Thursday, December 6, 2012


This Book May Cause Riots

Blasphemy, Idolatry and Other Kicks
(With All Due Respect)

By Paul Iorio

Table of Contents

Part One: Blasphemous Satire

Chapter One: Choosing My Religion
(Converting to all the great and not-so-great religions)

Chapter Two: Little-Known Popes in Papal History

Chapter Three: Combining the Bible, the Torah and the Koran

Chapter Four: “Play It Again, Osama”
(a screenplay)

Chapter Five: Revising the Ten Commandments

Chapter Six: Are the Beatles Really More Popular Than Jesus? A Google Search. [Non-fiction.]

Chapter Seven: If Jesus Really Did Return…

Chapter Eight: Synopsis of the Bible, the Torah and the Koran

Chapter Nine: The Secret (Faux) Al-Jazeera Stylebook.

Chapter Ten: Great Thoughts from the Late Islamist Thinker, Muammar Qadaffi. [Non-fiction.]

Chapter Eleven: Evaluating al-Awlaki, Magazine Editor.

Chapter Twelve: A Faux Conversation with Osama bin Laden.

Chapter Thirteen: “What They Need’s a Damn Good Whacking!”

Chapter Fourteen: Duck Soup Diplomacy

Chapter Fifteen : The Difference Between Fundamentalist Sufis and Sunnis.

Chapter Sixteen: Hot Sex Chat by Two Fundamentalists?

Chapter Seventeen: Thanking Jesus From the Stage

Chapter Eighteen: The Fascist-o-Matic


Part Two: This is a Free Speech Zone
(all pieces in this part are non-fiction)

Chapter One: Walking Around Manhattan with a Copy of “The Satanic Verses”

Chapter Two: Muhammad and Man at Yale – and in Hollywood!

Chapter Three: Nobody Owns the Copyright to Muhammad

Chapter Four: Some People Should Not Be Respected. (With All Due Respect, of Course.)

Chapter Five: Putting God in the Pledge is Disrespectful.

Chapter Six: Trying to Get Right With Sharia Law.

Chapter Seven: Sunni Rednecks at the U.N. Back “Defamation” Resolution

Chapter Eight: Making the Workplace Religion-Neutral

Chapter Nine: Just Replace the Word “Jihadists” with “Ku Klux Klan.”

Chapter Ten: Fanatics Say the Darndest Things!

Chapter Eleven: Are Jihadists the Spoiled Rich Brats of Islam?

Chapter Twelve: President Infidel?

Chapter Thirteen: Burn, Baby, Burn?

Chapter Fourteen: Is It Okay for a Candidate to Believe Kooky Things?

Chapter Fifteen: PEN Reading for Rushdie, Interrupted by Bomb Threat, 1989.

Chapter Sixteen: It’s Illegal to Say This in Some Parts of the World.

Chapter Seventeen: How Does an Atheist Like Me Explain Existence?


Part Three: Things That Haven’t Been Said About 9/11, 45 Park, etc.
(all pieces in this part are non-fiction)

Chapter One: The Immediate TV Coverage off the First Two Crashes on 9/11. (The Live Coverage Viewers Missed.)

Chapter Two: Which Politicians Saw 9/11 Coming?

Chapter Three: They Thought There Were No Snakes in the Snake Pit.

Chapter Four: The Era of the World Trade Center in NYC (and other Post-9/11isms.

Chapter Five: Hate Crimes Against Infidels.

Chapter Six: Both Sides Are Wrong About Park51.

Chapter Seven: The Actual Motivations Behind Recent Jihadist Plots

Chapter Eight: What the Cabbie Knew.

Chapter Nine: Nutty Conspiracy Theories – Even From Smart, Respected Writers.

Chapter Ten: Don’t Wanna Be a French Idiot.

Chapter Eleven: The Underwear Bomber, Elected President of his School’s Islamic Society.

Chapter Twelve: Wars, Fought Mostly by Teenagers.

Chapter Thirteen: Did al-Awlaki Have Foreknowledge of the 9/11 Attacks?
(The Possibly Tell-Tale Copyright Date.)


Part Four: Blasphemous Verse!
(all lyrics by Paul Iorio)

1. “Backfire”
2. “:They’re Building a Mosque in My Mind”
3. “The Monster Mosque” (based on “The Monster Mash”)
4. “The Creationist Anthem”
5. “The Holy Country Song”
6. “(Stop the) Beer Hall Putsch”
7. “Pray to the Devil”
8. “I’m Coveting (My Neighbor’s Wife)”
9. “Please Turn Me Into Rushdie”
10. “Taliban Virgins”
11. “Draw Me a Picture of Muhammad”
12. “Death Falls Like a Sunset”

Section One

Blasphemous Satire!


“Choosing My Religion”
(Converting to all the great (and not-so-great) religions.)

If everything were to go wrong, it's somewhat comforting to know

organized religion would take you in -- no matter who you are, or what

you've done, or what you really believe.

But first you must convert. What religion is best for you? Which one

offers a sensible plan for eternity, no-fault redemption, praying that gets

results, easy admission to heaven, and a moral contract that's non-


To answer these questions, I set out one morning to convert to the world's

great (and not-so-great) religions. Within hours, I grew certain of only one

thing: becoming holy was not the best way to expand my sexual options,

since many faiths prohibit even the most mundane erotic activities. Islam,

for example, forbids masturbation.

"It's a sin," says Abdul Hai of the Islamic Center in Chicago.


"You can't even masturbate with your wife?," I ask.

"How come you do masturbating with your wife?," says Hai.

"Mutual masturbation -- that would be okay, right?," I ask.

"I don't think so," says Hai.

So for those who sometimes feel sex is too private to do in front of

another person, Islam is clearly not the way to go.

Muslims also bar lechery. "Even if you gaze at the face of a woman out of

lust, it is forbidden," says Muhammed Salem Agwa, an imam at the Islamic

Cultural Center in New York. (Sunnis and Shiites largely agree on such

lifestyle issues.)

I then tried the Mormons. First thing I found was they take marriage very

seriously. Not only do they nix sex before marriage, they believe in

marriage after death. This, of course, raises the question of whether one

can file for divorce in eternity.

"As far as getting a divorce in the eternities, I don't think so," says an


elder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. "If you lasted until the eternities

with your marriage, it's pretty much going to last forever."

"But if you do get a divorce in eternity, do you split the soul 50:50?," I


"Good question," he says. "I never thought of that. I'll have to think about


Judaism actually regulates the penis itself; circumcision is recommended

for converts. (For the uninitiated, adult circumcision is usually performed

under a local anesthetic and requires several stitches you know where.)

Next, I checked out the best ways of getting to heaven. For

Catholics, I found the password to heaven is a simple, "I'm sorry."

Evidently, the deal for Catholics is this: Commit any sin during the week,

confess on Sunday, and you're pardoned, no matter what the offense.


Catholics can even envision forgiveness for Adolf Hitler. "If at the end,

Hitler had been truly sorry for the things he had done, then the possibility of

forgiveness is there in a theoretical sense," says Father Kevin Madigan of

the Blessed Sacrament Church in Manhattan.

"Is there any point of evil beyond which you say, 'No amount of

repentance will redeem you?,'" I ask.

"No," says Father Madigan.

Catholics aren't the only ones with a loose forgiveness policy. Listen to

Pentecostal pastor Donald Lee of the Healing Stream Deliverance Church

in New York: "One of the people we're affiliated with is Son of Sam," he

says, sounding a bit like Dan Aykroyd's E. Buzz Miller character on the

original "Saturday Night Live." "We've prayed with him a number of times,

and he's really strong now in the Lord."

"That seems way over the top," I say. "If Son of Sam doesn't go to hell,

then who does?"


"He doesn't go to hell because he's totally repented. In this case, he really

meant business with God," says Lee.

"What sins won't you excuse?," I ask.

"When you experience the power of God and then you blaspheme it, you

mock it," Lee explains.

Other religions have their own quirky, irredeemable acts. What sin do

Lutherans consider unforgivable?

"To die in unbelief," says Dale Hansen, the pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran

Church in Manhattan.

"But then if I believe before I die, I'm forgiven my previous unbelief?," I


"That's right," says Hansen.

With this much forgiveness going around, heaven must be mighty

crowded, right? Not according to Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim heaven

has a tight guest list of exactly 144,000. Apparently, admission depends on


who you know. Each apostle gets to bring along 12,000 guests, says Elder

Eugene Dykes of Kingdom Hall in Columbia, South Carolina.

Despite stiff competition for admission to heaven, one can still have a shot

by following as many religious rules as possible. Among them are the Ten

Commandments, which raise complex ethical questions. For instance,

would I be considered unholy if I break the First Commandment by

believing Al Green is God?

"Oh, no, no, no," says Adriano Hernandez of the Broadway Seventh-Day

Adventist Church in Manhattan.

"Al Green is a great guy, but he's not the supreme being of the universe,"

notes Glenn Evans of the Singles' Ministry of the First Baptist Church of

Dallas, Texas.

"Believing Al Green is God means you're going to become a total servant

of Al Green," says Father Madigan, "and whenever he calls you on the


phone and wants you to do something, you're going to do that. I don't

understand how you can worship Al Green as a god."

"I think you're pulling my leg here," says the very smart Leslie Merlin of

Brick Presbyterian Church in New York.

If the Ten Commandments are strict, just think of Judaism, with its

additional 613 commandments. How do you know if you're violating, say,

commandment 537? "It's hard," admits Rabbi Jacob Spiegel of the First

Roumanian American Congregation. "We don't expect you to."

Most orders of Judaism don't expect adherence to their dietary laws. One

commandment forbids Jews to consume meat and any milk product at the

same meal, which rules out something as innocent as coffee with milk after

a burger. But Rabbi Simcha Weinberg of the Lincoln Square Synagogue

slyly reveals a loophole: "You could have the coffee first."

Islam's food restrictions are so strict it's a wonder someone hasn't


marketed them as a diet plan yet. Among the regulations, most devotees

must fast from dawn to dusk for one month a year. Does that mean not

even a SlimFast or a megavitamin? "You cannot even take a drop of water

once you start fasting," Abdul Hai says sternly.

Praying is a good way to get your side of the story across to God. And

God reportedly understands every prayer in every tongue -- including


Pastor Donald Lee demonstrates his fluency in tongues: "When the spirit

comes into you, you'll be speaking in tongues -- cora ba shinda da ba sa --

like that. Like right now -- kara sheek a ra da ba da sheev ba ra sa. When I

pray in tongues -- cora da shotta -- it gives the Holy Spirit a chance to dig


But don't try imitating Pastor Lee, which of course I know you're dying to

do. "You could imitate me, but it wouldn't be by the Holy Spirit," he says.

"It would just be mechanical."


Islam requires Muslims to take comfort in prayer five times a day and to

turn toward Mecca when doing so. "Suppose I turn toward San Francisco," I

say. "Does that negate my prayer?"

"You can have a compass and you keep it with you," responds

Muhammed Salem Agwa.

Because I didn't have my compass with me, I decided to try another

religion. What about Christian Science? At the very least, it's a super way

to save on healthcare. I checked out a service in Greenwich Village.

The congregation, looking like people who wash their hair with bar soap,

sings Hymn 31, a four-four ditty with catchy lyrics like: "What chased the

clouds away? Twas love, whose finger traced aloud a bow of promise on

the cloud."

Then it's open-mike time at the church, and a Christian Scientist with a

comb-over shaped like a gerrymandered congressional district says, "I


have a healing to share." Though the Scientists believe faith can cure any

ailment, this service was causing me sudden nausea. I left for the Hare

Krishna house on Second Avenue.

Approaching the Krishna center, I expected a lot of shaved heads and

chanters in neon orange robes. Instead, I found an almost irreverent

get-together of twentysomethings vaguely resembling Billy Bragg and

Sinead O'Connor.

I investigated the Krishnas further. Which Vishnu god gives me the best

return on my worship? "Kirshna," says Akunthita Dasi of the International

Society for Krishna Consciousness in Chicago.

Must my cremated ashes be scattered on the Ganges River, or will the

Hackensack or Potomac do? "We just throw ashes in the lake here," says

Chakra Pani of the Temple of Understanding near Limestone, West


Seeking something more earthly, I tried an Orthodox Jewish Minchah


service at Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El in Manhattan. In a tight

basement with bars on the windows, men wearing hats turned the pages of

the Torah backward and spoke Yiddish in an emphatic fast-motion ritual. I

made a contribution and quickly left.

Equally daunting was a Catholic Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New

York. Inside, worshipers repeated "I shall not fear" as a cop patrolled the

north aisle and an usher prodded me with a long-armed collection basket.

Then everybody shook hands with one another on cue and filed out to the

sound of a barely audible organ.

A nearby Buddhist meditation service was a breath of fresh incense -- at

first. But then someone told me I was meditating incorrectly and needed

formal instruction. (In Zenspeak, I didn't know what I wasn't doing.)

My head was spinning in a spiritual vortex. I wondered: could I

simultaneously shave my head, get circumcised, genuflect, speak in

tongues, pray with a compass, and stop masturbating? It may be worth

trying. It would certainly improve my chances of getting to heaven.

[Originally published in the October 1994 edition of Details magazine.]


Chapter Two: Little-Known Popes in Papal History

Pope Benedict XVI is a household name in the West nowadays, but there

have been pontiffs who have been far more obscure. Here are ten:

Mad Pope Napoleon the 13th's brief reign was marked by grandiose
plans and an obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. He was deposed
when he tried to turn the Vatican into a nuclear power. (1952)

An experimental pope who advocated praying to the Devil and to
God in order to cover all bases. (431 A.D.)

For all the arrogance of his name, Jesus God 2 actually turned
out to be somewhat humble and unassuming, noted mostly for his
punctuality. Was convinced the Old Testament had been penned by
a guy named Smith. (1564)

With the Ottomans threatening Western Europe, the Vatican
decided to throw Constantinople a bone by elevating a former
imam to the top spot. Muhammad the First, a lapsed Muslim who
fled Turkey and converted to Catholicism, fell from favor after
he proposed building minarets atop St. Peter’s Basilica. (1627)

A hippie pope known for his casual manner and affinity for
pop culture, he dispensed with Latin rites in favor of
"happenings." (Sept. 1974 to Sept. 1974)


As his expansive title suggests, Saskatoon might have been
a bit more preoccupied with claiming long-denied status
from the folks back home than with his duties as pope. (1910)

Took transubstantiation far more literally than most; after
a car accident, he insisted Vatican doctors give him a
blood transfusion using Chianti Classico instead of blood,
a fatal decision. Advocated medical care for the dead, who
he called the "as yet unrisen." (1960)

An American greaser of the 1950s -- and self-styled
"Method Pope” -- who rode a Harley to work. (1956)

The first hip hop pope. Expanded the use of "signs of the Cross"
to include gang hand signs. (1998)

Not officially a pope or a rabbi, and operating for a time
from a psychiatric facility in Antwerp, where he occasionally
broadcast a syndicated faith program called “This Week in Eternal
Damnation," he actually convinced several dozen people, mostly
Belgians, that he was the first Jewish pope. (1988)


Chapter Three: Combining the Old Testament and the Koran

The other night I tried a little experiment to see whether I could use author

William Burroughs's so-called cut-up method to combine passages from

both The Koran and The Old Testament into one poem.

I took The Koran's "The Holy Prophet" and randomly mixed it with the Old

Testament's "Book of Malachi" and then edited the result, which I’m

presenting here:

I will corrupt your seed
Your breast will become straighted by it
Because they say, why hasn't a treasure been sent down upon him
Most surely he is exulting, boasting

The law of truth was in his mouth
This is nothing but clear magic
And if we make him taste a favor after distress has afflicted him
He will certainly say, "The evils are gone"

Spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts
Warner, the curse of Allah is on the unjust
The punishment shall be doubled for them
Oh ye priests, this commandment is for you


Chapter Four: “Play It Again, Osama”
(a screenplay)

Using Woody Allen’s “Play It Again, Sam” as my basis, I came up with this mini-script that imagines a lovelorn Osama bin Laden.

Play It Again, Osama


OSAMA BIN LADEN (to himself): What's the matter with me?
Why can't I be cool like the Prophet Mohammed?
What's the secret?

An imaginary Prophet Mohammed, wearing a fedora and looking
and sounding like Humphrey Bogart, appears from the shadows.

PROPHET MOHAMMED: There's no secret, kid.
Infidels are simple. I never met one that didn't understand
a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .44.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: Yeah, 'cause you're Mohammed.
I'm not like you. When you lost Aisha, weren't you crushed?

PROPHET MOHAMMED: Nothing a little bourbon and soda
wouldn't fix. Take my advice and forget all the romantic stuff.
The world is full of infidels to fight. All you have to do is whistle.

OSAMA: He's right. You give the unbelievers an inch
and they step all over you. Why can't I develop that attitude?


[mimicking Mohammed] Nothing a little bourbon and soda
couldn't fix.

[He swigs a shot of Old Crow, gags.]



