The true story of America's first homegrown Muslim terror attack, the 1977 Hanafi siege of Washington, D.C. Shahan Mufti gives a full account of the largest ever hostage taking on American soil and of the man who masterminded it. Informed by extensive archival research and access to hundreds of declassified FBI files, American Caliph sheds new light on the disarray of the 1970s and its ongoing reverberations.
... an ambitious and commendable effort that falls a bit short of the subject matter’s tantalizing potential — a solid journalistic account that might have been elevated into an enduring work of narrative nonfiction ... It’s a story with endless narrative possibilities. Mufti ably assembles all the pieces and deftly covers the relevant history, but he leans only partway into the epic, messy sprawl before him. I kept wanting him to luxuriate in his wild saga and take a more novelistic approach to his rich material. He might, for instance, have expanded his brief biographical sketches of some of the book’s peripheral figures into fuller portraits, and dwelled more searchingly on the complicated, beguiling Khaalis. Mufti answers all the journalistic questions — no small job — but he might have pondered some other ones too in order to give American Caliph a deeper resonance. What drew him to the story to begin with? What does it have to tell us about race, religious fundamentalism and our country’s fraught relationship with Islam? Why is it more than just a forgotten chapter in modern American history? ... Mufti’s ticktock of the siege, the book’s climactic centerpiece, is a tour de force.
American Caliph isn’t your boring high-school history book ... It is a short, exciting account ... Immersive ... The trials of the Black Mafia and the Hanafis are covered to great effect in American Caliph. Mufti, a journalist, uses sound research to bring the details and emotions of the events vividly to life.