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SOURCEMiddle East Quarterly

The Al-Qaeda Reader

Book by: Raymond Ibrahim
Reviewed by: Jonathan Schanzer Spring 2009

Raymond Ibrahim, an Arabic language specialist at the Library of Congress at the time he wrote The Al Qaeda Reader, has compiled in this book a collection of screeds by al-Qaeda’s top figureheads, Usama 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 its “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 Quranic case for killing Americans, Jews, moderate Muslims, and even Muslims caught in the crossfire during a jihad operation.

More than 300 pages of invective leaves little doubt that al-Qaeda seeks nothing less than mass murder to overturn the world order. As historian Victor Davis Hanson 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.”