LINDA CHRISTIE: Osama's calling again. We've got to find him a girl.
Somebody he can be with, get excited about.

DICK CHRISTIE: We'll have to find him a nice girl.

LINDA: There must be somebody out there. Someone to take his
mind off losing Mohamed Atta. I think he really loved Atta.

DICK [picking up phone]: I know just the girl for him.



Osama is preparing for his date, which is in an hour or so.
Again, from the shadows comes an imaginary Prophet Mohammed.

MOHAMMED: You're starting off on the wrong foot.

OSAMA: Yeah, negative.

MOHAMMED: Sure. They're getting the best of you
before the game starts. What's that stuff you put on your face?

OSAMA: Canoe. It's an aftershave lotion.

MOHAMMED: You know, kid, somewhere in life
you got turned around. It's her job to smell nice for you.
The only bad thing is if she turns out to be a virgin --
or an agent for the JTTF!

OSAMA: With my luck, she'll turn out to be both.

TITLE CARD: Later That Night....


The doorbell rings and Osama opens the door. It's Linda.

LINDA: How did the date go?

OSAMA: It never would have worked between us.
She's a Shiite, I'm a Sunni, it's a great religious abyss.

LINDA: [laughing]

OSAMA: You're laughing and my sex life
is turning into the Petrified Forest.
Millions of women in the Northwest
Territories and I can't wind up with one!

Osama takes a seat on the couch and Linda sits next to him.

OSAMA: I'm turning into the strike-out king
of Waziristan!


LINDA: You need to be more confident, secure.

OSAMA: You know who's not insecure?
The Prophet Mohammed.

LINDA: That's not real life.
You set too high a standard.

OSAMA: If I'm gonna identify with someone,
who am I gonna pick? My imam?
Mohammed's a perfect image.

LINDA: You don't need to pretend. You're you.

Osama nudges closer to Linda on the couch.

The imaginary Mohammed appears and speaks.

MOHAMMED: Go ahead, make your move.

OSAMA: No, I can't.

MOHAMMED: Take her and kiss her..

LINDA (getting up to go to the kitchen): I'll get us both a drink.

MOHAMMED: Well, kid, you blew it.

OSAMA: I can't do it. We're platonic friends.
I can't spoil that by coming on.
She'll slap my face.


MOHAMMED: I've had my face slapped plenty.

OSAMA: But your turban
don't go flying across the room.

Linda returns with two drinks.

LINDA: Here we are, you can start on this.

MOHAMMED: Go ahead, kiss her.

OSAMA: I can't.

The phone rings and startles Osama, as he answers it.

OSAMA (into phone): Hi, Dick. Yes, she's here.
I was going out -- I had a Polish date.

He hands the phone to Linda.

MOHAMMED: Relax. You're as nervous as Abu Jahl was before
I beat his brains out at the Battle of Badr. All you've got to do is
make your move.

OSAMA: This is crazy. We'll wind up
on al Jazeera!

LINDA (into phone): OK, goodbye.

LINDA: Dick sounded down. I think


he's having trouble in Karachi. I wonder
why he never asks me along on his trips.

OSAMA: Maybe he's got something
going on the side. A fling.

LINDA: If I fell for another man,
it'd have to be more than just a fling.
I'd have to feel something more serious.
Are you shaking?

OSAMA: Just chilly.

LINDA: It's not very cold.

MOHAMMED: Move closer to her.

OSAMA: How close?

MOHAMMED: The distance of Flight 175 to the south tower..

OSAMA: That's very close.

MOHAMMED: Now, get ready for the big move
and do exactly as I tell you.

Suddenly an imaginary Mohamed Atta appears and
confronts the Prophet Mohammed.

ATTA [to Mohammed]: I warned you to leave my ex-lover alone.

Atta draws a pistol and shoots Mohammed.


Osama looks a bit panicky now that Mohammed is gone.

LINDA: I guess I'd better fix the steaks.

OSAMA: Your eyes are like two thick juicy steaks.

Osama kisses Linda, who recoils, pushing him away.

OSAMA: I was joking. I was just testing you.
It was a platonic kiss.

LINDA: I think I'd better go home.

OSAMA: You're making a mistake.

Linda waves goodbye and leaves the apartment.

OSAMA: I attacked her. I'm a vicious jungle beast..
I'm not the Prophet Mohammed. I never will be.
I'm a disgrace to my sex. I should get a job at an Arabian palace
as a eunuch.

The doorbell rings.

OSAMA: That's the vice squad. [He opens the door, and Linda is there.]

LINDA: Did you say you loved me?


Osama and Linda embrace and kiss and the scene fades.


MOHAMMED: That's all there is to it.

OSAMA: For you, because you're Mohammed.

MOHAMMED: Everybody is at certain times.

OSAMA: I guess the secret's not being you, it's being me.

MOHAMMED: Here's looking at you, kid.

*with massive apologies to Woody Allen.


Chapter Five: Revising the Ten Commandments

A couple years ago a religious group in Utah was promoting its own

alternative to the Commandments, called The Seven Aphorisms, and

wanted to erect an Aphorisms monument on public land, which was the

subject of a hot case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Well, I, too, have my own alternative to the Commandments, or rather an

edit of the Commandments that I'd like to share.

After all, the Commandments must have been tough to edit back when they

were first written on stone tablets, which are nothing like the nifty laptops

we have today. If MicrosoftOffice had been around in Moses's time, here

are the notes a good editor might have written:

1. I am the Lord thy God: Thou shalt not have false gods before me.

This is your lede commandment?! Wording this
in the first person makes God seem immodest -- and
as if it's a pick-up line at an orgy ("Hey, baby,
you can't worship anybody but me"). If you're


going to keep this as a commandment, find a way
to re-word it in the third person, even if you
have to quote someone else saying it

(e.g., "Thou shall not have false gods before


2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Look, if you're going to be The Lord, you've
got to learn to take some heat and nasty words every
now and then. Scrap this Commandment.


3. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath.

Awkward wording, to say the least. Also:
by "holy," I assume you mean "suspend all activity."
You're essentially giving everyone a license to be
lazy on a particular day and feel good about it.
No can do. Schedules are too tight in the modern
age. Scrap this one, too.


4. Honor thy father and mother.

Generally a good idea. But what about
the millions of people whose mothers and fathers
are not worthy of honor, who are
Nazis and rapists? Re-write.

5. Thou shall not kill.

In all instances? Thou shall not kill Hitler?
Thou shall not kill bin Laden? Thou shall kill in

wartime? Thou shall not kill in self-defense? Too
many exceptions to the rule. Go back and make it more


6. Thou shall not commit adultery

What if it's an open marriage and the husband
doesn't mind if you have relations with his significant
other? Too broad.


7. Thou shall not steal

Again, generally a good idea but too vague.
It's legal, for example, to steal something that
was stolen from you. During the French and
American revolutions, revolutionaries stole
almost all the property of the ruling elites.
Keep but modify.



8. Thou shall not bear false witness against a neighbor.

It's hard to disagree with this one, though
Ben Franklin said it better with "Honesty is the
best policy."


9. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife.

What's wrong with a little coveting now and
then? I know, coveting can lead to harder things
(which is what I've been hoping for lately!).
Also, does this apply to thy neighbor's husband?
Ditch this one.


10. Thou Shall not covet thy neighbor's goods.

This commandment gets outshone by the much
kinkier "neighbor's wife" commandment. Lacks pizazz.
Try combining this one with the 9th commandment.


Chapter Six: Are The Beatles More Popular Than Jesus Christ?
A Google Search Finally Settles the Question

Are The Beatles really more popular than Jesus Christ, as John Lennon

irreverently suggested back in 1966?

Thanks to the digital age, we can now know for sure.

I recently Googled the search words "Jesus Christ" and "The Beatles"

(separately and with quotation marks) and -- voila! -- discovered it's a very

tight race, almost a tie, with Jesus edging out the Beatles by a mere million

or so hits (out of nearly 80 million).

To be fair to the The Fab Four, Jesus has had a couple thousand years to

attract fans, the Beatles only around fifty years.

Here's the final tally:

JESUS CHRIST: 39,100,000
THE BEATLES: 37,600,000


I should note that The Beatles are more popular than the Muslim prophet

Muhammad (who polled a surprisingly paltry 3,560,000 hits),

though all are dwarfed by Lady Gaga (139,000,000 hits), who is

more popular than everybody except God (with a staggering

427,000,000 hits).


Chapter Seven: If Jesus Really Did Return…

I've always thought that if the story of Jesus Christ were true,

and it's surely not, and if Jesus were to come back to life and to Earth,

Jesus would probably not be well-liked. I mean, after the initial novelty of

Christ's resurrection wore off, people would get very tired of Jesus throwing

around his weight and saying arrogant and egotistical things

like "I am the way and the light" and "I am the son of God" and "Hey, babe,

you can't worship anyone but me."

Imagine him demanding a good table at a crowded restaurant

because "I'm the son of God." After two or three months of this, I bet people

would want to crucify him all over again!


Chapter Eight: A 40-Word Synopsis of the Koran, the Torah and the Bible.

Here's my synopsis of the Koran, the Torah and the Bible:

"I am the way and the light, and you must worship me and worship no other -- and if you don't follow the way and the light you will find yourself on a dark path that leads only to eternal damnation."

There it is -- that's 90% of the Bible, The Torah and The Koran,

summarized in a neat 40 words!

But shhh! Don't tell anyone. Too many world businesses rely

on people believing the supernatural tales of the Koran, the Bible

and the Torah -- including the Haj Industry of Saudi Arabia.

I mean, without the Haj industry, the Mecca-Medina metro area

might have to be propped up by oil money


Chapter Nine: the Secret (Faux) Al-Jazeera Stylebook.

A new WikiLeaks leak reveals al-Jazeera English's secret stylebook, which

has been adopted by several Western news organizations. Here are


1. When reporting on jihadi terrorism, do not mention

the words "Muslim" or "Islam" or "Islamic" until the eighth

or ninth graf -- and preferably after the jump on the website

or page. Instead, emphasize personal characteristics of the

suspect (e.g., "loner," "nervous," "troubled by financial problems,"

etc.). If there is any legitimate way to de-Muslimize a crime,

please do so

* * * *

2. If a personal messenger delivers a videotape from

A terrorist to a news bureau, do not try to confront or track down the courier

and do not try to trace the video's chain of custody.

* * * *


3. Try to emphasize positive images of Muslims in general coverage.

For example, profile a physician or cancer researcher who is a Muslim,

even if the subject has not yet done anything remarkable in his or her field,

Try to find and use pictures in which a Muslim man wearing a turban is

smiling and carrying a child on his shoulders or playing with a cute puppy.

* * * *

4. Though hate crimes against Muslims resulting in death have been

very rare, and though U.S. Justice Department statistics show there are far

more hate crimes against Jews and gays, make sure to underline, on a

regular basis, the theoretical possibility of deadly hate crimes being

committed against Muslims in America.

* * * *

5, Do not publish pictures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Do not

even publish verbal descriptions of pictures of Muhammad. Do not

publish drawings of any of Muhammad's wives, his holy

warriors, the angels or archangels, their relatives or close associates.


6. In any critical evaluation of editorial cartoonists, please do not

include controversial artists like Kurt Westergaard or Lars Vilks

on any ten best lists of cartoonists and pop artists.

* * * *

7. Though he shouted "Allahu Akbar" before committing mass murder,

and though he had been in contact with jihadist terrorists prior to his crime,

do not refer to Nidal Hasan's mass murders as hate crimes against


* * * *

8. It's OK to use the word "Islamophobic" but not OK to use


* * * *

9. Try to avoid jokes about Islamic subjects. All other religious and

ethnic groups are fair game for humor to some extent, but

jokes about anything Islamic must first be cleared and approved

at the highest editorial level.


10. Even when it would be more appropriate to use the

word "Islam" or "Islamic countries" (as in: "unrest broke

out throughout Islam..."), use the phrase "the Arab world"


* * * *

11. Please do not publish this piece under any circumstances.


Chapter Ten: Remembering That Great Islamist Thinker, Muammar Qadaffi

Here are excerpts from some of the late Muammar Qadaffi's vanished

writings, posted on his website in 2006 and 2007 (and uncovered

independently by me!). In these passages, actually penned by Qadaffi

himself, he writes about Jesus Christ (March 30, 2007) and rants angrily

against soccer and the World Cup (March 6, 2006):

"First, beware the deadly diseases caused by The World Cup. Medical

research has proven, and will prove further in

the future, that those who have [soccer] mania, and

those addicted to the game are most at risk of

psychological and nervous disorders. Those disorders in

turn are the leading causes of heart attacks, strokes,

diabetes, hyper-tension and premature aging. Human

physical activity has diminished due to the overuse of

technology. People have become more lethargic, lazy and

obese. At the same time, sport which should be an

individual activity that cannot be delegated to


others just like prayers, or a collective one

exercised by the all the masses has been

transformed into an exploitative activity

monopolized by the rich dominant elite like the

World Cup. The masses are reduced to playing the role

of the idiotic spectator.

Second, beware the hatred, enmity and racism generated by

[soccer]...The games in 1970 led to war between El Salvador

and Honduras that left more than 30,000 people either dead

or wounded. It also left a wound that will never heal....[The

World Cup] leads to problems, difficulties, disorders,

hatred and enmity. It causes the spread of degenerate

behavior and collective recklessness and irresponsibility.

Socio-psychological studies have proven that the manic,

fanatical addicts of the World Cup are below normal

in intellectual capacity and psychological



"...Why does the calendar start with the birth of Jesus and not the

death of Muhammad? The reason is that Muslims are weak and

defeated....It is indeed a miracle that Jesus was

born without a father....[An] error that has long

misled the uninitiated is that Jesus allowed himself

to be crucified to atone for the sins of his followers.

Jesus was neither crucified nor killed...The person

crucified 2,000 years ago was a man who resembled Jesus,

not Jesus himself. Jesus was not crucified....[The

Bible] states that Mary, Mary Magdalene,

Joseph the Carpenter and maybe some Apostles were

present at the Crucifixion. They all knew that

the crucified was not Jesus but pretended otherwise

to allow the real Jesus to escape."


Chapter Eleven: Evaluating al-Awlaki, Magazine Editor.

Of all Anwar al-Awlaki's talents -- murder, mass murder, inciting murder,

Inciting mass murder, etc. -- magazine editing appears to be the least of


Even a cursory glance at one of the covers of his magazine Inspire

reveals his flaws as a one-time publishing wannabe.

First, the title of the magazine -- that's it, I think, at the upper center –

makes it sound like one of those freebie flyers from Seventh Day


Second, the title is almost impossible to read unless you're looking for it.

Third, the shock effect of having a gun pointed directly at the reader is

completely negated by the headline that covers the gun barrel.

And the cover story itself -- "The Ruling on Dispossessing," by


Awlaki himself -- is not exactly a get or major scoop. I mean, the article

basically says jihadists should steal from non-jihadists to finance jihad.

Real complex. Brainy stuff.

And the story makes it sound like he's runnin' short of money, which

doesn't surprise me, given he's based in very, very poor Yemen. I'm sure

he used to look with envy at the better-heeled, more evil bin Laden, who

never had to fill his sermons with fund-raising suggestions.


Chapter Twelve: My Faux Interview with Osama bin Laden

Traveling through Abbottabad the other day, I decided to stop by Osama

bin Laden's house for a quick chat on the eve of his birthday. Osama

welcomed me in, popped open a Red Bull and plopped down on a bean

bag chair.

I soon noticed bin Laden was not in his usual robe and turban, but was

wearing a Star of David and a yarmulke. A copy of the Torah and Salman

Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" were on his coffee table. I knew this would

be no ordinary interview.


OSAMA BIN LADEN: Yeah, the terrorism thing wasn't
panning out anymore. Everything we tried didn't work. For example,
we had a couple jihadists aboard a JetBlue flight last month, but
it was delayed for so long that even the hijackers stomped off the
plane in disgust!


BIN LADEN: It started when I was reading Rushdie's
"Satanic Verses" in my bedroom. Loved the story of Mahound. And Gibreel was so sly. So that got me thinking about leaving the faith, and I
considered Hinduism and even Scientology before settling on Judaism.



BIN LADEN: I didn't expect to like it but it grew on me.
And I even enjoyed the bit about Mohammed's 12 wives. I, too, once had
sex with a prostitute named that way and, frankly, it
increased the eroticism. But the turning point was when I realized
those verses might be satanic after all. Sheesh!


BIN LADEN: Yep. No turning back now. There were other issues,
too. Allah never answered my prayers. I prayed for a Kalashnikov.
Nada. I prayed for victory over the infidel. Nada.


BIN LADEN: I confess I was touched by a rabbi I was
holding hostage, a cantor who sang so beautifully that I decided not to slit
his throat after a couple verses of "My Heart Will Go On." He was brought
to me by Adam Gadahn.


BIN LADEN: Yeah. We used to privately call him The High
Imam of the Great Mall of Milpitas.


