American Caliph: The True Story of a Muslim Mystic, a Hollywood Epic, and the 1977 Siege of Washington, D.C.
Shahan Mufti. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-20858-5
In this gripping, meticulously researched history, journalist Mufti (The Faithful Scribe) recounts the March 1977 siege of three buildings in Washington, D.C., by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis and his Sunni Muslim group, the Hanafis. Khaalis, a jazz drummer and a former leader of the Nation of Islam, orchestrated the attack, in which 12 heavily armed Hanafi members took nearly 150 hostages and, among other demands, threatened to start beheading people if the New York City premiere of a film about the life of the Prophet Muhammad wasn’t canceled. Mufti vividly captures the 39-hour crisis and the delicate in-person negotiations between Khaalis and ambassadors to the U.S. from Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt that resulted in the hostages’ release. Also explored are Khaalis’s bitter feud with the Nation of Islam’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, whose followers massacred seven of Khaalis’s family members and disciples in 1973; the “geopolitical drama” caused by Moustapha Akkad’s ambitious movie, Mohammad: Messenger of God, which was bankrolled by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi; violent tensions between Israel and its Middle East neighbors; and NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s loyal, deep-pocketed support of the Hanifis. Expertly drawn from FBI files, wiretap transcripts, and interviews, this captivating history fascinates. Agent: Larry Weissman, Larry Weissman Literary. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/2022
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-250-87263-0