Born in Egypt and raised in New Jersey by devout Muslim
parents, Tamer Elnoury saw an armed man praying at a local
mosque one afternoon and it made him realize that he wanted
to be a cop. He’d set his sights on federal law enforcement
and, shortly after graduation from the police academy, the
FBI to come courting but Elnoury turned them down.
Post-9/11, he wondered if he’d made a mistake.
He reached back out to the Bureau. Seven years later, they
returned his call.
As a newly-minted FBI agent who spoke fluent Arabic and
English, Elnoury’s first task was coming up with a “legend”
for his undercover work. He needed a story that was
memorable and believable: a pseudonym; a fake family, and a
reason for breaking the law. He had to make a target like
him without questioning his identity, or he needed to “bump”
the guy to “take his temperature.”
But being someone you’re not is exhausting work: Elnoury
remained in his role nearly every minute he wasn’t with
other agents or a “handler.” Apartments he occupied weren’t
his, nor were the cars he drove. His attire had to fit the
story. A case might mean several cross-country flights in a
single week. Perhaps most difficult: he had to hide his own
“disgust” while he continued gathering information.
That ability came in handy in his biggest case.
Elnoury was a busy agent with a packed schedule on the day
he got an urgent call: the FBI and Canadian officials were
investigating a “very bad guy” they believed had ties to al
Qaeda – or worse. Or maybe not. Learning more would require
finesse, and Elnoury’s part was supposed to be a quick
And it chilled him to his core…
The first thing you’ll want to do before you read
American Radical is this: throw out everything you think
you know about Islam if you’re not Muslim.
Authors Tamer Elnoury (a pseudonym) and Kevin Maurer stress,
often and specifically, what’s in the Quran and what
Islamic terrorists claim is in the Quran. Those are
two different things, the explanation of which makes readers
understand clearly the danger Elnoury faced with a guy who
might’ve been a friend, were it not for the man’s radical
beliefs. Quiet mindfulness mixes with straining awareness,
frustration, and “evil” then, adding to the tension of a
tale and an aftermath that, even though parts of this book
needed to be omitted for security reasons and conversations
were partially re-created, reads like a palm-sweaty,
And isn’t that what you want for a long winter’s read? Eh,
of course it is, so go find American Radical. You’re
gonna love it, for real.