BIN LADEN: Well, I started reading the Torah -- or the
Tawrat, as I used to call it -- and realized it was a lot like the Koran.
I mean, it almost seemed like a case of copyright infringement, if you
ask me. But I was drawn to all those commandments -- they sort of gave me structure during a mid-life crisis.



BIN LADEN: They're cool with it. In fact, I saw
Ayman al-Zawahiri chuckling over a copy of "Satanic Verses" I gave to him.
Ayman likes Rushdie, too! But I think the real tipping point for all of
us was the JetBlue thing. Seven hours on the tarmac. And not even a
meal -- just peanuts. It just became too hard to be a jihadist.


Chapter Thirteen: “What They Need's A Damned Good Whacking”

Some rich, homicidal, transient Syrian-born guy,

whose family has more houses than John McCain, recently spent

some of his considerable leisure time lobbing death threats

at the world's greatest living composer, Sir Paul McCartney.

The "reason" for the threats is that McCartney planned

to give a concert in Israel to celebrate its 60th

anniversary as a nation.

And that's evidently not to the liking of one Omar Bakri

Muhammad, also known as Omar Bakri Fostock.

Muhammad/Fostock said the following to London's Sunday

Express: “If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He

Will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be

waiting for him.”

"Sacrifice operatives"? Sounds like a job description


invented by H.R. Haldeman. Terrorism has finally

gone bureaucratic. Next they'll have Sacrifice

Management, Sacrifice Research and Development, etc.

Hey, I support the creation of a Palestinian state

and a two-state (three-state?) solution, but I also

say: happy birthday, Israel; you've long since earned

your sovereignty.

And bravo to Sir Paul for his bravery in rebuffing the

militants and for insisting the show must go on.


Chapter Fourteen: Duck Soup Diplomacy

Anybody remember the Iraq War? It always use to remind me of the

famous joke in the Marx Brothers' movie "Duck Soup."

"I'm willing to do anything to prevent this war," says the Sylvanian


"It's too late," replies Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), the new leader of

Freedonia. "I've already paid a month's rent on the battlefield."

Which sort of summed up the situation in Washington for most of the

Oughties; the Democrats in Congress, with a mandate from voters to stop

the war ASAP, tried to stop the war ASAP but found the Bush

administration had already gone in too deep.

Of course, the focus has now shifted east to Iran, which may become a

battlefront soon. And Ahmadinejad, with his chronically hardline positions,


looks increasingly like Rufus T. Firefly.

Firefly, after all, was a hardliner ("give him ten years

in Leavenworth and eleven years in Twelveworth") who, upon

taking charge of Freedonia, laid down the law: "These are

the laws of my administration; no one's allowed to smoke or

tell a dirty joke, and whistling is forbidden....If chewing

gum is chewed, the chewer is pursued...If any pleasure is

exhibited, report to me and it will be prohibited."

Ahmadinejad may look a bit slow and stupid but don't

let that throw you. As Firefly said of Chicolini: "Gentlemen,

he may talk like an idiot and look like an idiot, but don't

let that fool you: he really is an idiot."

P.S. -- While I'm on the subject of vintage flicks, I was watching Charlie

Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" the other night and marveling at the courage

it took to make the film in pre-war, isolationist America.


And it got me to thinking that it’s past time for Hollywood to make a similarly

brave satire about Osama bin Laden and other religious militants. After all,

he was a de facto dictator, a stateless despot, the one who (effectively)

forced us to remove our shoes at airports, the one who redesigned the

Manhattan skyline, the one who (with others) told us which editorial

cartoons we can and cannot publish, the one who decimated our airline

industry, and on and on.

It's time satirists took him on on the big screen. And let's hope that a fear

of bomb threats at theaters that might show such a film won't deter film

makers from making such a film.


Chapter Fifteen: The Difference Between Fundamentalist Sufis and Sunnis

I'm told that Imam Feisal Rauf, of the so-called Ground Zero

mosque, is a moderate Sufi. Not a militant, they say.

Which is a reminder that Islam is diverse. And the difference is this:

Sunni militants think people like Salman Rushdie and Kurt

Westergaard should be murdered. But Sufi fundamentalists

believe Rushdie and Westergaard should be killed.


Chapter Sixteen: Hot Sex Chat by Two Fundamentalists?

A tape of a secretly recorded steamy bedroom conversations between two

fundamentalists was recently found. Those who have heard the audio say

it sounds like Ann Coulter and Osama bin Laden. It couldn’t be, right?

COULTER?: Oh, bin, I love fundamentalist wood.

BIN LADEN?: I disrobe only for god-fearing women like you.

COULTER?: Do it, bin, like a believer! Hijack me.

BIN LADEN?: Your body, so unlike the infidels'.

COULTER?: Your cock is so unlike an atheist's.

BIN LADEN?: My penis may be small, but it's a
faithful believer's penis.

COULTER?: Bin, your beard is so wet and gooey from going down
on me.

BIN LADEN?: You taste like a woman of faith.

COULTER?: I like a penis that leans to the right.

BIN LADEN?: Hard right!

[And they both laugh heartily!]


Chapter Seventeen: Thanking Jesus From the Stage.

What's with all those people at the CMA Awards the other night

thanking God in their acceptance speeches? Sheesh, for

a moment I thought I was watching the Christian Rock Awards.

How long before someone gives an acceptance speech like this:

"I'd like to thank God, Jesus Christ, the apostles,

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Mary and Joseph, can't

forget them, and a shout-out to Mary Magdalene, catch

you after the show, and, ket's see, Ezekiel, Erasmus,

Job (I hear her's had a tough year) -- wait, I ain't

finished yet -- the angel Gabriel, a shout out to all

the Archangels and all the sub-Archangels, y'all are just

sensational -- Cain and Abel, and here's hopin' you can

patch up your differences, and can't forget Abraham and

Issac, now livin' with the folks at Child Protective

Services these days, Moses (good luck with "Ten

Commandments, Part 2"), wait I'm not finished yet...”


Chapter Eighteen: The Fascist-o-Matic

Religious autocrats, secular autocrats: they’re all the same, no?

From Mullah Omar's former regime in Afghanistan to religious

totalitarians enforcing their dogma via asymmetrical

means to Hitler’s Third reich, the resemblances are eerie -- so

similar in fact that they tend to mesh and merge in the mind.

After dloing some research, I started thinking: was that Hitler who banned

dancing except on Saturdays between 7pm and curfew, or was that the

Somali fundamentalists? No, the latter have just (effectively) banned music

on Somali radio at all times, but they're not the same ones who forced

Hindus to wear yellow badges on city streets, which is not to be confused

With storm troopers forcing Jews to wear yellow stars in public.

As I researched various fascist rules over the decades, I

found all sorts of peculiar (and oddly specific) bans

and prohibitions that started to seem interchangeable,

which they actually are, in many ways.


Proof of that is in this Fascist-o-Matic (below), by which

you can mix and match various totalitarian rules past and

present to create your own custom blend of oppression!

Just take one clause from Column A and mix it at random with

another clause from columns B and C. (Ex.: "Hindus

must...have a sun tan...under penalty of a forced haircut.")

Of course, each line, read straight across, describes an

actual regulation imposed by an autocratic state or group.

(See the "links" section (below) for more info on each

totalitarian regulation!)

Enjoy!  (click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

OK, now that you've emjoyed the "Fascist-o-Matic,"
here's my back-up research on each real-life law!


1) Hitler lifted his total ban on dancing in July 1940, allowing it only Wednesdays and

Saturdays between 7pm and curfew.

2) One of the reasons Ayatollah Kazim Sadighi of Iran has cracked down on women with

sun tans is because a female tan might cause earthquakes.

3) The Islamic extremist group Hizbul Islam has forbidden radio stations in

Somalia to air music (and the stations, fearing violence, have complied, much to the chagrin

of some in the Somali government).

4) Kim Jong-il has declared that all men in North Korea must wear their hair short (or face a

forced haircut).

5) In August 1940, Hitler forbade Jews from entering a store or market, except

between four and five pm.

6) Sharia law in Pakistan and other Islamic countries forbids people to play the tambourine,

except at circumcisions and weddings.

7) In 2001, Mullah Omar's Taliban regime in Afghanistan forced Hindus to wear a yellow

badge in public.

8) Islamic radical group The Shabab have banned the ringing of schoolbells in parts of Somalia.

9) Sharia law in Pakistan and elsewhere forbids people to play the mandolin, flute or lute.

10) In August 1940, Hitler decreed that Jews were not allowed to use a telephone, except to contact

a doctor or hospital.

11) Islamic militants worldwide have used deadly violence to stop people from showing

pictures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures.

12) Under Kim Jong-il, blue jeans are banned in North Korea.

13) Hitler banned Superman comics, which he considered too Jewish.

14) In the Third Reich, Jews had to wear a yellow star on their clothing in public.

15) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the autocratic president of Indonesia, banned

protesters from bringing buffaloes to demonstrations (he felt the buffalo might be seen as

an unflattering caricature of himself).

* * * * *




3. ibrahim&st=cse














Section Two

This is a Free Speech Zone

Chapter One: Walking Around Manhattan with a Copy of”The Satanic Verses”

In January 1996, I walked around Manhattan with a copy of

"The Satanic Verses" prominently displayed, visiting

both everyday places and locations where the book might

raise eyebrows and tempers. The idea was to see how provocative

the novel had become seven years after the fatwa. Here's

my report.

As we all know, Salman Rushdie escaped death and injury during the

period when he was condemned to death by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Others associated with the book were not so lucky; in 1993, the Norwegian

publisher of the book was shot; in 1991, the Italian translator was stabbed

and a Japanese translator was murdered.

Seven years after the fatwa, in ’96, I wanted to find out whether “The

Satanic Verses” was still as provocative as it was in the early 1990s? Was

it dangerous to merely read it silently in public?

To find out, I bought a copy and walked around Manhattan with the book,

conspicuously displaying its cover, with the name of the author in bold inch


and half sized letters. I visited everyday places as well as spots where the

book might raise tempers and objections.

My journey began with a nervous purchase of the book at Shakespeare &

Company on the Upper West Side. I was handed the book by a jittery store

clerk who followed me to the cash register, eyeing me up and down while

the cashier took my money.

I first visited Iraq’s Mission to the United Nations on East 79th Street and

rang the intercom buzzer.

“I want to find out if it’s okay to bring a particular book into Iraq,” I said into

the intercom.

A minute later, an impeccably dressed man with a terrific tan opened the

door. I asked him whether it was okay to bring “The Satanic Verses” into


“Put the question in a letter,” he responded, while staring intently at my

briefcase, where a copy of the book and my tape recorder were in view.


“What is that?!” he asked abruptly, pointing to something in my briefcase.

“This is, uh, a Walkman,” I stammered.

Suddenly, he lunged for my tape recorder and tried to take it from my


“Look, this is my Walkman,” I said, pulling my briefcase away from him. For

a moment, I felt like I’d just stepped into the scene in “Dr. Strangelove” in

which Gen. Buck Turgidson tried to confiscate Ambassador de Sadesky’s

camera in the War Room. (For the record, I was recording our encounter –

which is how I’m recounting the incident now!)

Feeling a bit like the Great Satan of East 79th (and carrying the Mother of

All Walkmen), I walked to the offices of the India Consulate General. As I

headed down Madison Avenue, the sidewalk came alive with unusual

characters, swarthy muscular types in very expensive suits wearing

sunglasses in the blinding blizzard. Certainly, at any moment, I was going

to be asked the frequency.


An inch or so of snow later, I arrived at the consulate, buzzed the intercom

and was directed to a separate basement area in the building next door. I

walked down the outdoor staircase to the basement and approached a

clerk behind a wall of glass.

The place was crowded and I spoke loud.

“There’s a book I’m wondering whether you’re allowed to bring into India:

Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses,’” I said.

The clerk consulted with two co-workers out of earshot in an animated way

and returned several minutes later to say I’d have to go back upstairs.

Upstairs, I was again directed downstairs. As I approached the stairs, I

was followed by an angry-looking man in a turban. He was tailing me so

closely that I turned to him and said, “You first.” But he insisted, so I went


This time, the clerk behind the glass had a ready response; speaking in an


almost gleeful you-must-be-joking tone, she said it would be a major

problem if I brought the book into India and suggested I finish the novel

before my trip.

As I left I found myself idly and inexplicably humming “Moonshadow” – with

the lyrics “I am being followed by a moonshadow” – by Cat Stevens,, the

Seventies singer-songwriter who has since converted to Islam and

endorsed the Rushdie fatwa.

I headed to the United Nations, taking the Number Six train downtown and

sitting next to a woman on a two-person seat. I opened the book and

started silently reading. Several passengers eyed the cover and smiled ‘

warmly, but the woman next to me saw the title and got up from her seat to

stand, though her station (it turned out) was two stops away.

Off the train, I walked along United Nations Plaza, where the mood

became somewhat tense at One U.N. Plaza, the site of the National Bank

of Pakistan. As I approached with the book, a police car, with its siren

blaring and its red light flashing, stopped in front of the . A couple of


nervous looking guys in turbans walked at me. My copy of “The Satanic

Verses” began feeling more like a bomb than a book.

I crossed the street to the United Nations and the police car went away. In

the first basement of the General Assembly building, I visited the United

Nations Souvenir Shop and approached a cashier, placing the book on the

counter. A distinguished man with grey hair came over and, with great

intensity, tried to fit together the pieces of a Lego-type toy. It was a display

model that a customer had taken apart.

“Customers break these things apart,” he told me, “and you can’t put them

back together again.” I watched for about a minute as he tried to unite the

pieces. He wasn’t able to.

Walking from the U.N., I thought about Rushdie and the man in the

souvenir shop and about how hard it is to put things together once they

break apart. I placed “The Satanic Verses” in briefcase and went home.


Chapter Two: Muhammad and Man at Yale – and in Hollywood!

Imagine if Galileo had said: "I'll suppress my scientific findings because

they are highly offensive to the Church and might cause violence (and I

wouldn't want blood on my hands)." That's essentially what Yale

said a couple years ago in its appeasement of the religious right of Islam.

Bowing to the interests of jihadist censors, the director of Yale University

Press gave Muslim militants what they wanted: partial editorial control of an

upcoming book that Yale is publishing.

The book -- “The Cartoons That Shook the World," by Brandeis prof Jytte

Klausen -- is about the so-called Muhammad cartoons published by a

Danish newspaper in '05. One would expect, of course, that a book about

the cartoons would include the cartoons that are the subject of the book.

But, no. The head of Yale University Press, John Donatich, consulted

government officials and Islamic scholars who advised him against

publishing both the cartoons and other images of the Muslim Prophet


Muhammad, including a depiction of a passage from Dante's "Inferno" by

19th century French artist Gustave Dore. (As The New York Times

noted, that scene from "The "Inferno," in which Muhammad is tortured in

hell, has also been portrayed in art by Sandro Botticelli and William Blake.)

Now the hard questions. Did Donatich ask experts on free speech and

censorship what they thought about including the pictures in the book? Did

Donatich consult the top editors of the numerous international newspapers

that reprinted the cartoons?

Did it occur to Donatich that radical Islamists might well object to the very

fact of the publication of a book about the Muhammad cartoons (whether

the drawings are included or not)? (After all, militants rioted and

killed people over the publication of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic

Verses," which had no pictures in it.) If there are riots about the picture-less

edition of the book, will Donatich withdraw it?

Taking this further down the slippery slope: If there is violence in Islam

over Dante's descriptions of Muhammad being tortured


in hell, should "The Inferno" be banned from bookstores and libraries?

If radical Islamists say that paintings in the Uffizi Gallery are highly

offensive works by infidels, should the paintings be removed from the

Uffizi? If the militants start setting off bombs to demand the removal

of paintings by Botticelli and Michelangelo from the Gallery, should the

Uffizi bow to their demands?

One has to ask at what point a guy like Donatich would actually fight for

freedom of expression and academic freedom. Donatich is quoted in The

New York Times saying that one of the reasons he won't publish the

cartoons is because he doesn't want "blood on my hands."

Let's savor that statement for a moment. He doesn't want blood on his

hands in the course of protecting a level of freedom of expression that

Americans have died for centuries to protect.


Using his own logic, Donatich would have withdrawn "The Satanic Verses"

to avoid getting blood on his bands.

Maybe Galileo and Copernicus should have suppressed their scientific

findings because they were highly offensive to the Church and might have

caused violence (and they wouldn't want blood on their hands, after all).

Maybe Viking should have said, "We're withdrawing 'The Satanic

Verses' because we don't want blood on our hands."

Ah, remember how the French in the 1940s so memorably said, "We're

going to allow the Nazis to take France without firing a shot, because

we don't want blood on our hands."

Well, I'll clue you in: having blood on your hands can be an honorable thing

if you're, say, killing Hitler or Osama bin Laden. Having blood on

your hands can be an honorable thing if you're fighting the Ku Klux Klan.

