A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West

Ian Johnson, Author . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $27 (318p) ISBN 978-0-15-101418-7

Pulitzer-winning journalist Johnson (Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China ) tells a probing saga of militant Islamism rooted in a Munich mosque in a cold war strategy gone wrong. The mosque eventually became the epicenter of Islamist organizing in Europe and America. Johnson's story goes back to Nazi Germany's recruitment of Soviet Muslim POWs into anti-Soviet propaganda organizations; during the cold war, the CIA vied with West Germany to control these Munich-based exiles for anti-Soviet propaganda. The CIA brought in Said Ramadan, an Egyptian anticommunist—and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who stealthily wrested control of a mosque-building project from the CIA- and German-controlled Muslim factions, redirecting it to Islamism. Johnson pens a lucid, closely observed account of the fraught intersection of intelligence bureaucracies with émigré political factions. It's not quite a tale of “blowback”: the mosque was funded largely by Saudi and Libyan money, and the Muslim Brotherhood seems to have been only marginally abetted by the CIA. But it is a troubling example of America's perennial cluelessness about the Muslim world and its religious politics. (May 4)

Reviewed on: 02/15/2010
Release date: 05/01/2010
Paperback - 318 pages - 978-0-547-42317-3
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