He found striking differences between statements published in English for Westerners and those in Arabic for Muslims. Al-Qaeda's publications for the Muslim world are completely different in tone and content. Ibrahim has translated work by Bin Laden and Aymin Zawahiri in which they define Islamic ideology in terms of the Muslim versus the non-Muslim world and its "infidel" inhabitants. These texts deal with jihad, repudiation of democracy in favor of Islamic law, the importance of martyrdom, the imperative of despising all non-Muslims (no matter how "justly" they may deal with the Islamic world), the hypocrisy of so-called "moderate Islam," and loathsome assertions regarding women, minorities, and homosexuals.

This book makes clear that al-Qaeda is not an organization committed to a war that is finite, defensive, and based on specific complaints. Al-Qaeda stresses Islam's compulsory demand for "offensive jihad," that is, not because Islam is "under attack," as they claim in messages to the West, but simply to offer the world the three sacred choices: accept Islam, live in total submission to Islamic overlords as marginal citizens of an Islamic state, or die. Although it is a troubling thing for many people to accept, al-Qaeda's terrorism is not based on a perversion of tradition, but on traditional piety, and their interpretations of the Koran can be argued on a textual basis. Members of al-Qaeda always ground their arguments in the traditional sources of Islamic inspiration: the Koran and Tradition of the Prophet. They remind Muslims of the history of Muhammad and his warrior-companions in the glorious first years when Islam was launched by the sword. Militant verses are continuously hammered out, and Muslims are reminded that the Koran cannot be understood as merely historical, but contains literal Truth that transcends time.

In addition to laying bare al-Qaeda's ultimate motives, The Al Qaeda Reader includes the organization's propagandist speeches, which are directed primarily at Americans, Europeans, and Iraqis. Here, al-Qaeda's many "official" accusations against the West are meticulously delineated, from standard complaints such as the Palestinian issue and Iraq to wholly unexpected ones concerning the U.S.'s exploitation of women and the environment.

Taken together, the Theology and Propaganda sections of this volume reveal the most comprehensive picture of al-Qaeda to date. They also highlight the double-speak of bin Laden and Zawahiri, who often say one thing to Muslims in their religious treatises ("We must hate and fight the West because Islam commands it") and another in their propaganda directed at the West ("The West is the aggressor and we are fighting back merely in self-defense").

This book, a selection of works faithfully translated, is essential to understanding the minds, motives, methods, and ultimate goals of militant Islam.

"THE AL QAEDA READER is an essential text ."—Peter Bergen
Four book clubs have chosen THE AL QAEDA READER as a fall selection: the History Book club, the Military Book Club, the Conservative Book Club, and the Quality Paperback Book Club.

"Mr. Ibrahim compares THE AL QAEDA READER to MEIN KAMPF, and that is not a mere insult. In their brutality and candor, their fulminations against democracy and loose morals, their obsession with territory, their finicky racism and absolute disdain for the material needs of the public, these documents are a strange echo of Hitler’s writings." — James Buchan, The New York Observer

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