Under roof in Mendoza, Mexico, summer 2006, two young men have stolen from the man across the street, but a book is all they have taken.
Excerpted from The Quran:
2: 191-193 – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.”
“But further elaborated, no doubt,” says young man number one, “by 2: 216, ‘Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.’”
Two young men are under a blanket, under a ceiling glowing with stars. They are reading a book, a sacred text that defines a religion of “peace”. This is the peace they locate between pages worn thin by an old man’s rubbing thumbs, the same thumbs he once used to concoct jihad. The next day, he will retrieve his book, but the two young men will not forget what they have read.
Found in a text taken from a caliph, the son-law of Muhammad, named Muawiyah. This text is hundreds of years old.
There is a painting. It is of fig trees and shades trees, it is of a family praying to Allah upon the grass. They face a new Mecca, a revelation, a revolution, and this before a caliph who has been given his throne from the ashes of nothing but violence. There is war on the road around the corner, and bodies in the ditch, but this family prays and rises only when the caliph enters their laneway with his soldiers. He inquires of their devotion, what they have done, what they believe. When he is given unsatisfactory answer, he beheads the father and casts naked the mother so that his soldiers may enjoy her. The children are forced to eat rats; they are left behind as their mother is dragged by a horse over the road aside which the dead are choking the ditches now. Her skin is being removed with every foot of travel, but with every step, she is praying, praying to Allah – though her children under the tree cry for her. She hears their wailing down the road, but Allah soothes her and takes her away, and by the next village she has forgotten that she had children, for she is with Allah now.
In the Swat valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, a girl was born. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she protested the local decree against the education of Muslim girls. The Taliban removed her from a bus and shot her in the head.
“Is this to be a treatise on freedom, or a lecture on repentance?” asks the professor of his class.
A tentative hand rises into the air, and a girl asks a question she has been chewing on. “This girl is a hero. A truth-fighter. A revolutionary. A visionary. She is an activist.”
The professor sips tea. “Truth is about misconception and unravelling its weight from about your shoulders before you cast judgment against that which you do not understand. You are a white woman. You are unmolested. You are free. This girl, this hero you note, raised her voice against hundreds of years of tradition and spat upon them without regard for those who had come before her, who had lost their lives to provide the freedom to create those traditions in the first place. What gives you the right to cast judgment upon the customs of the Swat valley, and those who live there? How dare you decry their methods to be wrong?”
And the white girl goes away, and thinks later to herself: these are Muslims. And extremists. These are Muslims. And extremists. These are Muslim extremists. These are extremists. These are Muslims.
The Face of Allah is a book written by a man named Tom Joad. It has no words but the title. It is three hundred pages of handdrawn sketches of Allah and the Prophet Mohammad. It was not published but it can be obtained through various means for those who are interested.
Let me explain a spiritualist. A bloody depiction of an old man, one who as you leaf through the pages turns from revolutionary to child molester and unrepentant rapist: one whose wrinkles and creases are earned in gold-weights of blood and pockets of flesh. A stark raven-eyed man who refuses to have his picture depicted, or so say the Sunnis, perhaps because he has done such evil in his time that people will know him for what he is if they see him: this is Allah, the Prophet, this is tyranny, the death of Christians, the bringer of death unto infidels.
This book rests upon my lap. It is leafed over and over, every page worse than the one before. And I read it with the shades drawn, the lights out but for the glimmer that dips its hips in the dampness above, made of secrecy and blasphemy. I do not want anyone to know that I am reading this book, for they will come unto me and manhandle me if they know… this is forbidden text, and the Sunnis will have my head if they know that I so blaspheme their beliefs. It is said and written that if I disagree with them, they will condemn me. This is written in every crease and wrinkle upon this man’s face, the one staring at me from ancient sheets permeated with blood.
September 11, 2001, Muslims destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City. Have you forgotten this already?
I am a traveler. I am a businessman. I have three children. I hate to leave them, but I always bring them back gifts from wherever I go. Because they have so many toys already, I do not buy them trinkets. No, I bring them back rocks from the cities I visit, and on the airplane, I etch the names of the cities that I have visited into them, using a carving rock. Many are those who sit beside me and watch a movie or read a book or try unsuccessfully to sleep; but I – I carve rocks with the names of Tulsa and Big Rock and New Orleans and Rome and Toronto. When I return home, I put these rocks into the hands of my children, and they take them into the garden, where there is a rockpile that will one day speak of the entire world. It is a million miles and a thousand visits; it is places that I never thought to see, that I cannot bring back to my children. But this I can do.
And today is Los Angeles. And today is Boulder. And today is Emeryville. And today is Spokane.
And today is a rumble up ahead in the airplane, and some man raising his fist and some other raising his voice. And here I am, but a businessman, but a father, a carver of rocks, a bringer of gifts. The plane lurches. It spins, it falls, it does things that should not be. And we are falling. And I am falling. I hold onto my rocks. I hold onto them to whom I will never now present these gifts.
Why I Hate Americans
Because you believe the above.
Why I Hate People Who Generalize
Because you believe the above.
Why I love People
Because the young don’t care about you. Because the young don’t listen. Because the young don’t obey. Because the young have broken away from our prejudices and old-school misconceptions, because they don’t honour our opinions, because they don’t propogate the madness. They might be wild. They might be insane. But they are smarter than us, and I love them for it, everything they break apart about what we old people think. Fucking Muslims. Fuck them. Nary a young person does say this on these streets, not these days. Our children will redeem us. Believe it.
Muslims are Americans. Americans are Muslims. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Hug a Muslim today – do you think he will stab you for the affront, or perhaps just return the favour? Jesus appears in the Qu’ran, just not as the Son of God. Christian priests molest children. This noise is fucking killing us. Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head but survived, at the very least hear this: she is a Muslim. She is a Muslim girl, a hero, a person of courage and conviction. A Muslim. A hero, a leader, a survivor – and a Muslim. She did not decry her religion; she decried traditions made by sick people. Can traditions be bad? Can customs and culture be evil? In deepest parts of Punjab, when a husband dies, they still throw the wife upon the funeral pyre as she lives. Of course culture and tradition can be evil – and we should say so. But that is not the same thing as thinking Muslims are all bad, or accusing their religion for the sickness bred into some tiny minority within them.
Tell me when and how we forgot that extremists don’t represent the groups from whom they came? I once read a story about Westboro Baptist Church, and made my mind up about Christians. But they are not Christians. Any more than the Taliban are Muslims.
If we want to hate, let’s hate the extremists. Let’s hate those who take religions genuinely made from peace and corrupt them in our minds. These are the people who make the world darker; these are the people who take young girls out of buses and shoot them, these are the ones who stone women for adultery. These are the evil people of the world, they are not me and you; but if we start to believe the message that they represent some majority out there, we have allowed them to win this war. And that can never happen.
Who are you? A fighter? A lover? A compatriot? Are you a brother or sister? Are you complicit in propogating hatred, or are you hell-bent on ending it? There is a common understanding we have tucked in a breeding ground constructed of our ignorance. This is a bastion of loneliness and spite levelled at a bunch of people that we regard as all the same. This is an etching; a breathing; a desultory snowstorm descending on our homes, blanketing us under the fiction of our intolerance. It is a principle that we would never allow to be levelled at us, for we know better who we are. Our children already do. We can learn from them.
So let me ask, at the last: why do you hate Muslims?