And having blood on your hands has, unfortunately, been


necessary throughout history to protect freedom of speech and religion.

At some point you have to realize that you're complicit in tyranny when you

accede to the demands of tyrants. And the religious totalitarians of Islam

are nothing short of stateless tyrants who are trying to impose, through

violence and threats, their values on everyone else. And they're finding that

their tactics work (even at Yale); all they have to do is throw a violent

tantrum and -- voila! -- they can scuttle a book (or part of a book, or a news


As Norman Mailer put it, referring to the Rushdie affair: "We can now

envision a fearful time in the future when fundamentalist groups in America,

stealing their page from this international episode, will know how to apply

the same methods to American writers and bookstores." Very true.

Anybody – from the KKK to Scientologists to those offended by

the Muhammad cartoons -- can use the same temper tantrum

tactics (e.g., riots, bombings, murders, etc.) to control the content of books

and journalism.


As I've said before: whether censorship comes from the king of your

country or from a stateless militant group outside your nation, it's still

censorship. And the religious totalitarians's use of asymmetrical

warfare makes them as intimidating (and as effective) as

a government with an army and a police force. All the

more reason to stand up to them.

Yale University Press made a cowardly decision. The university that

evaluated George W. Bush in the 1960s and famously declared him

smart enough to earn a B.A. from Yale – even though Bush's verbs and

nouns didn't agree, Yale's profs did -- has made yet another very stupid


Of course, it ain’t just Yale.

In Hollywood, film director Barrie Osborne (“The Matrix,” “The Lord of the

Rings”) recently announced that he was going to make a biopic about the


prophet Muhammad – without showing Muhammad!

I mean, you'd have to stretch yourself out of shape to find

a precedent for this. Let's see: there's that Humphrey Bogart

film where we don't see the main character's face (played by

Bogart, in bandages after plastic surgery) for the first hour or

so. And then there's "Jaws," where we don't see the shark

until the middle of the film.

But in those cases, the film makers make the absence of the

central character work. And we do see the two protagonists -- the

shark and Bogart -- later in those movies. In any event, neither

flick is a non-fiction biopic.

Cowed by militants, bowing to religious totalitarians, Osborne

is basically saying to the absolutists: "You've won, we'll adopt

your own right-wing suppression of free speech as our own

standard because, frankly, we're a-scared of you militants."


There's a wicked lack of reciprocity in the U.S. between western

liberals and Muslim reactionaries. We say to the religious, with

bottomless respect: "Come to America, build your mosques and

temples here, pray ten times a day if you wish -- and you

can also forbid any pictures of deities within your mosque. In

fact, if someone shows up at your mosque with a picture of

Muhammad or Khadya, you can have your own security guards

escort him or her from the premises."

So we allow them that freedom and then they turn around and

say: "The rules of our mosque must apply to the secular world

outside, too. Our religious rules say, no pictures of deities

can be shown in our mosque and we want that rule to apply

outside our mosque and to your secular newspapers and to

your Hollywood films, too."

And too many editors and movie people say, "Fine, we'll

surrender without a shot and agree to your censorship."


And that's precisely what religious totalitarianism is:

someone applying the parochial rules of the church to the

greater world.

The absolutists show no respect for the great diversity out

there, for those who believe, for example, that we should

be free to portray figures from history as we see fit. And

by bowing to their standards, we are reducing ourselves to

the ignorant, profoundly uneducated level of the madrassas and the


The case of Donatich at Yale is even more dangerous than

Osborne's film, because the adverse implications for intellectual

inquiry and academic freedom are staggering.

Suppose a contemporaneous drawing of Muhammad

was unearthed by archaeologists and turned over to Islamic scholars.

Should the drawing be suppressed, censored, not taught in


classes on Islam at Yale and elsewhere, not included

in scholarly and other journals?

In college classes on Islamic civilization, should students

not be allowed to discuss the fact that Muhammad

had around a dozen wives -- and what that implies about him? Is it

out of bounds in an academic setting to discuss the

morality of someone who has had an unusually large number

of wives? Was Muhammad sexually aberrant? He's called

a "prophet," but was he really one? Didn't a lot of people and

pundits at the time predict the same obvious things about the

Battle of Badr and the Battle of the Confederates that

Muhammad did?

Can students even ask such question in a classroom, or must

they just accept the myths-as-written? Have the rules of the

madrassas now become the rules of the Ivy League, to some



Isn't the core reality this: we suppress such questions

and analysis about Muhammad because we're afraid

such ideas might offend people who like the guy. Should

we expand that over-cautiousness to the study of other

public and historical figures, too?

Should scholars and students be forbidden from asking whether

the translators of the Old Testament might have been incompetent

translators? Can we not ask whether Governor Pontius Pilate of

Judea might have had reasonable justification for giving

Jesus [The?] Christ the death penalty -- justification that we're

unaware of because we've never fully heard Pilate's side of the

story? Are these questions off-limits because they might be

offensive to people who admire Jesus?

Should we extend that excessively deferential approach to other academic

disciplines as well? When studying, say, Frank Sinatra in a course on

popular culture, should professors and students not bring up certain


criminal aspects of his life and career because that might

upset violent people? Should we use that same cowardly guide

when studying and teaching the mafia, "The Satanic Verses"

and Scientology?

Other publications are following Yale’s example. The Washington Post -- a

great newspaper, no doubt about it, and I'm proud to have written and

reported for it – recently decided not to run a Berkeley Breathed

cartoon because it might be offensive to Muslims.

The new rule at some papers (and let's codify it for the stylebooks) is: don't

poke fun at anyone who might throw a tantrum. Of course, it's still ok to

satirize those who don't get violent in a disagreement.

Whether you're the American Nazi Party or Earth First, the message is

clear: the way to control press coverage of your group is to object to the

coverage with violence or threats. And then editors will throw up their

hands and say ok ok you win.


The new rule also says: It's all right to tell jokes about any other religious or

philosophical group, even though they may be just as offended as Muslim

extremists -- so long as those other groups express their disagreement in a

more civilized way. But as soon as those other groups start getting

physical, they're off limits to satirists, too

Fundamentalists of all faiths have to be weaned away

from absolutism, which is the cause of most war and

terrorism today. And, yes, fundamentalists should develop a sense

of humor about their religions, which after all are really

pretty funny if you try to take them literally. (People rising

from the dead? A guy with 12 wives? You can't be serious.)

And we shouldn't try to make jihadists seem as if they're intellectuals with

complex reasoning behind their actions. Remember, they embrace a

literalist reading of the Koran, and that's the salient fact about them, so

there couldn't possibly be intellectual value in what they believe, no

matter who they've studied under or what they've read. There are

some confused people in America who see the beards and sandals


of Islamists and mistake them for existentialist philosophers.

(They love to say stuff like "he was educated in Paris." Oh, really?

What school in Paris? There are a lot of lousy schools in Paris.)


Chapter Three: Nobody Owns the Copyright to Muhammad.

Hey, I can boast what many Muslims can't: I've actually glimpsed the

Prophet Muhammad first-hand. No joke.

Well, I've seen parts of him -- a lock of his beard hair (he had dark hair),

one of his teeth and his footprint (he had an average-to-large shoe size), all

on display (along with his sword -- I guess he was a violent guy, too) in one

of the most sacred spots in all of Islam: the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle in

Istanbul. (And no less than the Topkapi claims the artifacts

are authentic, though it’s hard to know for sure!)

It's amazing they allow non-Muslims like me in there. I bet even supposed

Muslims like bin Laden and al-Awlaki didn’t visit there when they were


You see, Muhammad arguably belongs to me more than he belongs to

Muslims who have never bothered to take the journey to Istanbul to see the

parts of him on display there.


And I'm a non-theist who sees Muhammad strictly as a historical

figure, not as a religious one.

So for someone to say that I can't draw a picture of him or describe him as

I see fit is highly offensive to me. It's like someone saying I can't criticize

Napoleon, Pericles or Newt Gingrich. It’s like saying you have no respect

for my point of view (but I should have respect for yours).

Nobody owns the copyright to Muhammad or to his writings. He belongs to

me, a secularist, as much as he belongs to the devout. Muslims don't own


And my opinion, frankly, is that Muhammad never said or wrote anything as

memorable or wise as Nieztsche, Sartre, Plato or Bob Dylan did. I'm not

kidding. The Koran is a crashing bore, mostly self-promotional stuff along

the lines of "you must worship me and only me yada yada yada."


And in his personal life, Muhammad appears to have been a bit of a

pervert, screwing around with prepubescent girls and having way too many

wives to be considered anything but aberrant. If he were alive today,

there'd surely be a place for him -- on Megan's List!

That said, I really did give him and the Koran a shot, traveling thousands of

miles by local train to get to Islam when I was a teenager. And I must

admit that some of the art inspired by The Koran -- the Blue Mosque, which

has forever changed my view of blue, and various byzantine mosaics -- is

some of the most enduring of the Ottoman Era.

And the locals who I enjoyed most in Istanbul were the Muslim hippies who

hung around The Pudding Shop. They loved artistic freedom , even as

they were hemmed in by the military on one side and the Islamists on the


I remember asking some young Turkish guy selling cassette audiotapes in

an underground bazaar what Turkish rocker he liked most. He

didn't hesitate. "Cem Karaca," he said furtively but proudly, looking


cautiously around him, as if the very mention of his name could land him

in prison. He then sold me Karaca's latest, "Nem Kaldi," his

third album, which I grew to enjoy and proceeded to listen to

for decades.

For Turkey, Karaca's music was audacious, a combination of

hard rock and folk rock and Anatolian music, along with subversive

lyrics, all of which earned Karaca condemnation by right wing

Turks who accused him of treason. Hence, it was no surprise when,

in 1980, the government issued an arrest warrant for Karaca that sent

him into exile for most of that decade (he was charged, essentially,

with writing lyrics that incited revolution).

Aside from the much better known Plastic People of the

Universe (of the former Czechoslavakia), Karaca -- along with

Francesco Guccini, the Bob Dylan of Italy -- represented the most

radical mainstream (non-English language) rock to have come out

of greater Europe in the 1970s.


But where the Plastic People were resisting a now-defunct

communism, Karaka was struggling against reactionaries who are

still very much in power today: conservative Islamists.

At that underground bazaar, I saw first-hand how Islamic

totalitarians were as oppressive as communists ever were. On that

1976 trip, I traveled alone by local train behind the Iron

Curtain -- into Bulgaria, the most totalitarian of the Eastern

Bloc nations -- and then into Islam. By far, there was less freedom

on an everyday basis in Islam (even secular Islam) than there was

behind the Iron Curtain.

So it’s always encouraging to see Islamic progressives in acts of bravery

large (demonstrations against totalitariism) and small (the selling of a work

of banned music).


Chapter Four: Some People Should Not Be Respected
(with all due respect!)

For some time, there has been an exceedingly wrong-headed

view out there that fundamentalist militants are, for some

mysterious reason, worthy of respect. Automatically. Without

having to earn it.

Hmm. Let's take that idea apart.

Should we also respect, say, pedophiles? No, of course

not. Should we respect...rapists? No way. Should

we respect swindlers like Bernie Madoff? Mass murderers like

Charles Manson? Not a chance.

Already, in around 25 words, I've defined a sizable

number of people who we can all agree do not deserve respect.

So let's expand that population a bit.


Should we respect, oh, people who try to blow up airplanes in

the name of their god? Obviously, no. Should we respect people

who support people who try to blow up airplanes in the name of

god? No way.

After all, you certainly wouldn't say we should respect people

who support blowing up innocent children while also saying

that we should not respect those who molest children?

What would be the logic, the consistency there? (If you're saying

that, then you're saying that murdering a child is a lesser

offense than molesting one.)

So you're not saying that, are you? Being reasonable, you have to

conclude that suicide bombers and their backers (and that includes all

of al Qaeda and much of the Taliban) are not worthy of respect.


Because respect should be earned, should be based

on some level of admiration for, or at least tolerance of,

another person's actions or beliefs. And there is no reasonable

foundation for respecting a religious fanatic who deliberately blows

up (or tries to blow up, or supports blowing up) an airplane

with children and other civilians aboard. That's common sense.

People should really think through the nice-sounding

platitudes they say before they say them.


Chapter Five: Is Putting God in the Pledge is Disrespectful?

An Iraq war vet sees combat that convinces him there

could not possibly be a god, at least not a benevolent

one. He raises a son and sends him to a public school

that he helps to finance with his tax dollars. He

tries to raise his kid according to his own private

spiritual values, making sure not to indoctrinate his

son into any religion, making sure he can choose

his own philisophical beliefs when he grows up.

But one day his son comes home and tells his dad

that they force him to participate in a group

religious chant at school every morning -- that's

precisely what the "under god" part of the Pledge

of Allegiance is -- and he doesn't feel right about

that. The dad is angry, tells school officials that

that's not how he wants his kid to be raised, that

in the U.S. the separation between church and state

applies to tax-payer funded schools, that


public schools should not be taking sides on the religious

debate about whether there is a god or not.

Of course, school officials and others don't care a

bit about his complaint and continue to coerce his son

into joining a morning religious chant.

Now that's offensive.

Politicians and pundits who step on eggshells in order

to make sure they don't say or do anything at all to

offend Muslims, Jews and Christians, somehow leave their

manners at the door when it comes to treating non-theists

with a proper level of respect. Evidently, it's ok to

offend and disrespect non-theists, who are then asked

not to say or do anything that might be objectionable

to people of other religions


Chapter Six: Trying to Get Right With Sharia Statutes

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan seem to be as strict as ever.

Here's part of the Pakistani Penal Code: "Whoever

willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy

of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom

or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any

unlawful purpose shall be punishable for imprisonment

for life."

Damages? Suppose I have a copy of, ahem, That Book, and

it accidentally falls into the toilet? Life imprisonment

for that? Talk about a broadly-written

law. Sheesh!

But that ain't nothing compared to long-standing Sharia

law statutes, which state the following (and I ain't

making this up): "It is unlawful to use musical

instruments -- such as those which drinkers

are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and


flute -- or to listen to them. It is permissible to

play the tambourine at weddings, circumcisions,

and other times, even if it has bells on its sides.

Beating the kuba, a long drum with a narrow

middle, is unlawful."

I mean, where do they come up with this Sharia

stuff? Let me get this straight. Flute and lute:

not OK. Tambourine: OK, but only if it's being played

while cutting off part of a child's penis. And what

the hell is a kuba, anyway? Any restrictions on a

Strat with a wah-wah peddle and a whammy bar?

(By the way, who the hell would play a tambourine

during a circumcision? Sounds kinky to me.)


Chapter Seven: Sunni Rednecks at U.N. Back “Defamation” Resolution

And so the United Nations' so-called Human Rights

Council -- a misnamed group dominated by Muslim

fundamentalist sympathizers that (by the way) has

yet to formally condemn the many human rights abuses

under Sharia law -- has drafted a

resolution condemning what it calls "religious


Free speech, says the non-binding resolution

passed a couple weeks ago by the General

Assembly, should be restricted to protect

"morals and general welfare," which

pretty much opens the door for censorship

by any government for any arbitrary reason.

Because the backers of the resolution, led by

Pakistan and cheered on by Hugo Chavez, obviously


did not do much critical thinking in drafting it,

let me ask the questions they should have.

Are you aware that religious defamation is what

scientists like Copernicus and Galileo were accused

of? Are you aware that many major advances in

science and philosophy throughout history were

once called blasphemous by religious literalists?

If you're against "defamation" of religion, then

why aren't you also against defamation of

political groups, governments and individuals?

Is it a human rights violation to make a joke

about the Saudi King? Is it a human rights

violation to ridicule the Republican party?

If not, why not? If I consider

my political beliefs more sacred than

my religious beliefs, then why shouldn't


my political beliefs be equally protected

against defamation? By defamation, don't

you really mean...merely criticizing


You see, the people who wrote that U.N.

resolution misunderstand the real problem,

which is religious totalitarianism and

the tyranny of absolutism. Muslim

fundamentalists simply don't want to give

Western progressives the same freedoms that

progressives give to fundamentalists.

In the U.S. and in most of Europe, we

say: if you want to prohibit pictures

of Mohammed in your mosque, you can do so.

You can lay down the law within your

mosque and forbid any drawings of

deities. That is your freedom.


But Muslim fundamentalists do not reciprocate. They don't want to grant

secularists the freedom to display pictures of deities if that's their choice.

The people who wrote that U.N. resolution don't understand that

Mohammed, to me, is a figure from history, not from religion -- and I will

portray him (and Hirohito and Plato and Mao, etc.) any way I choose, thank

you very much.

It's disturbing that even Britain has blasphemy laws on the books, but (to

digress for a moment) that didn’t stop the release of Bill Maher's

funny and wise documentary "Religulous" in the U.K.

In "Religulous" -- the top grossing documentary

of '08, yet unfairly shut out from the Best

Feature Docu category at the Oscars -- Maher

shows wit worthy of Groucho as he takes

apart the supernatural plagiarized tales of

the Bible.


