American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege of Washington, DC

American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege of Washington, DC

by Shahan Mufti
American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege of Washington, DC

American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege of Washington, DC

by Shahan Mufti


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One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2022 | A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

The riveting true story of America’s first homegrown Muslim terror attack, the 1977 Hanafi siege of Washington, DC.

On March 9, 1977, Washington, DC, came under attack. Seven men stormed the headquarters of B’nai B’rith International, quickly taking control of the venerable Jewish organization’s building and holding more than a hundred employees hostage inside. A little over an hour later, three more men entered the Islamic Center of Washington, the country’s biggest and most important mosque, and took hostages there. Two others subsequently penetrated the municipal government’s District Building, a few hundred yards from the White House. When the gunmen there opened fire, a reporter was killed, and city councilor Marion Barry, later to become the mayor of Washington, DC, was shot in the chest. The deadly standoff brought downtown Washington to a standstill.

The attackers belonged to the Hanafi movement, an African American Muslim group based in DC. Their leader was a former jazz drummer named Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who had risen through the ranks of the Nation of Islam before feuding with the organization’s mercurial chief, Elijah Muhammad, and becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s spiritual authority. Like Malcolm X, Khaalis paid a price for his apostasy: in 1973, seven of his family members and followers were killed by Nation supporters in one of the District’s most notorious murders. As Khaalis and the hostage takers took control of their DC targets four years later, they vowed to begin killing their hostages unless their demands were met: the federal government must turn over the killers of Khaalis’s family, the boxer Muhammad Ali, and Elijah’s son Wallace so that they could face true justice. They also demanded that the American premiere of Mohammad: Messenger of God—a Hollywood epic about the life of the prophet Muhammad financed and supported by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi—be canceled and the film destroyed. Shahan Mufti’s American Caliph gives the first full account of the largest-ever hostage taking on American soil and of the tormented man who masterminded it. Informed by extensive archival research and hundreds of declassified FBI files, American Caliph tracks the battle for control of American Islam, the international politics of religion and oil, and the hour-to-hour drama of a city facing a homegrown terror assault. The result is a riveting true-crime story that sheds new light on the disarray of the 1970s and its ongoing reverberations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250872630
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 11/21/2023
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 667,196
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Shahan Mufti is the chair of the Department of Journalism at the University of Richmond and a former daily news reporter for The Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War, and his writing has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and The Nation, among other publications.

Table of Contents

Prologue 3

Part I

1 Psychological Warfare 13

2 Black is Green 19

3 No. 7 24

4 The Sheik 30

5 Homegrown 38

6 Sailor's Club 45

7 World League 52

8 Jihad Productions 60

9 Day of Doom 65

10 Sports Rescue 71

11 Subjective Camera 79

12 Look and See 84

13 Seed of the Hypocrite 94

14 Asylum 101

15 Top Rank 109

16 Stool Pigeon 113

17 Pilgrimage 119

18 Revenge of Allah 125

19 Progress Report 129

20 Compass 133

21 Only Four 138

Part II

22 Holy Land 145

23 Guns Out 149

24 Golden Voice 154

25 Anti-Defamation 159

26 Egyptian Mission 165

27 Projection Room 171

28 Spyglass 175

29 Federal Triangle 181

30 One and Only 188

31 Jurisdiction 195

32 Hog-Tied 203

33 Spooks 210

34 Cease and Desist 215

35 Big Surprise 220

36 Panorama 225

37 True Picture 231

38 Brothers in Islam 236

39 Chain of Command 242

40 Table Spread 247

41 Fair Justice 254

Part III

42 Things Go Boom 265

43 Faith and Country 274

44 Big Man 280

45 Inheritor of the Faith 286

46 American Muslim 290

47 Homefront 300

Epilogue 309

A Note on Sources 319

Notes 327

Acknowledgments 349

Index 353

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