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

Farrar. Nov. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780374208585. $30. HIST
Mufti (journalism, Univ. of Richmond; The Faithful Scribe) skillfully explains what led to the 1977 attack and three-building hostage situation that shut down Washington, DC, for days. Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, leader of the Hanafi movement and former Nation of Islam member, was tried and convicted of engineering the takeovers to demand that the movie The Messageabout the prophet Muhammad, possibly the most expensive and elaborate film many have never heard of—be destroyed. He also wanted those who had assassinated Malcolm X, along with the men convicted of the gruesome murders of several members of his family (including children and grandchildren) in 1973, be turned over to his group. He believed the Nation of Islam sent his family’s murderers and that the judge had ignored that. The life story of Khaalis, born Ernest Timothy McGhee in 1921 in Gary, IN, gives insight into intradenominational differences in Islam in 20th century America. The story behind The Message is also fascinating. The hostage siege is narrated in nail-biting detail from accounts of negotiators and hostages.
VERDICT Those interested in fundamentalism, Islam in the United States, Middle East politics, and film will especially appreciate this book.
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