One of the best parts of the film is when

Maher shows how the supposed biographical

details about Jesus (e.g., the virgin birth,

the resurrection, his ability to heal the

sick, etc.) are suspiciously similar to and

seem to have been lifted from stories about

the lives of deities from centuries before

the supposed birth of Christ (e.g., Mithra,

Attis, Buddha, etc.).

In other words, the holy tall tales told

for centuries in ancient Egypt and India

were such a great “box office” draw in Cairo

and Bombay that the writers of the Bible

couldn't help but steal some of the best

bits for their brand new character, Jesus

Christ, star of a sketch in which a father

(God) is OK with having his only son


murdered by a mob. (How heartwarming!)

And the way the Koran steals from the Torah,

you'd think the holy wars would be about

copyright infringement!

By the way, Ray Suarez's comment that fewer people

went to church less often in America in the 18th

century may be true, but it's also true that

far more people back then took the Bible more

literally than they do today; as science

continues to explain phenomena that the Bible

had attributed to supernatural forces, the

overall trend is, generally, away from



Chapter Eight: Making the Workplace Religion-Neutral

Suppose a cashier at a clothing store were to say that she had

joined the Ku Klux Klan, which (let's say) had recently

reconstituted itself and redefined itself as some sort of

sick religion, and that her faith required her to wear a sheet

to work. (A nauseating scenario, to be sure!)

Anyone would fire that employee, right?

Of course. For obvious reasons.

How about this. Suppose I were running a store and one

of my salesmen came to work with a large button saying

"Scientology is Better Than Christianity," and refused

to take it off, saying that his religion required him

to wear it.

I'd probably want to fire him, too.

Why? Because I don't want to be in a position where

it appears that I, through my employee, am tacitly


endorsing a religion that I don't want to endorse.

And thanks to the Establishment Clause, I'm not forced by

the U.S. government to choose or support a religion.

But if I ran a shop, and one of my employees wore religious

garb that you simply could not miss visually, wouldn't that

employee's clothing constitute an endorsement of a

particular religion? And because it's my shop -- and he's

my staffer -- doesn't that constitute a sort of surrogate

endorsement of a faith by me? (After all, there's no way

to issue a disclaimer or rebuttal in that sort of retail


And when that surrogate endorsement is backed by the EEOC,

then effectively the government is violating the Establishment

Clause, because it is forcing me, de facto, to endorse a

religion that I might completely disagree with.


After all, when the government steps in, via the EEOC, and

says I have to allow that employee to continue to endorse

a religion in a shop owned by me, then the government is

requiring me to create the unmistakable appearance that I favor a

particular faith.

Shouldn't my rights under the Establishment Clause take

precedence in such a situation? Shouldn't the EEOC be

interceding to enforce religious neutrality in the workplace,

rather than allowing a particular employee to turn a secular work

environment into a virtual place of worship?

On a personal level, if I owned a clothing shop, I'd

have a blanket policy: leave your crucifix, yarmulke,

burqa, veil and "Jesus Loves You" button at the church,

temple or mosque before you come to work.

If I were a store owner, I'd tell my employees that we're not


in the business of promoting, or even appearing to promote, a

political agenda or a religion.

Perhaps the EEOC should revise Section 12 of its Compliance Manual

to further factor in Establishment Clause protections to make

sure that the secular private sector is as religion-neutral

as the public sector is.


Chapter Nine:  Try Replacing the Word “Jihadists” with “Ku Klux Klan.”

A lot of American progressives would see jihadists much

more clearly if they simply substituted the word "Ku Klux Klan"

every time they heard the words "al Qaeda" and "jihadists."

(Examples: Cindy Sheehan has expressed sympathy for

the Ku Klux Klan; John Walker Lindh joined the Ku Klux Klan

just prior to a major lynching; Noam Chomsky thinks we should not bring in

the police to stop the Ku Klux Klan lynchings; George W. Bush diverted

resources away from battling the Ku Klux Klan so he could

chase down possible Klansmen in Mexico (and the New Yorker

magazine agreed with his decision!); the Ku Klux Klan

was violently offended by a newspaper picture of one

of their members without his hood, so papers across

America pulled the pic and promised never to show

such a photo again; The New Yorker magazine wrote an

editorial calling the Ku Klux Klan "rational actors";

politicians talked about the virtues of showing respect

for the Klan; etc.)


Fundamentalists, Muslim and otherwise, have the right to be

offended, but not to be violent.

By the way, a note to news organizations: you should refer to

Muhammad as "the Muslim prophet Muhammad," not

"the prophet Muhammad." He is a prophet only to believers

in that sort of supernatural stuff, not to all others. Likewise,

when reporting on other mythic religious matters like, say,

the "resurrection" of Christ, you should always cite your

source (e.g., he rose from the dead, according to the Old

Testament, etc.)


Chapter Ten: Fanatics Say the Darndest Things!

There are writers -- both evil and not -- that have a

knack for coming up with perceptive or memorable one-liners.

Like Mao. You don't have to agree with Mao to feel the force

of such aphorisms as "Political power grows out of the barrel

of a gun."

And you don't have to agree with Stokely Carmichael to appreciate

how memorable some of his language was ("Violence is as

American as cherry pie!").

But unfortunately for fans of contrarianism or jihad, Osama

bin Laden, murderous son of a construction mogul, never

had a talent for coming up with incisive or weighty lines.

And I'm not saying that because I despise the guy (I also

detest Mao, but have to admit Mao wrote some great

stuff). It's just that everything bin Laden says and writes

is sort of along the lines of "Allah (pbuh) is the way and

the light and if you don't follow the light you will be


condemned to an eternity of yada yada zzzzz."

Frankly, the guy's a bore (as a writer).

A famous column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times is yet another

(inadvertent) reminder of what a dull writer bin Laden actually

is. Friedman, probably trying (a bit too hard) to be contrarian

or provocative, serves up a quote from bin Laden that is...really

pretty dim, when you think about it. (For the record, I noted the

vapidity of this quote on my on blog weeks before The New Yorker

did its own piece on it.)

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they

will like the strong horse,” Friedman quotes bin Laden as saying,

acting as if that's some sort of pearl of wisdom.

That's a good line?! Think about it for a moment. It's

exactly like a used car salesman saying, "When people see a new

car and an old car, by nature they will like the new car." Or like a
PAGE 101

psychotherapist saying: "When people see a sick woman and a

healthy woman, by nature they will be attracted to the healthy woman."

Wow!! What an insight! What penetrating perception (he said


It's funny that when you quote something that has the structure

and the cadence of an epigram but is actually banal and vapid, many

people will mistake it for wisdom. (Now that's a good aphorism!)

By the way, I recently heard one of Osama bin Laden's later tapes, titled

"Reflections on the Method of Relief Work." It sounded like he suddenly

wanted to be Mao Tse-Tung. Or Ingmar Bergman (ah, "Reflections in a

Golden Eye").

'Cept he didn't write nearly as well as either.

And, of course, he was eager to change the subject to the

PAGE 102

floods in Pakistan, to anything besides his murderous past.

It's like Charles Manson getting all worked up about the

the oil depletion allowance.

If he had lived, perhaps he would’ve tried…an education summit. Was

Osama having a fiftysomething identity crisis, dabbling in Compassionate

Jihadism? Or was his conscience finally, belatedly bothering him?


Chapter Eleven: Are Jihadists the Spoiled Rich Brats of Islam?

Lots of jidhadists have been rich or affluent Islamic right wingers, far from

the so-called underclass. Even the mujahideen of Afghanistan in the

1980s, fighting what both Reagan and his ally bin Laden called the

"godless Soviets," were essentially the reactionary plantation owners of

the region.

And bin Laden himself was wealthier than most of us will ever be (and he

made most of his money the American way: he inherited it!).

Islamic militant movements have always been partly populated by rich kid


Or at least the affluent. Remember the failed Times Square bomber,

Faisal Shahzad? Remember the inadvertently funny piece in The New

York Times with the A-1 pull-quote from the Times Square bomber. It had

me chuckling -- and slightly angry. Here's the quote:

"Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to

fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood

PAGE 104

flows?" -- Faisal Shahzad, in an email message to friends.

Let me make sure I have this right: Shahzad is the"oppressed"? Is that

some sort of joke?

Keep in mind that Shahzad, up until fairly recently, owned a $273,000

house in Connecticut. So I'm not sure that he exactly qualifies as a member

of the underclass.

As for calling the bombing victims in the FATAs victims, would you have

called the Nazis being bombed in the Bulge the "oppressed"? Muslim

militants are not the American blacks of the 1950s; they are the Germans

of the early 1940s.

The root of jihadism, give or take an Adam Gadahn, is early indoctrination

not necessarily poverty. At ages 4, 5 and 6, in the madrassa, children

are brainwashed and hardwired to learn only one thing: the Koran is the

absolute truth and anyone who doesn't believe what they believe should


PAGE 105

That's quite a singular syllabus for elementary school kids.

After such an early miseducation, such a person is not just intellectually

damaged but becomes a ticking time bomb, wired to explode against non-

believers later in life.

Hence, a person could have a Ph.D. from Harvard and Princeton and still

not be educated -- if the education doesn't take or if the person resists the

education. As an analogy, a kid could wear braces on his teeth for years

and still not have straight teeth if he doesn't wear his retainer or resists

the orthodontist's advice.

If someone graduates from Harvard but still believes in, say, voodoo, then

you can reasonably conclude that that Harvard grad is not an educated

person (unless, of course, he or she approaches voodoo from a genuinely

novel angle that is not merely faith-based). In fact, I wouldn't need to

know anything else about his background to dismiss his credentials.

Some jihadists are well trained, but their education was probably overruled

by early religious indoctrination, which they likely hadn't been able to shake

PAGE 106

as adults.

Jihadism will not be defeated until the madrassas is. School kids in

Pakistan and elsewhere must be taught philosophical points

of view other than just the Koran.


Chapter Twelve: President Infidel?

I admire ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, though I have to take

issue with his statement on "World News" that American voters won't

accept an atheist candidate for national office.

That may have been the way it used to be, but we're entering an era in

which we're seeing the rise of a new generation of Asian-American

politicians, particularly in the western states, who come from proud

traditions that include Hinduism, Buddhism, non-theistic spiritualism and

non-traditional spiritualism. And it's easy to imagine, say, a popular

mayor of San Francisco, who happens to be Asian-American and

non-theistic (in a city that is already almost half Asian-American and

counting), running for president in the future.

In other words, the United States is finally starting to resemble the rest of

the world, which for the most part doesn't accept theism.

My guess is that, by mid-century, being theistic or non-theistic will not

matter much in politics. And It will ibe day become a distinction as quaint

PAGE 108

and old-fashioned as such terms as "pagan" and "heathen" are now.

Ten years ago, pundits would have said that evidence of prior cocaine use

would have stopped a candidacy. But candidate W. handled

such questions by saying, essentially, "none of your business" -- and it

worked. A similar response wouldalso probably work in answering

questions about religion.

And I think the trend is moving sharply away from theism as people

become better educated and less rural -- and also because, frankly, people

are really getting turned off by all the religious killers out there

(e.g., Mohamed Atta, Eric Rudolph, etc.). Those who look

to religion for moral guidance are beginning to see that the holy rollers are

among the least moral in our number.

Also, atheism, in some fields, has long been mainstream. The up-front

non-theism or near-atheism of entertainers and artists such as

George Carlin, Woody Allen and Bill Maher has long been embraced by

PAGE 109

middle class audiences.

And saying that you can't reject religion without

having completely read the New Testament or the Torah or the

Koran is nonsense; almost all religions have supernatural

elements, and that alone rules out their credibility

prima facie.

It's like saying you can't dismiss voodoo without knowing about the divine

principle of Nana Buluku.

I absolutely love something Salman Rushdie once

said: before the ancient Greek myths were myths, they were the

the Greek religion. And people back then believed that

stuff about Zeus and Icarus and Daedalus just as much

as people believe in God and the myth of Christ today.

(Hey, I've actually been to the cave in Crete where

Zeus was supposedly born; that was once a sacred site.)

In several hundred years, we will view the myths of

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the Bible, the Koran and the Torah the way we now view

Greek mythology. He who goes in that direction now is a progressive.


Chapter Thirteen: Burn, Baby, Burn?

The only major public figure who has made complete

sense on the Burn-the-Koran controversy so far is

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. There he was the

other day at a press conference, showing a genuine

profile-in-courage in saying what should be obvious

to any true American: the First Amendment of the U.S.

Constitution protects Imam Terry Jones's right to burn

any book or flag he wants to burn.

If Imam Jones wants to act like a white trash version of

the Taliban, let him. That's his own punishment.

Meanwhile, President Obama has never sounded so off-key as

he did when addressing this issue. He never mentioned the First

Amendment – and that's offensive (particularly since Obama had no

problem acting like a constitutional lawyer when it came to taking a stand

on the mosque near Ground Zero). Instead, he sounded like some petty

local machine-style politician, effectively threatening to use the Gainesville

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Fire Department to cite him for a code violation and to quash this guy's

First Amendment rights. (Incidentally , Gainesville, for those who don't

know, is a very politically progressive college town. To say Jones

represents Gainesville is like saying John Yoo represents Berkeley, Calif.)

First, let's state the obvious. Absolutely nobody reasonable

defends Imam Jones's proposed Koran burning. It's plainly

an ugly and indefensible act redolent of the Third Reich

and right-wing Islam.

But, as Bloomberg noted, the U.S. Constitution exists

precisely to protect the opinions of pariahs and the

extremely unpopular.

Now, Nixon-like, Obama is citing "national security" to put

the kibash on this particular example of free

expression that he happens to disagree with.

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Obama's argument goes like this: if this private citizen

exercises his First Amendment rights, it will inflame those

in Islam who are against free speech.

Using that logic, let's remove Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic

Verses" from American bookstores and libraries. After all,

it might provoke fundamentalist Muslims to riot and commit

acts of terrorism.

And let's ban Deepak Chopra's new book, because it might

cause militant Islamists to become violent.

And let's take "South Park" off the air, because it inflames

ignorant religious literalists who might attack our troops

in Afghanistan.

And let's ban mosques in America, for that matter, because,

after all, they provoke the religious right to commit

acts of arson and assault.

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While we're at it, why don't we get rid of the First Amendment

altogether, at least for the short term, because it

offends Islamic militants deeply?

(By the way, Imam Rauf should also be ashamed of himself for

disingenuously using the "national security" defense in an

interview last night, saying that moving his so-called Ground Zero

mosque might anger militants and cause bloodshed. It seems anyone

can use that excuse to justify anything these days.)

All totalitarians, from the Taliban to the Ku Klux Klan

(which are really two peas in a pod), must be taught that

violence is not an acceptable response to offensive


Even worse than the spectacle of Imam Jones burning copies

of the Koran would have been the spectacle of Jones being

hauled away in handcuffs by the Gainesville P.D. for doing so.

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If police had arrested Jones on a trumped up charge, they would have

been doing exactly the same thing that totalitarian regimes do when they

stop protests that they disagree with. (And Hillary Clinton's

call for a media blackout of Jones's dissident activity recalls the autocratic

Mayor Daley (Senior), who tried (in vain) to censor protesters like Abbie

Hoffman and Jerry Rubin at the Democratic National Convention in

Chicago in 1968.)

What message would the arrest of Jones have sent to the rest

of the world? That the U.S. now jails its dissidents the

same way the backward governments of Iran and Indonesia

and Saudi Arabia do?

Rather, Obama should use have used this as a teachable moment,

Showing the badly-educated fundamentalists of Islam that private

citizens in America can express themselves in ways contrary

to government policy.

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Bloomberg had it right on this one; the First Amendment doesn't

just protect the speech of those with whom you agree.

Obama had it wrong. Worse, he appeared unprincipled, as he rarely doe


Chapter Fourteen: Is It Okay for a Candidate to Believe Kooky Things?

George Stephanopoulos once, bravely, questioned Mitt Romney

about his faith.

"Your faith, if I understand it correctly, it teaches that Jesus will return,

probably to the United States, and reign on earth for 1,000 years," said


Romney’s answer, predictably, was the usual mush mouth politico-speak.

But the question suggests another question: put plainly, should we elect

candidates who hold kooky, irrational beliefs?

Should we elect a president who believes in voodoo or who believes in

ESP or who believes that aliens in UFOs actually assassinated President

Kennedy in 1963? Or who believes that a dead man will come back to life

and live for at least another millennium?

What do such eccentric beliefs say about a candidate's judgment, about a

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person's ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, about a candidate's

ability to assess fact-based evidence?

Doesn't religious literalism have an insidiously corrosive effect on a

person's judgment and reasoning, since it lowers the bar for the evidence

required for someone to believe something is true? If your standard of

proof is the-Bible-told-me-so, aren't you more likely to apply a similar lax

standard of proof when, say, determining whether Saddam once tried to

buy yellowcake? If a Christian Scientist who believes in prayer over

medicine were to be elected president, might he or she try to solve other

crises -- e.g., a terrorist attack, a devastating hurricane -- solely

through prayer?

