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Jihad comes to Small Town, USA

2005/04/26

By Laura Mansfield

It happened again this week. I came out of the office to find a flyer under my windshield wipers inviting me to a special informational presentation on God and family values, and how to bring them back to the forefront in America.

I'm a parent so the flyer caught my interest. But as an analyst for the Northeast Intelligence Network, my eyes were riveted to the address on the flyer: The session was being held at a nearby mosque.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided it would be a good time for some onsite investigations of the mosque. In order to not attract undue attention, I dressed conservatively, wearing a navy jumper with a long sleeve white blouse, and low heels. I debated whether or not to put on a hijab (head scarf) then decided not to after all, I was going to "learn," not to pretend I was a Muslim.

I checked the mosque schedule on the Web, and discovered there was going to be an Arabic language session an hour before. So I showed up an hour early. The imam met me at the door, and told me that the presentation didn't start for an hour, and suggested I come back in an hour. Fortunately, I had anticipated this. I explained that since I had quite a bit of reading to do for a class I was taking. "Can I just sit here and read?"

He hesitated a moment, then agreed. I sat in the back of the room, with my book open, and made a mental note to remember to turn the pages every so often, as I listened to the speakers in Arabic.

The first speaker was the head of the Muslim Students' Association at the nearby university. Although I missed the beginning of the discussion, I caught up quickly. He was talking about the problems he had encountered on a recent trip, when TSA flagged him for extra screening. He joked about the fact that they had stopped him for extensive screening. He had anticipated that he would be screened and he had filled his carryon luggage with printouts of the Quran from the Internet, and had 15 or 16 CDs labeled in Arabic, and he had a notebook computer with him.

As he expected, he was delayed he thought it was very amusing that while several TSA personnel were scrutinizing his personal belongings that his classmate from Jordan was able to walk through security, along with his American girlfriend, without any problems whatsoever.

One of the men said, in Arabic: "Blonde Americans are good for something!" Another man advised him to be cautious, since there was an American woman in the room. The imam spoke up and told everyone I didn't speak Arabic.

At that point, another student took the podium. His name was Khaled, and he began to recount his recent trip to New York City. Khaled and three of his companions had gone to New York for several days in January. He told of how uncomfortable his trip up to NYC had been. He felt like he was being watched, and thought he was the victim of racial profiling.

Khaled and his friends were pretty unhappy about it, and while in New York, they came up with a plan to "teach a lesson" to the passengers and crew. You can imagine the story Khaled told. He described how he and his friends whispered to each other on the flight, made simultaneous visits to the restroom, and generally tried to "spook" the other passengers. He laughed when he described how several women were in tears, and one man sitting near him was praying.

The others in the room thought the story was quite amusing, judging from the laughter. The imam stood up and told the group that this was a kind of peaceful civil disobedience that should be encouraged, and commended Khaled and his friends for their efforts.

He pointed out that it was through this kind of civil disobedience that ethnic profiling would fail.

One of the other men, Ahmed from Kuwait, gave a brief account of his friend Eyad, who had finally gone to Iraq. Ahmed was in e-mail contact with Eyad, and hoped by the following week to be able to bring them more information about the state of the "mujahideen" in Iraq.

 

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