Holy War on the Home Front: The Secret Islamic Terror Network in the United States
by Harvey Kushner with Bart Davis
Sentinel, 230 pages, $24.95
HARVEY Kushner is a familiar figure, especially to New Yorkers, as a terror investigator over the past 30 years. He has consulted with official agencies from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the New York state prison system.
In this concise, handy volume, he has outlined the extent and details of Islamist terror activities on our own soil. Kushner has performed a useful task in reducing a mass of extraordinarily complex data to easily comprehensible form, but he has also provided a new perspective on the problem by emphasizing that terror plotting continues some three and a half years after the atrocities of 9/11.
As he writes in the introduction, "If you thought 9/11 changed things, think again . . . I have never been more worried about my country."
He begins with the notorious case of Sami al-Arian, the computer science professor who, formerly employed as an academic at the University of South Florida in Tampa, helped finance and direct Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), one of the murderous range of terror groups killing Israelis and American visitors to the Jewish state.
Notwithstanding a strident defense campaign by his leftist and liberal peers in our universities, he is now awaiting trial on charges that have expanded to include support for Hamas, the Saudi-backed "big brother" of PIJ.
As Kushner shows, al-Arian's career in America began 20 years ago at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in the company of another extremist, who would become his brother-in-law, Mazen al-Najjar.
The pair formed a trio in North Carolina with notorious al Qaeda terrorist, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, another engineering student, planner of the 9/11 assault and a lead participant in the plots to bomb USS Cole and to murder Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. "KSM," as he is known, was arrested in Pakistan in 2003. Al-Najjar has been deported.
Kushner traces the web of conspiracy that began with three obscure college students, and extended to include Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.
Today, he inventories terror groups in almost every major American city. Active cells, in addition to members of PIJ, Hamas and al Qaeda, comprise, among others, cadres of the PLO; Lebanese Hezbollah; the Egyptian Gama'a al-Islamiyya, which produced Osama's chief deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri; a small but verbose ideological trend called al-Muhajiroun, and the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group.
Another associate of al-Arian, Basheer Nafi, helped establish the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Va. Nafi has also been indicted for involvement with PIJ.
The al-Arian case was important because it demonstrated how American universities could be exploited by terror agents. Related branches of the conspiracy described by Kushner include Islamic charities, Muslim chaplains in the federal and state prison systems and organizers in mosques and Islamic schools.
The most disturbing element in this varied picture, in my opinion, is the discussion of American prisons, in which Islamic chaplaincies have been taken over by adherents of the ultraradical Wahhabi sect, the state religion of Saudi Arabia.
On Feb. 6, 2003, New York Gov. Pataki angrily announced the dismissal from state employment of Warith Deen Umar, the former top Muslim chaplain in the New York State Department of Correctional Services and founder-president of the National Association of Muslim Chaplains. Chaplain Umar had praised the 9/11 hijackers as "martyrs and heroes" in preaching behind prison walls. But while Umar was fired — and presently fights for reinstatement — the network of Wahhabi prison imams he established remains in place in New York.
Harvey Kushner is right to be as concerned as he is. Americans will ignore this book at their peril.