These are the questions that make faith a legitimate and necessary point of

candidate scrutiny. And any politician who objects to such hard questions

about his faith, or has a problem with the establishment clause, should

consider leaving politics for a more compatible forum: the church.


Chapter Fifteen: PEN Reading for Rushdie, Interrupted by Bomb Threat, 1989.

How does one deal with bomb threats and other violent acts by those who

wish to stifle free speech?

Norman Mailer, speaking at a PEN reading of Salman Rushdie’s "The

Satanic Verses" in Manhattan that I attended in February 1989 -- a reading

delayed by a bomb threat -- gave advice on how to handle telephone

threats, which, he noted,only cost a quarter to make. Quoting Jean

Genet, Mailer said to tell such callers: "Blow out your farts.”

After the reading, I walked across Broadway and saw one of the ugliest

things I’d ever seen: supporters of the Ayatollah’s fatwa shouting angrily

in support of the death sentence.

That was a new one for me -- people actually openly advocating the

murder of a novelist because they disagreed with what he had written.

My first taste of a brand new ugly era.

Chapter Sixteen: It’s Illegal to Say This in Parts of the World

When it comes to Islam, I'm with the late Norman Mailer.

Mailer once appeared on Charlie Rose and, as usual, made

clear and audacious sense, saying -- as Rose tried to

shush and sanitize him -- that the whole posture of Islam

is completely wrong, that to have your ass in the air

and your nose on a floor is such a negation of all

the beauty of existence.

It was liberating to hear Mailer, a leftist and progressive,

say such a thing flat out, not caring what the consequences

were, speaking without fear or favor, the way good

journalists do.

I had seen Mailer in person earlier, shortly after the fatwa

against Salman Rushdie in February 1989. And I was impressed,

even energized by his bravery in the face of a bomb threat that temporarily

emptied the pro-Rushie rally at the Manhattan venue where he was

speaking ( and that I write about elsewhere in this book).

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But getting back to Mailer's opinion of Islam, I have to admit

that the posture of Christians and Jews to the world -- on their

knees, with their eyes closed -- is no better.

Why not celebrate and worship the world by standing upright in a forest,

or in a great city, amidst a beautiful landscape, or enjoying sex face-to-face

with another person? Why negate all the beauty out there by having your

face on the floor or your knees on the ground.

I used to think there was a larger centrist faction of

Islam than there is, but my recent research has taught me

that that faction is smaller than I thought. In researching the

case of the underwear bomber, I read the past editions of

the University College London's Islamic Society website (UCL ISOC)

and realized that even there -- where you would expect a more liberal

and secular Muslim viewpoint -- it was virtually the 15th century.

On the UCL ISOC site were postings (that I've

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compiled above) advocating jihad, giving advice about forced

marriages to girls who are nine years old and older, etc.

Backward stuff. And this is what passes for progressive

academic Islam in 2010? (Wanna see for yourself how

backward some of these postings are? Here's one -- posted

on the websites of at least two academic Islamic

Societies, where one would expect (in vain) a more

modern version of Islam. Read for yourself (if you can

stomach it) here how they defend "forced marriages"

to girls as young as nine years old:

I can only conclude that the difference between moderate

Islam and orthodox Islam is that the former is only 150 years

behind the times (before Darwin, the abolition of slavery,

women's rights, etc.) and the latter is around 500 years

behind the times (even reaching back before Galileo and Copernicus).

PAGE 123

According to newspaper reports, Muslim and Christian

fundamentalist students in the U.K are bringing

their religious irrationalism into the classroom,

posing a problem for professors. For example,

students who are Christian and Muslim literalists are

answering science questions on exams with religious

answers -- and are rightly being flunked as a result.

On science exams, students are asked questions like:

The earth is around _______ years old.

The correct answer, of course, is 4.5 billion years old.

But devout Muslim students are answering:

"5,000 years old, according to Allah (pbuh)."

A professor would of course have to mark that answer wrong.

The professor might also suggest that the student save his religious

beliefs for religion courses, and apply his scientific knowledge in
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science classes.

After all, you don't teach astrology in astronomy class in the

name of diversity. (You might however include a (brief)

discussion of astrology in a course about, say, Hindu folk

traditions.) And one wouldn't teach that the earth-is-flat

is an alternative scientific theory that some believe is true.

Problem is, many fundamentalists, both Christian and Muslim,

come to college expecting a church or mosque, not a classroom.

They expect a preacher, not a teacher. They want dogma,

not verifiable knowledge or dialectic.

And isn't there an implicit intimidation factor involved

when a student answers "the earth is 5,000 years old,

according to Allah (pbuh)," an answer that is hostile to

what the professor is teaching and doing? Will

intimidation tactics cause more than a couple professors to, maybe,

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tamp down their teachings of Darwin or Copernicus? Isn't this

a dangerous slippery slope?

First, the fanatics try to murder a novelist (Rushdie)

because they are offended by his novel. Then, they

murder a van Gogh because they are offended by his

film making. Then, they try to kill Kurt Westergaard

because they are offended by one of his cartoons. Recently,

in Malaysia, fundamentalists decided to forbid non-Muslims

from using the word "Allah." How long before they start

targeting professors who have the nerve to teach that the

earth is around 4.5 billion years old?

Of course, Muslims (and Christians and Jews) have every right

to be offended by whatever they want to be offended by. Nobody

is saying they don't have the right to be offended by anything

or everything. What I am saying -- and emphatically -- is that

mass homicide is not the way to respond to being offended. Killing

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is not only immoral and unacceptable in this context, but very

illegal, too. It's not a culturally protected practice or

defensible because of cultural relativism.

You see, when you're offended by something, you can respond

with lots of different tools. One tool is a boycott. Another tool

is civil disobedience. Another is picketing. Another is publishing

an essay in a newspaper (or on a blog).

But Muslim extremists, when offended, too often reach for only

one tool: homicide. They don't boycott Rushdie; they try to

kill him. They don't picket van Gogh, they murder him.

And that is precisely where the problem is with regard to

the Westergaard, Rushdie and van Gogh situations and

other similar ones. The problem is not that some Muslims are

somehow being offended or disrespected (everybody gets dissed

every now and then); the problem is the tool that the

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devout use to respond to a perceived insult.

An entire subculture, it seems, needs anger management.

Let's not feed the sickness of religious literalists by

giving in to their irrationality. It truly is a slippery

slope. If they force us to ban a cartoon (or to self-censor),

then why not also ban (or discourage) non-Mulims from saying

"Allah"? It offends many of them, after all. And (using the

logic of the self-censors), why not encourage professors

to pass students who flunk tests because they have given

religious answers to scientific questions?

In most of the U.S. and in Western Europe, we try to let a

thousand flowers bloom. But absolutists want only their

own flowers to grow. And they want the flowers of others to

be replaced by their own flowers. They return our tolerance

and our attempts at diversity with no reciprocity.


Chapter Seventeen: How Does an Atheist Like Me Explain the Creation of the Universe? Here’s How.

OK, you ask, if existence doesn't have a creator, than how did the

universe come into being?

It came from nothingness, which an infinite span of time

transformed into being and existence. What we experience today

is nothingness transformed by countless billions of years.

Remember, before the Big Bang, there was nothingness for an

infinite span. Nobody ever asks, "Who created


Yet for trillions of years, nothingness was all there was. Would a

deist seriously claim that there was a deity during that time who

created and then lorded over only nothingness? Would someone

seriously assert that a god would create nothingness?

("Create nothingness" is almost an oxymoron.) And then

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"god" suddenly became creative after the Big Bang?

More likely, nothingness, over an unimaginably vast period of

time, evolved. Nothingness plus time -- trillions and trillions of

millennia -- equals matter (and anti-matter, which is not the same

thing as nothingness), because (as I've noted before) time

is transformative. So nothingness over infinity will

inevitably produce some sort of minuscule irregularity -- a

wisp of gas, for instance -- that, in further time, will

lead to another bit of matter and then another, setting in

motion the unfolding of the universe we have today.

The element that most thinkers leave out of the

equation when discussing so-called "Creation" is time, which

is really another form of nothingness and merely

our own contrivance, a way that we organize successive

instances of being (i.e., events) and place them

next to each another to create order, something.


Part Three:

Things That Haven’t Been Said About 9/11, Park51, etc.

Chapter One: The Immediate TV Coverage of the First Two Crashes on 9/11 (The Live Coverage Viewers Missed)

By now, everyone has seen virtually every inch of television coverage of

the September 11th attacks around nine hundred and eleven times. It

sometimes seems as if every scrap of 9/11 footage ever shot -- whether

taken upside down near Ground Zero or from faraway Rockaway -- has

already been aired more frequently than the Zapruder film.

But most TV viewers never got to see the most riveting 9/11 television

coverage of all: the raw live footage of the seventeen minutes between the

first plane crash at 8:46 and the second at 9:03 am, as seen on the

morning news shows.

In New York, television programming was largely knocked off the air by

the toppling of transmission antennae atop the Trade Center. And on the

west coast, almost everyone was asleep during the attacks, waking only in

time to see the first tower collapse.

So for those who missed it -- almost everybody -- there's a website

library that has compiled streaming video of all major U.S. television news
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programs from that morning, shown in real-time with ads intact -- plus a

generous sampling from overseas media outlets. (The site is run by a non-

profit online TV library called The Television Archive and used to be

accessible at Its American network

feeds are from Washington, D.C., affiliates; MSNBC and the cable Fox

News Channel are not included in the archive.)

The coverage from 8:30-to-9:30-am is among the most engrossing ever

broadcast -- and some of the most inadvertently telling, too, since it clearly

reveals who among the anchors and correspondents got it right and who

blew it, who could think on their feet and who couldn't, as the ultimate

breaking news story unfolded.

There are surprises. For example, Charles Gibson, co-anchor of ABC's

"Good Morning America," did an unexpectedly fine job of covering the

moment when the second plane hit and was the only anchor on the three

major networks to immediately speak up and tell us what had happened.

Others, like Bryant Gumbel, the now-departed anchor of CBS's "The

Morning Show," contributed astonishingly awful reportage.

PAGE 133

The first to break the news to America was CNN, which cut into an

advertisement at 8:49, three minutes after the first crash, with a live picture

of the burning north tower and the words: "This just in. You are looking at

obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center

and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed

into one of the towers."

"Good Morning America" arrived second, at 8:51, with Diane Sawyer

saying, "We want to tell you what we know as we know it. But we just got a

report in that there's been some sort of explosion at the World Trade

Center." (And within a couple minutes, ABC correspondent Don Dahler

was providing terrific first-hand reportage via cellphone from near Ground


Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today" would have been third, coming a half

minute after "GMA," had he not dropped the ball. At 8:51, Lauer broke

away from an interview to announce that there was breaking news but

didn't say what the news was. "I have to interrupt you right now," Lauer

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told his guest, the author of a biography on billionaire Howard Hughes.

"We're going to go live right now and show you a picture of the World Trade

Center, where I understand -- Do we have it? No, we do not." He then cut

to 90 seconds of ads before Katie Couric returned to the airwaves to report

what had happened.

But the real test of anchor mettle came at the moment when the second

plane hit at 9:03. "GMA"'s Gibson took control forcefully and calmly within

two seconds of the second collision, describing events in a brisk and firm

manner, explaining what was occurring in the live footage, and rattling off

facts from memory, while showing genuine emotion ("Oh, this is terrifying,

awful"), as a wilting Diane Sawyer murmured, "Oh my god, oh my god."

Gibson was so alert that he actually broke the news of the second collision

to his correspondent at the scene, who didn't see the plane hit. And within

twenty seconds, Gibson, the first on any network to mention the Trade

Center terrorist attack of '93, was speaking plain truth before his

colleagues did: "So this looks like some sort of a concerted effort to attack

PAGE 135

the World Trade Center that is underway." That statement may seem

cautious in hindsight, but at the time was as far as any anchor had gone on

the air.

On "Today," Couric and Lauer were upstaged a bit by a sometimes

excellent witness, Elliot Walker, a Today producer who happened to be

walking near the towers when the first plane hit. Walker was already being

interviewed by the anchors when the second plane crashed, and she

spontaneously stepped into the lead role during the ten seconds after the

impact, describing exactly what had happened, while Couric and Lauer,

who had presumably seen the same thing on the TV monitor, were silent

(in contrast to the talkative Gibson on ABC).

By all rights, every network should have been on equal footing at 9:03,

with live cameras fixed on the twin towers at the moment of impact. Still,

"The Morning Show" and CNN's "Live This Morning," which had shifted to

feeds from local New York stations, failed miserably in this crucial part of

the reportage, their anchors seemingly confused about what was obvious

PAGE 136

to reporters on other networks. One ludicrous affiliate correspondent,

picked up on CNN, cluelessly floated the idea that the two collisions might

have been the result of "faulty navigating equipment."

CNN fared better when its own newspeople returned to the airwaves, in

time to report the Pentagon hit and the south tower collapse, which Aaron

Brown covered from a visually dramatic outdoor setting some thirty blocks

from Ground Zero, with the burning towers as a backdrop (a visual that has

since been seen in CNN promos).

Meanwhile, Gumbel proved he couldn't see the finger in front of his face

on this clear Manhattan morning, while also expressing little sense of horror

about what was unfolding ("wow" and "it's a terrible scene" were the closest

he came).

Gumbel, who seemingly had to be told about the second crash by an

amateur witness ("You saw a plane?," he asked a witness, incredulously),

interviewed several observers who all told him the second plane had

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obviously been flown deliberately into the tower. Yet he kept asking each

source the same dim question: "Why do you say it was deliberate?," a

question he asked no fewer than four times between 9:03 and 9:12, while

repeating such phrases as vantage point and re-racking the [video] tape.

(By contrast, Lauer suggested it was something deliberate at 9:05; Gibson

had already done so at 9:03. Gumbel didn't come around until about 9:19.)

This, from the distinguished news division of Dan Rather and Ed Bradley.

If Gumbel seemed to somehow miss the crash of the second plane, he

was the only anchor who thought he saw non-existent third and fourth jets

approach the burning towers at 9:41. "Hold it, hold it!," said a near-panicky

Gumbel to his guest. "Two jets right now, approaching the World Trade

Center! We're watching! Hold on! [pause] I'm sorry, no...we can't tell

whether it was a plane or a 'copter."

Gumbel, who inexplicably wasn't joined by any CBS News correspondent

until Jim Stewart appeared at 9:15, did hit one high note, at 8:57, when he

interviewed a doorman at the Marriott World Trade Center, the hotel that

PAGE 138

used to be between the two towers. The doorman began like a cocky New

Yorker ("How ya doin'?") but his voice started cracking unexpectedly as he

poignantly described the trauma he had just seen: a man on fire outside

the hotel.

"I heard a guy screaming," said the doorman, seeming on the verge of

tears. "And when I looked over, there was this guy that was on fire. So I

just kind of like ran over and I tried to, like, put the fire out on him. And he

was, he was, like, screaming. I told him to roll, roll, and he said he can't.

And another man came over with his bag and kind of like put the flames out

on him."

"Today" also had raw and revealing moments. At one point, Couric read a

Reuters report that opened a horrifying window on the hell that was taking

place on the upper floors of the towers: "A person who answered the phone

on the trading floor at interdealer-broker Cantor Fitzgerald, located near the

top of the World Trade Center, said, 'Were blanking dying,' when asked

what was happening, and hung up. There was screaming and yelling in the

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background, and a follow-up call was not answered."

Several anchors and witnesses made observations that now seem

perceptive and even prescient in retrospect. Couric was more correct than

she knew when she noted (at 9:37) the possibility that another attack might

be in the offing at any moment; one minute after she voiced that concern,

the Pentagon was attacked. (And thanks to a quick and well-placed Jim

Miklaszewski, Today scooped everyone on the Washington crash.)

CBS's Stewart was the first to mention Osama bin Laden on the air (at

9:16). ABC's John Miller understood faster than anyone else that there

was virtually no way people trapped on the upper floors of the towers could

be rescued, because of the heavy smoke. Lauer was the first to note the

terrorists's high level of coordination and planning. Dahler, who heard the

first plane hit, correctly dismissed the early widespread notion that the

aircraft had been a small prop plane.

There were also moments of bad information. For instance, Sawyer tried

PAGE 140

to put something of a happy-ending on the tragedy at 9:07 by stating,

"There's a small hope that the fire may have gone out from the first site"

(Dahler quickly extinguished that false hope). And Couric read a report,

later repeated by Lauer, that claimed a small commuter plane had hit the

north tower.

The tone of the anchors shifted -- almost uniformly -- as the hour

progressed, from denial and confusion to horror, with disbelief throughout.

After the first attack, everyone on the air seemed to take solace in the

possibility that it might have been a simple accident by a pilot who had lost

control of his plane and wrecked in an unlucky spot. But after the second

attack, it was self-evident to virtually everyone that there was no innocent

explanation for what was happening.

