A Mosque in Munich
Nazis, the CIA and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West
In the wake of the news that the 9/11 hijackers had lived in Europe, journalist Ian Johnson wondered how such a radical group could sink roots into Western soil. Most accounts reached back twenty years, to U.S. support of Islamist fighters in Afghanistan. But Johnson dug deeper, to the start of the Cold War, uncovering the untold story of a group of ex-Soviet Muslims who had defected to Germany during World War II. There, they had been fashioned into a well-oiled anti-Soviet propaganda machine. As that war ended and the Cold War began, West German and U.S. intelligence agents vied for control of this influential group. At the center of the covert tug of war was a quiet mosque, which became Munich radical Islam's first beachhead in the West.
Culled from an array of sources, including newly declassified documents, A Mosque in Munich weaves the stories of several key players: a Nazi scholar turned postwar spymaster; key Muslim leaders across the globe, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood; and naive CIA men eager to fight communism with a new weapon, Islam. A rare ground-level look at Cold War spying and a revelatory account of the West's first, disastrous encounter with radical Islam, A Mosque in Munich is as captivating as it is crucial to our understanding the mistakes we are still making in our relationship with Islamists today.
Praise for A Mosque In Munich
“A stunning piece of investigative historical research...Ian Johnson's new study is classic 1950s intrigue, complete with rehabilitated Nazis, CIA-front organizations and dueling Soviet-American ambitions."
The Jerusalem Post
“A probing saga of militant Islamism rooted in a Munich mosque in a cold war strategy gone wrong…. Johnson pens a lucid, closely observed account of the fraught intersection of intelligence bureaucracies with émigré political factions."
"Mosque in Munich’ is an important book about an important subject. But Ian Johnson is more than a brilliant journalist and tireless researcher; he is a writer of the first rank. His story of an extraordinary Muslim community in Germany is instructive, enlightening, and beautifully done."
Ian Buruma, author of Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents and "Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh".
"I thought I knew something about blowback: the way U.S. support for anti-Soviet Muslim militants in Afghanistan two decades earlier came back to haunt us on September 11, 2001. But Ian Johnson has unearthed an extraordinary episode of similarly disastrous American judgement that begins well over half a century ago, whose full consequences we've not yet seen. It's a chilling piece of history few people know, and he tells the story with a novelist's skill."
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghosts and Bury the Chains.
"Ian Johnson is one of the best foreign correspondents working today. His language skills and patient research have uncovered important stories in Asia and Europe, and in A Mosque in Munich he explores a previously unknown chapter in Cold War history..."
Peter Hessler, National Book Award finalist for Oracle Bones, correspondent for The New Yorker.
"Ian Johnson is a natural storyteller. He leads the reader on a fascinating ride from Turkestan to Egypt, Washington, Munich and Geneva following the stories of CIA agents, former Nazis, Muslims who fled the Soviet Union, and modern day Islamists..."
Hope M. Harrison, Director, Institute for European, Russian & Eurasian Studies, George Washington University.
"The story is a complicated one -- involving Cold War politics, Nazi holdovers, religious fanaticism, personal and institutional rivalries, and widespread naïveté in the West -- but Ian Johnson tells it superbly. Readers are likely to feel a mix of shock, anger, and bafflement as they watch events unfold and the same mistakes being made over and over. Johnson's vivid, absorbing narrative underscores how decisions made decades ago can still haunt us today."
Mark Kramer, Director, Cold War Studies Program, Harvard University.
"It is especially timely in light of recent calls to recalibrate American and Western approaches to Islam and to radical Islam. It should be read in the corridors of power and by citizens who take a serious interest in the continuing issue of how best to address the challenge posed by political Islamism both in Europe and the Middle East."
Jeffrey Herf, Professor of History, University of Maryland and author of The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II.