Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bull Sheikh

Dear Anwar,

I read the recent NY Times article about you - well, the "you" who inspired the 9/11 hijackers and who is the only American on the government’s “go ahead and kill the guy” terrorism list.

Don’t think I forgot you were born in New Mexico, you grew up in Nebraska and Minnesota, and went to college in Denver. Let’s face it, you’re a corn-fed American boy who happens to have weird cousins. Everybody knows when you put the words “Yemeni” and “tribal” together you have some serious fringe.

Your whole life you’ve had one foot in both worlds. Which might explain that whole phase you went through being imam of the San Diego mosque. You were so devout you wouldn’t shake women’s hands, but you got arrested twice for soliciting prostitutes. Couldn’t make up your mind.

Well it sounds like you finally did. Mr. Peaceful Muslim Cleric (“We came here to build, not to destroy” – remember saying that?) and now you’re pretty much al-Qaeda’s number 2.

The big question the NY Times article didn’t quite answer is: What made up your mind?

That’s a rhetorical question. I see straight through you. It’s maddening to live with a split identity. Maddening. You may think you know who you are, but years and years of trying to conform to two different value systems will wear you down.

In your own words, “I could not be ‘Mohammed’ in the morning and ‘Mo’ in the evening.”

Then comes the break. Maybe old friend psychosis, maybe depression, rage. And there you lie on a desert floor, on a starless night of the black moon, terrified of what will become of you. When you reach that point you have only one option: you have to wait. IF you act in the darkness, it will only be compensation. You’re acting out of panic, not because you see the light.

Your dark moon happened in a prison in Yemen. So you panicked. Whenever you do that, you seize the thing that’s most comforting. You decided to radicalize. Why is that easy? Because now you have answers. It can be overwhelming to make decisions all the time. Fat or low fat? Blow up the Twin Towers or coach the soccer team? Virgin or whore? Ahhh, but think how comforting it is to spill into that pillowed realm of RULES. Where everyone agrees that this is wrong and that is right. No fat. Blow it up. 70 Virgins. End of story. Now all of your actions come with blessings from a high, holy place and you can rest assured

Things get dark for me, too. And when they do, I always do the same damn thing: I run away. Facing down the abyss? Watch how fast I can get my ass to Memphis. You can romanticize it and call me a gypsy, but when I’m running, I’m a coward.

I recognize the panic in your running. But Anwar, it’s not the answer. I say this to you as someone who has recently realized the truth and is determined not to run away anymore. (She says.) I know it’s hard. Okay, it’s impossible. But you have to try. Me? I’m just some writer. But YOU have the power to influence millions. What you’re doing now is only compensation. To find the right answer, you have to lie still and wait out the darkness until you really see the light.