The 8:30 hour is also fascinating because it shows the 9/11 era

arriving as abruptly and violently as the edge of a hurricane after the placid

eye of the storm. "[It's]...a beautiful fall morning," Couric noted before the

tragedy. "A beautiful day here," said "GMA" weatherman Tony Perkins.

"...It's kind of quiet around the country [weather-wise]'s too quiet, said an

PAGE 141

inadvertently prescient Mark McEwen on "This Morning."

After the attacks, the weather was mentioned only in relation to the fact

that the collisions couldn't have possibly been weather-related.

All told, there were no lost tempers, no crying, no real panicking on the

air. There was also no single dazzling journalistic feat that might have

elevated one news team far above the others (something on the order of

scoring a cellphone interview with a passenger on one of the hijacked jets).

That said, the best coverage clearly came from ABC (because of Gibson)

and NBC (partly due to Miklaszewski), with almost everyone else way


[first published in The Toronto Star.]


Chapter Two: Which Politicians Saw 9/11 Coming?

Which members of Congress and the Senate came closest to seeing the

attacks of 9/11 coming and warned us about it?

According to my own research of the Congressional Record, only one had

such foresight: former Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

Listen to Biden on June 21, 2000, speaking on the floor of the U.S.

Senate: "We all know about Pakistan, the gateway to Afghanistan for

Osama bin Laden and his buddies. Can anybody think of a better place

to beef up border security, so that terrorists can be apprehended as they

go to and from those Afghan training camps?"

Again, that was Biden in the year 2000, over a year before

bin Laden committed mass murder on U.S. soil. And Biden had the

danger sized up perfectly -- before the fact.

To be sure, Biden wasn't alone in ringing the alarm but

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he almost was.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi also sounded an early alarm about the Taliban. "The

Taliban in their activities...there [in Afghanistan] have placed them outside

the circle of civilized human behavior," said Pelosi, on June 13, 2001.

On the other hand, Rep. Dennis Kucinich turns up

in the Congressional Record as one of the least prescient and

least perceptive members of Congress in sensing the al Qaeda threat

before 9/11.

Get this: fifteen months before the 9/11 attacks, Kucinich put into the

Congressional Record a Los Angeles Times column that opined that peace

was a-happenin' all over the world and that the threat of terrorism was

largely on the decline ("even the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan is now

said to be uneasy with the Osama bin Laden gang of terrorists," said the

thoroughly un-prescient column that Kucinich put into the CR).

Other members and former members of Congress also had

PAGE 144

foresight -- among them, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Frank Pallone

of New Jersey. John Edwards and John McCain were apparently silent in

the Senate about the al Qaeda threat (as was Hillary Clinton in her first

eight months or so in office in '01).


Chapter Three: They Thought There Were No Snakes in the Snake Pit

It's not brave to walk through a snake pit if you think there are no

snakes there and that there is only gold in the pit. Mohamed Atta

and the others who hijacked planes on 9/11 were delusional,

not brave.

They thought the crash would bring them virgin women and paradise, not

death. They walked through the snake pit fully believing there were no

snakes there. Brave is one thing they were not. The victims of the attack

showed courage. The firefighters showed courage, that's for sure.

But the jihadists showed only selfish sexual greed and delusion.


Chapter Four: The World Trade Center Era in NYC and Other Post-9/11isms

Regarding the end of the Afghanistan war: it's about

time, though I think the drone campaign in the FATAs

should continue. The killing of bin Laden provided the

war's narrative climax, making this the aftermath. If

we hadn't eliminated bin Laden, the situation in

Afghanistan would've seemed like unfinished business.

What is not being discussed is that more than a decade has

passed in Afghanistan, too, and there is a new generation of

15-year olds there who have no first-hand memory of the 9/11

attacks. And they've not been indoctrinated into jihadism and

fundamentalism through the madrassas system to the extent that

their elders had. Which means a far more moderate

wave of adults is going to take charge there in a few years.

(Sure, there'll be a minority radicalized because

theAmericansbombedmyvillage, but that's probably

a small group.)

PAGE 147

By the way, I came across a photo in the New York Times from

years ago of the twin towers being built in the 1970s. And it

really brought me back to my first memory of the towers -- seeing

them in '76 on my way to an airport -- and my second memory of

them, in '79, when I moved to Manhattan. I recall my roommate

saying, "Have you been to that new building downtown, the

World Trade Center yet?" And I said, I'm going down there

this weekend. And I did (and eventually even worked in the


And, of course, in those years, a lot of New Yorkers loved The Ramones,

the first great New York band that emerged wholly in the World Trade

Center era. (You know, everybody says punk grew from the squalor

of bankruptcy-era New York, but I don't think that's the whole story; New

York was also expressing a very brash spirit with the twin towers -- and

punk was (sort of) of-a-piece with that brashness.) But, alas, even

the members of the Ramones have already checked out:


Chapter Five: Hate Crimes Against Infidels

The Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured

hundreds, was, at the time, an unprecedented horror, though

now it is, of course, dwarfed by the savagery of the

9/11 attacks. In fact, the O.C. anniversary makes me see

the enormity of the ‘01 mass murders all the more vividly,

given that the September 11th body count was exponentially


Incidentally, shouldn't 9/11 have been classified as

a hate crime? Wasn't it, after all, a crime motivated

by religious bias, committed by Muslim militants

against non-Muslims? Likewise, shouldn't the Ft. Hood

massacre be considered a hate crime?

Nidal Hasan did shout "Allahu Akbar" before he started slaughtering the

"unbelievers," thus revealing religious bias as his motive. (Instead,

apologists said to Hasan, "Oh you poor man, did they rip a bumper

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sticker off of your car? No wonder you shot 44 people!"

When they spoke of Hasan, too many media people sounded

like Frank the novelist addressing Alex in "A Clockwork Orange":

"Oh my poor boy, you're a victim, a victim of the modern age!")

I know that after 9/11 the emphasis at the U.S. Justice Department

was on watching for possible hate crimes against Muslims

by people out for revenge against Islamic terrorists. But let's

be real: in the first decade after 9/11, has there been even

one hate crime against a Muslim in the U.S. that resulted in

that person's death? I mean, has there been even one?

Yet there have been numerous hate crimes by Muslim

militants against non-Muslims in America resulting in mass murder

(e.g., Ft. Hood) or attempted mass murder (ex., Najibullah

Zazi's plot to bomb the Grand Central Station subway).

Shouldn't law enforcement priorities reflect this? Shouldn't

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America be more on the look-out for hate crimes committed

by Islamic fanatics against "the infidel" rather than vice

versa? Mainstream non-Muslim Americans, for the most part, to my eye,

are surprisingly tolerant of diversity, taking a "to each his

own" sort of attitude. Sure, there are a few bad apples at

the fringes -- for that matter, there are still rednecks

who hate Catholics and talk derisively about

Eye-talians -- but that's at the fringes.

Let me be so bold as to say that a nation that just elected a guy

named Hussein president shows signs of being really tolerant

and unbigoted. And it's sort of insulting to non-Muslim Americans,

who have to dodge the bullets and conspiracies of fundamentalists

on a regular basis, to say that they somehow have to be watched for

tendencies that are actually more prevalent on the other side.


Chapter Six: Both Sides Are Wrong About Park51

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the so-called Ground Zero mosque,

once said:

"I wouldn't say that Goodman, Chaney and
Schwerner deserved what happened. But
Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner's activism
was an accessory to the crime that happened."

More on that quote in a moment.

First, let me say that Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church in

Philadelphia, Mississippi, is sort of a sacred place. It's

the site of a memorial for slain civil rights activists

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner,

all murdered by white racists in 1964 nearby.

Now imagine if a pastor who openly and publicly justified

the killings of the three civil rights heroes were to try to

build a church near that memorial in Philadelphia. And imagine

if that pastor said on-the-record that Goodman,

Chaney and Schwerner had somehow provoked the Ku Klux Klan
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into doing what they did.

Would you back the right of that pastor to open a church

next to the memorial to Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner?

I wouldn't. I would protest and try to convince him to

find someplace else to preach hateful sermons.

Well, the same thing is happening near Ground Zero.

An imam who has publicly justified the hate crimes of 9/11

wants to open a church near the site of the very hate crimes

that he (wrongly) believes were partially provoked by

their victims.

And we should be good citizens and say, "No, not there, imam."

For the record, the imam who wants to build the mosque --

Feisal Abdul Rauf -- once told CBS's "60 Minutes":

"I wouldn't say that the U.S. deserved what

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happened [on 9/11]. But U.S. policy was an

accessory to the crime that happened."

So, above, I quoted Rauf in full -- merely

substituting the name of one set of hate crime

victims (U.S. citizens killed on 9/11) for

that of another (Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner).

Let’s face it: most reasonable people would be rightly

outraged if someone decided to erect a statue of

Lester Maddox or Bull Connor across the street from

the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

And for good reason; that was where the Rev. Martin Luther

King, Jr., was murdered. And Maddox and Connor were

lifelong opponents of King's ideals and ideas.

Of course, Maddox didn't kill King -- and even called

the murder a tragedy. But one could argue that Maddox

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helped to create the climate of hatred and bigotry that caused

King's assassination. And, yes, there are other, more appropriate

sites in (and out of) Memphis for such a statue.

Rauf is on the record as saying the U.S. provoked the 9/11

attacks, which is sort of like saying the Manson family

was provoked by the affluence of its victims. Can you imagine what Rauf

says in private? Here's my guess: "You put Israel in middle of Palestine,

so we put mosque near Ground Zero! Now how you like, how you like?!!"

(Never mind that Palestine was preceded for centuries by Israel. But I


Many of Rauf’s backers in the mainstream American press are either

self-hating Jews; Western journalists reporting from Islam who have

sort of gone native; pundits who grew up provincial and are now

overcorrecting for their provincialism by siding with

Muslim crackers; and billionaires who only see the world

from 30,000 feet up.

PAGE 155

Sure, I know: mainstream Muslims didn't have anything

to do with 9/11 and even condemned it. But too many

supposedly moderate Muslim clerics helped to create the

violent climate in which 9/11 -- the ultimate hate

crime -- happened. And Rauf justified it.

It's telling that those who back the creation of

the Islamic center say they would oppose it if it were a

mere two blocks south. Which says a lot about their position

on this. It means supporters completely agree

with opponents of the Center, but for that pesky issue of whether

the distance of two blocks matters as much as the distance of one.

Few would object if it were north of Chambers Street, which

nobody considers part of the Ground Zero neighborhood.

(It's funny that you can live in Manhattan for years and not know

the World Trade Center area very well. Me, that was my

workplace neighborhood for years, so I know from Park Place

PAGE 156

and know how close to Vesey it is and know how things

change as soon as you hit Chambers. It's no coincidence many

out-of town pundits (or New Yorkers who don't know that area)

rhetorically ask, "Would ten blocks north be ok? How about

15?" The answer? North of Chambers would be fine.)

Me, I’d be cool with the center if the following happened. In front of the

Islamic Center, the city government of New York should put up a memorial

to all victims of religious hate crimes world-wide -- a memorial in the form of

a statue of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who (in death) has become

a sort of free speech martyr.

The statue/memorial would also be a reminder to the more militant

fundamentalists who will inevitably frequent the Center that

there is zero tolerance in New York City for violence fueled

by religion.

PAGE 157

Yeah, I know, van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam, not Manhattan.

But he has since become an international symbol of free expression

who died merely because religious fanatics (plural, because many

Muslims advocated his killing) disagreed with his secular views.

It's not enough to merely put up a memorial to those who died

on 9/11 in front of the mosque. The active issue that concerns

me most in the 2010s is the intolerance of free speech rampant among

conservative Muslims. There will surely be a percentage of

people frequenting Park51 who support violence as a

response to the opinions and works of such people as van Gogh,

Salman Rushdie, Kurt Westergaard and others. A statue

of van Gogh at that location would be an appropriate and

necessary reminder and rebuff to the intolerant -- and a

counterbalance to a controversial center.

By the way, there is clearly an inconsistent application of the Establishment

Clause coming from President Obama on this issue.

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Separation of church and state, he says, is so absolute and sacrosanct that

we cannot and should not stop the mosque at 51 Park Place from

being built. His hands are tied by Constitutional principle, he says.

Which means he must be preparing a speech that advocates

deleting the words "under god" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Because if ever there was a violation of the separation of

church and state, forcing students in public schools

(that are partially funded by non-theist taxpayers) to

engage in a coercive religious chant every morning is

such a violation.

But Obama doesn't seem to care about non-theist schoolchildren

being forced to chant "under god" every day. Apparently,

the Establishment Clause is absolute when it comes to

Muslims, not so absolute when it comes to atheists.

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Truth is, none of the rights in the Constitution is

absolute. Hey, I'm almost a free speech absolutist, but

I don't think you should put a strip club next to an elementary

school. There are restrictions on gun rights, speech rights,

religious rights that almost no one disagrees with because

(sometimes) common sense trumps all.

And in the case of the mosque near Ground Zero, common sense

should prevail -- and it should be built somewhere else.

And if Rauf were as sincerely committed to creating multi-cultural

harmony as he says he is, then he would, with great wisdom and

generosity of spirit, say: "Because of the sensitivity of this location, my

proposed mosque is causing division, not unity, so I will

build it elsewhere."

Obama also made two other points, which I’d like to rebut:

OBAMA: “Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion
of Islam,”

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MY REBUTTAL: Qaeda's cause is its version of Islam,
shared by millions of Muslims around the world (including
domestic radical imams who preach at mosques in the U.S.).

OBAMA: "Muslims...were killed on 9/11"

MY REBUTTAL: The Muslim victims of the 9/11 attacks were
collateral damage. If Atta & Co. could have avoided the
Muslims at the trade center, they would have. Bin Laden has
even apologized for inadvertently killing Muslims during
the attack.


Chapter Seven: The Actual Motivations Behind Recent Jihadi Plots

Some have been saying the killing of bin Laden and the the drone strikes

against al Qaeda militants motivates jihadists.

That theory ignores the evidence. The underwear bomber wasn't motivated

by the drones. Neither was the Fort Hood shooter. In fact, none of the

recent domestic militant attacks and attempted attacks (except Faisal

Shahzad's ) was motivated by anger over the drone strategy.

Here's a chart that shows all the major militant plots since last

September and each jihadi's motivation:

JIHADI: Faisal Shahzad (aka, the Times Square Bomber)
HIS PLOT: He wanted to set off a car bomb in Times Square on a Saturday night.
HIS STATED MOTIVATION: Those pesky American drones!

* * *

JIHADI: Raja Khan
HIS PLOT: He wanted to bomb a U.S. stadium during a concert or sports event.
HIS STATED MOTIVATION: To strike a blow for his idol bin Laden.

* * *
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JIHADI: Colleen LaRose (aka, Jihad Jane)
HER PLOT: She tried to assassinate a Swedish journalist/cartoonist.
HER STATED MOTIVATION: She was offended by his drawing of Allah.

* * *

JIHADI: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (aka, the Underwear Bomber)
HIS PLOT: He tried to blow up a commercial airliner with 289 people on it.
HIS STATED MOTIVATION: To wage jihad. (Specifically, he wanted revenge for an attack against al Qaeda in Yemen by the Yemeni government that was aided by the U.S.)

* * *

JIHADI: Nidal Hasan (aka, the Fort Hood shooter)
HIS PLOT: To murder as many "infidels" as possible with his handguns (he shot 43).
HIS PROBABLE MOTIVATION: Pressure over his upcoming deployment to a war zone.

* * *

JIHADI: Najibullah Zazi
HIS PLOT: He wanted to detonate bombs at the very busy Grand Central Station subway station.
HIS STATED MOTIVATION: His general opposition to the Afghanistan War.


Chapter Eight: What the Cabbie Knew

While virtually everyone in the West thought bin Laden was sick from

kidney disease, a Chicago cabbie named Raja Khan knew better.

Remember Khan, the taxi driver who was planning to blow up a packed

American stadium a couple summers ago? A big fan of Osama bin


Which begs the queston: how come an American cabbie knew what

Even the C.I.A. didn’t?

Wiretapped conversations revealed in a federal indictment show that

Khan claimed to have been in regular contact with someone who dealt with

bin Laden: Ilyas Kashmiri, who Khan calls "Lala."

Lala has quite a bloody resume. Tried to kill Musharraf in '03. Plotted to

attack the offices of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Led a group

of Sunni militants that is always threatening to commit mass homicide.

PAGE 164

Point is, Lala apparently knew where bin Laden was and that he was in

good health. Check out this exchange between Khan and an undercover

FBI agent in a wiretapped talk:

KHAN: I love that Osama bin Laden, he says the last fifty
years we have been, you know, America will
taste that.

UC: they're afraid.

KHAN: Then he gonna feel...then he gonna feel to know...

UC: Feel our pain...

KHAN: Yeah, feel our pain

UC: ...yes, feel our suffering

KHAN: Yes, that's what he did in Kenya

UC: Yes

KHAN: ...Nigeria and uh somewhere in Yemen, you know, that boat,
you know?

