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The Strange Career of Ahmad Kamal and How He Helped the CIA Invite Radical Islam into Europe

Leslie Evans

A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Muslim Brotherhood in the West. Ian Johnson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 318 pp.

... excerpt : ... WEIHSIEN :

In 1941, Ahmad Kamal returned to China. There he did marry a Tatar woman named Amina, who had worked as a linguist and correspondent for Russian newspapers. They were both imprisoned by the Japanese in the Weihsien internment camp in Shandong, where they spent almost four years. On their return to the United States after Liberation the Los Angeles Times ran an article with their pictures. Kamal said he had gone back to Chinese Turkestan to retrieve his notebooks from his 1935-36 trip. He told the Times that at the time he and Amina were detained by the Japanese he had three manuscripts, a novel, a history, and a political study. Prohibited from keeping anything but a Bible, he and Amina transcribed the three manuscripts into ornate Turkic script and passed them off to the Japanese guards as a copy of the Koran. ( LA Times , November 11, 1945)

There is yet another curious side tale here that Ian Johnson did not pick up. This one involves the mystery of Amelia Earhart, the famed woman pilot who during an around-the-world flight disappeared over the Pacific in July 1937 with her copilot Fred Noonan,. One theory was that she had been spying for the United States and was captured by the Japanese. On August 21, 1945, as the Weihsien camp was shutting down, a radiogram was sent from there to Earhart’s husband, the publisher George Putnam, in North Hollywood, California. The telegram read:

“Camp liberated; all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.”

It was unsigned. Forty-two years later, on June 28, 1987, the Los Angeles Times reported that a State Department employee had found a copy of this message in the Earhart files in the National Archive. This sparked a renewal of the theory that Earhart had been captured by the Japanese and interned in the Weihsien camp. “Love to Mother” was widely assumed to be some kind of secret code, and the conspiracy literature soon abounded with the abbreviation for it: LTM.

A recent post by Ron Bright and Laurie McLaughlin clears up the mystery. The sender of the mysterious unsigned message was our Ahmad Kamal. It seems that one more of the improbable claims about Cimarron Hathaway that appear on the back cover of the 2000 edition of Land Without Laughter was true, or partly so. This was the claim that he had been a combat pilot. Ron Bright and Laurie McLaughlin in 2001 located his son, who confirmed that Ahmad Kamal had been a licensed pilot and that he kept a plane at the Burbank airport, also used by Amelia Earhart. The son added that Kamal knew both Earhart and her husband, George Putnam, and that when he left for his trip to China in 1941 he had asked Putnam to regularly look in on his mother, who lived nearby. Beyond these facts this account is full of misinformation, claiming, for example, that Ahmad Kamal served as a guide for the famous dinosaur hunter Roy Chapman Andrews, the purported model for Indiana Jones. But Andrews’ expeditions in the Gobi Desert and Central Asia took place between 1922 and 1930, when Cimarron Hathaway was still a boy. It appears that Kamal’s son has a thin grasp of his father’s history and has expanded his legend into myth. (http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Forum/FAQs/ltm.htm)

There is always something uncertain surrounding everything claimed about Cimarron Hathaway/Ahmad Kamal. His Jami’at al-Islam charity, which he invented while living in Indonesia in the 1950s, issued brochures claiming it had been founded in Turkestan in 1868-69 to promote revolution against tsarist Russia. Ahmad’s son, the source of the information about Amelia Earhart, was born in 1950 so events in 1937 took place long before he was around. Cimarron had left for Xinjiang the first time when he was only twenty-one. He had been back in the United States only a few months when Amelia Earhart left on her fatal flight. Surely he was not a licensed pilot then, much less with his own plane in a hangar at the Burbank airport. In the years after her disappearance he became an author and sought out contacts with various publishers, including Scribners, who published his Land Without Laughter in 1940. Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, was also a publisher. As the Weihsien camp was shutting down in 1945, Kamal sent two messages, not just one. The second was to Maxwell Perkins at Scribners.

Ahmad Kamal lived in Los Angele between 1945 and 1951. During that period he wrote and published three novels: Full Fathom Five , about Greek sponge divers in Florida, One-Dog Man about a boy and his dog, and The Excommunicated , a romance thriller set in pre-Communist Shanghai. He marketed a number of short stories and worked in Hollywood as a screen writer. Then he abandoned literary work and turned to Islam in a serious way, publishing The Sacred Journey: A Pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabic. Thereafter his life was bound up with intelligence work for the United States on behalf of Islamic, and in particular, Turkestani causes.

... ... end of excerpt.