UC: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Together we can do it...with, with,
with Osama bin Laden...with him being our leader, he has helped
us so much.

KHAN: Yeah, I asked the Lala about him. And he says he's healthy,
he's leading...

UC: He's good
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KHAN: He's good and uh

UC: Inshallah, inshallah

KHAN: You know I was think he was, uh, they say he was...

UC: Was sick, yeah sure...

KHAN: yeah [unintelligible] but he says no. He's perfect, healthy
and he's leading, he's giving the orders...

UC: Inshallah

KHAN: [unintelligible] hurndallah [phonetic spelling] he's,
he's OK, he's in safe hands

UC: [unintelligible] good

KHAN: That's what Lala said to me.


Chapter Nine: Nutty Conspiracy Theories – Even From Smart, Respected Editors.

I once received an email from Zafar Hijazi, the main editor at

the Pakistani daily newspaper the Daily Mahasib. The Mahasib

is an Urdu-language paper that became a bit of a cause celebre in

certain circles several years ago when it was shut down by

the government for around six weeks, four of its editors

charged with blasphemy, jailed and threatened with the death


Their crime? Publishing a story that questioned whether

a beardless man can become a good Muslim.

The newspaper was eventually exonerated and continued to

operate, publishing out of Gilgit/Baltistan (though Hijazi lists a

Rawalpindi address).

Anyway, Hijazi sent me an email while bin Laden was still alive that

provides a fascinating perspective on Osama as seen from inside a

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particular faction of Pakistan.

I don't agree with some of what he wrote, but...let's hear him out.

First, Hijazi had a desire to capture and kill bin Laden that was as intense

as most Americans's.

"We wish we could trace Bin Laden and hang him," Hijazi wrote

in his email to me.

Second, he believed the U.S. was not really sincere about finding

bin Laden. In fact, incredibly, he seemed to think America was

somehow in cahoots with bin Laden.

"If u americans know about his exact hide outs pl do tell us," Hijazi wrote

in his email to me (which I'm presenting here exactly as he wrote it).

"It appears america is itself sposoring/protecting Bin Laden

and his cronies. Recently when our forces entered Waziristan,

why from other side nato forces wre withdran allowing terrorist flee

and re emerge. This big question before us and u should carry

PAGE 168

out research on this too."

So there you have it, straight from a respected editor in Rawalpindi

who actually thought America was somehow protecting bin Laden.

And, to support his theory, he cited an incident that I'm admittedly

unaware of: a recent military skirmish in Waziristan in which NATO

forces supposedly retreated, allowing al Qaeda forces to flee.

I wrote back to Hijazi, thanking him for his email, and saying:

"Though I am a mere journalist and do not speak for the

U.S. government, I must say that the U.S. government -- at

least under President Obama -- is absolutely determined

to capture or kill bin Laden. It has been a national goal

since 9/11."


Chapter Ten: Don’t Wanna Be a French Idiot

France may have been the birthplace of brilliant thinkers from

Pascal to Sartre, but the former French president is clearly

not one of them.   Otherwise Sarkozy wouldn't be pal-ing around

with a comedian named Jean-Marie Bigard, who openly claims

that 9/11 was an inside job.

And their relationship goes beyond just pal-ing around.

In fact, when Sarkozy visited the Pope a few years ago,

who did he bring with him? A Kierkegaard scholar? A

Catholic philosopher? No, he brought the crass and boorish

Bigard, essentially saying to the Pope, "Honey, let me

introduce you to my redneck friend."

Of course, Bigard, a devout Catholic, still believes all the religious tall tales

of the Bible, including the howlers about Jonah living in a whale,

dead peeps coming back to life, etc.

A person raised on such tall tales probably finds it easy later in life to

PAGE 170

believe in other supernatural things -- like the idea that 9/11 was an inside

job -- which partially explains Bigard's "thinking."

It's a bit unsettling to know that the best bud of Sarkozy, when he was

president, is a nut who thinks the 9/11 attacks were planned by the U.S.

government. Or at least he seems like one. (Sarkozy's housing minister

up until very recently, Christine Boutin, also said she

thinks Bush might have been behind the World Trade Center

and Pentagon murders.)

Who exactly is this Bigard? A corny comedian who packs 'em in

at Paris theaters but probably couldn't half-fill the Fillmore in America.

Bigard looks and acts something like a stroke victim with a bad hangover,

or like someone who has been driven clinically insane by decades in prison.

On YouTube, you can hear him joke coarsely about the Congressional 9/11

report (a real laff riot, that!) and about how it's suspicious that U.S. fighter

pilots weren't in the air after the first plane crashed into the World Trade

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center (which ignores such common sense questions as: how could we

have known the first crash wasn't an accident before the second plane

crashed? To what specific target would fighter planes have flown?). All

that, he says to his many French fans, is proof that the U.S. government

was in on the 9/11 plot.

Let me put this nicely: It's hard to imagine how imbecilic you have to be

about evidence evaluation in order to think what Bigard thinks. I mean,

you might be a genius in mathematics or a musical savant, but if you

believe 9/11 was an inside job, then you quite literally have an idiot's

aptitude when it comes to evaluating evidence.

Even the most extreme jihadist newspapers don't deny 9/11 was a bin

Laden plot. And bin Laden himself openly claimed credit for the attacks.

What's disturbing is that I can't find any record of Sarkozy condemning or

renouncing Bigard or Bigard's remarks. (The comedian himself backed off

his kooky theory for a time, but has recently publicly reiterated his belief

PAGE 172

in the conspiracy theory.)

Has Sarkozy made it clear that he accepts the factual record of the 9/11

attacks, that he fully understands that bin Laden's al Qaeda gang hatched

the mass murder plot? Has he separated himself from Bigard on

this issue?

If he thinks there's some sense to what Bigard says, that would put

Sarkozy in league with Ahmedinejad in terms of ignorance and defective


No wonder France was hesitant to deploy combat troops for

the Afghanistan war during Sarkozy’s tenure; why fight people who you

don't believe carried out the crimes of 9/11?


Chapter Eleven: The Underwear Bomber, Elected President of His School’s Islamic Society.

Before he decided to become an international underwear model -- burned

in his first turn in the spotlight, alas -- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was an

Islamic top banana at University College London (UCL). Elected

president -- president -- of the college's Islamic Society in 2006, he ran the

organization until 2007, even organizing an extravagant week-long

conference on the war on terror at one point.

Of course, he would later be convicted of trying to blow up a plane that had

nearly 300 passengers on it -- and of doing so in the name of Islam.

In the wake of the attempted bombing, there has been a widespread

perception that UCL's Islamic Society was a moderate Muslim

group devoted almost solely to humanitarian causes, academic issues

and charity.

But I have uncovered postings on the Islamic Society's website

that contradict that impression and show the group has posted

PAGE 174

pro-jihadist commentary over the years. In 1999 and thereafter, the

Society posted an editorial advocating religious warfare, leading

with this unambiguous line: "With respect to Jihad, O my brother, in

this time and before this time it is fard ayn." (The phrase "fard ayn" means

individual duty and obligation. )

Elsewhere, the author -- identified as "Al-Albaanee" -- advocates driving

Israel "into the sea." "For here we have neighbouring us, the Jews who

have occupied Palestine, and not a single Islamic country has moved

to establish the obligation of making Jihad with them, and evicting

them and throwing them in the sea...," he writes on the site of the

group that Abdulmutallab once ran.

This sort of extremism is consistent with reports from The Guardian

newspaper and others that fundamentalist Muslims (and Christians) at

University College London have been virtually insisting that professors treat

religious myth as if it were scientific fact and on the same

level as scientific explanation.

PAGE 175

As The Guardian reported in 2006, noting that both Muslim and Christian

students were advocating the teaching of creationism in science classes:

"There is an insidious and growing problem," said Professor [Steve] Jones,

of University College London. "It's a step back from rationality. They (the

creationists) don't have a problem with science, they have a problem with

argument. And irrationality is a very infectious disease, as we see from the

United States."

Of course, the Islamic Society's site has also published material on many

other subjects over the years, ranging from restaurant guides for Muslims

and information on where to go for Happy Hour after Friday prayers to

tortured explanations of why women are deprived of rights under Islamic


Interestingly, the postings during Abdulmutallab's tenure seem to

Emphasize a Lonely Guyish pre-occupation with social activities. (Even a

charity walk for earthquake victims is (almost callously) billed as

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"a great excuse to have a fun day out with sisters to see

the famous sites of London..." And the site abruptly juxtaposes an

announcement about the deaths of two colleagues with a notice

about a Paintball event.)

Here are some excerpts from UCL's Islamic Society website during

Abdulmutallab's tenure and before. (All punctuation and spelling is

exactly as it appears on the site; some of the material quoted here

was posted directly on the site, some was linked to it.)

"With respect to Jihad, O my brother, in this time and before this time it is fard ayn."
(The phrase "fard ayn" means individual duty and obligation. ) (titled: "Al-Albaanee on Jihaad," '99)

-- "Brothers: Happy Hour after Jumu'ah [Friday prayers] in Conference room, 2nd Floor
Bloomsbury." (main website, 2004 and beyond)

-- "For here we have neighbouring us, the Jews who have occupied Palestine, and
not a single Islamic country has moved to establish the obligation of making Jihad with
them, and evicting them and throwing them in the sea..." (titled: "Al-Albaanee on Jihaad," '99)

-- "Always keep in mind the reason we are here studying, and remember
that every

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action we perform should be for Allah." (main website, 2004 and beyond)

-- "It is obligatory upon the father when [his daughter] reaches the age of nine or greater
that he asks for her consent [before marrying her off]."
("Fataawa (Legal rulings) for women," '01, also posted on Univ. of Essex Islamic Society site)

-- "Any woman who perfumes herself and passes by some people that they smell her scent,
then she is an...adulteress." (from "The Obligatory Conditions For An Islamic Hijab," with the
quote attributed this way: "On the authority of Ad'Diya Al-Maqdisi, the prophet (pbuh) said...", '01)

-- "Brothers please do not use the toilets in the Henry Morley Building, these are for
SISTERS ONLY" (main website, mid-Oughties)

-- "[Smoking] is most spread among the low-class immoral people. It reflects blind imitation of the non-Muslims. It is mostly consumed in bars, discos, casinos, and other: places of sin. A smoker may beg or steal if he does not have the money to buy cigarettes. He is ill-mannered
with his friends and family, especially when he misses taking his necessary "dose" at the usual time."
. ("Smoking: A Social Poison," by Muhammad al-Jibaly, posted in '01)

-- "Cut the moustaches and grow your beards. Be different from the Magians (followers of a religion that dominated in Persia)."
("Shaving the Beard: A Modern Effeminacy," by Abu`Abdillah Muhammad al-Jibaly, posted in '01)

PAGE 178

-- "The fast is valid for any person who wakes up in a state of sexual defilement "
(from "The Rulings of Ramadaan: A Comprehensive Guideline, adapted from the Hudaa magazine; posted in 2001.)

-- "Smoking refers to the action of lighting a cigarette, a pipe, a cigar...The object is then sucked on with the lips to extract smoke...'Smoking' is now used to refer to the action of producing this smoke in English, Arabic, and other languages."
("Smoking: A Social Poison," by Muhammad al-Jibaly,posted in '01)

-- "Ankaboot...A MUST try restaurant for every muslim." (main website, 2004 and beyond)

-- "The beard is defined as the hair which grows on the cheeks and the jaws."
("Shaving the Beard: A Modern Effeminacy," by Abu`Abdillah Muhammad al-Jibaly, posted in '01)

-- "Downloadable Quran recitations from around 50 choices of Sheikhs." (main website, mid-Oughties)

-- "Dua [Prayer] for Distress:...Do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for a blink of an eye..."(main website, mid-Oughties)

-- "Dua [Prayer] After Studying: "Oh Allah! I entrust you with what I have read and have studied..."(main website, mid-Oughties)

-- "You are a former British heavyweight boxer. The women are chasing after you, you've got the muscles, you've got the money and the cars, you're making the back page headlines.
Why turn around and become Muslim?" (main website, 2006)

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-- "Stairway to Heaven - Cruciform Lectrue Theatre 2...A solo tab for Led Zeppelin's guitar hit? Nope, think again! This is an uplifting talk by Abu Aaliyah...Come down and let's take the stairway to Heaven." (main website, 2006)

-- "thank Allah for a successful year, and pray that this coming year will follow in similar vain [sic]".
(main website, posted '01)

-- "He who raises his hands during the prayer, there is no prayer for him."
("The Prophet's Prayer," by Shaykh Muhammad Naasir-ud-deen al-Albaanim posted in '01.)

-- "Are the rulings for wiping the same for women as for men? Or is there a difference?"
("Rulings regarding wiping over the socks," by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih 'Aal-Uthaymeen, posted in 01)

-- "I was suffering from haemorrhoids (piles), so I asked the Messenger of Allaah...and he said, Pray standing; if you are not able, then sitting down; if you are not able to do so, then pray lying down." ("The Prophet's Prayer," by Shaykh Muhammad Naasir-ud-deen al-Albaanim posted in '01.)

-- "Anyone who ridicules any aspect of the religion of the Messenger of Allaah [saw], or any of its rewards or punishments, becomes an unbeleiver."
("Ten Things Which Nullify Ones Islaam," undated, no author credited, on main site.)

-- "The beard is a major distinction between men and women. Shaving it removes this distinction, and is thus a means of imitating women."
("Shaving the Beard: A Modern Effeminacy," by Abu`Abdillah Muhammad al-Jibaly, posted in '01)

PAGE 180

-- "More than 5,000 people were killed, and thousands injured by the earthquake that struck Yogyakarta, South Central Java [in[ 2006....UCLU Islamic Society has organized a sponsored a walk around central London to raise money for this deperate cause. This is a great excuse to have a fun day out with sisters to see the famous sites of London..."
(main website, 2006)


Chapter Twelve: Wars, Fought Mostly by Teenagers

First, some clarity.

War is the practice by which the teenagers of one nation

shoot, kill and maim the teenagers of another nation

on a battlefield at the behest of a government. (At least

most of the soldiers are teenagers in most wars.)

The goal, at least at the ground level, is to

intentionally inflict health problems (or death) on

opposing soldiers who don't retreat or surrender.

When you're on a battlefield, and aiming your rifle at a

person from the opposing side, you're killing or wounding

that person without assembling a jury, summoning a judge

or providing the target with legal counsel. The soldier

is summarily, almost unilaterally, making a decision

to kill or wound (or not kill or wound) another combatant.

Further, the soldier's bullet might well miss its target

or ricochet and kill a completely innocent person.

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And a soldier's training in killing usually amounts to

around three months of basic training, not even the

equivalent of a single semester at a university. Combat

is, to some extent, such a semi-unskilled task that we

put it in the hands of uneducated privates who aren't old

enough to legally buy a beer.

I bring all this up because Jane Mayer's piece in The New

Yorker on America's covert drone war in the FATAs questions

whether the CIA has the training to do the killing that

the armed forces usually do. And she also questions whether

the targets of the missiles deserve to be targets, whether

they have gotten adequate due process before being bombed.

To which I say, when has that ever been the case in war?

When has the enemy, in the midst of combat, ever had the

benefit of due process?

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Further, a missile attack can be more surgically precise

than a machine gun barrage. True, missiles, like bullets,

occasionally miss their targets and hit innocents, and

that's tragic, but, unfortunately, unavoidable in some

circumstances. C'est la guerre.

As for the CIA not having the training to kill, I say: in a

high-tech war, the real skill required is expertise

in missile guiding and targeting systems. Sure, I, too,

see the dangerous possibilities of a war waged

by an agency that cannot always be held publicly

accountable for its actions, but sometimes covert

operations are the only way to accomplish a necessary maneuver.

The existence of the CIA itself is an implicit admission

that there are some foreign policy actions that cannot be

executed explicitly. (And I don't hear anybody in the

mainstream calling for the abolition of the CIA.

PAGE 184

Former Sen. George McGovern, a World War II vet, once

memorably said that he opposed the Vietnam War, not

all wars. Pacificism merely means the other guy's violence


Like McGovern, I oppose some wars, but not all war. I oppose

the Iraq war but wholeheartedly backed the Afghanistan one.

Those who spout platitudes like "war doesn't solve anything"

are just spouting platitudes. Yes, war should be avoided at

almost all costs, but -- hmm, let's see -- war stopped slavery

in the United States, war stopped Adolf Hitler in Germany,

war stopped bin Laden's proxy government in Afghanistan, as

some have noted.

Sometimes you have to counter-intuitively light a backfire

to stop the main fire, you have to inject a little smallpox

PAGE 185

to get rid of smallpox (which is where guys like Howard Zinn

and Noam Chomsky, who were once wise in their younger days

but not in their post-9/11 older years, make big mistakes

in judgment, not understanding such a central paradox).

With regard to the Afghanistan war, I side with Sen. John

Kerry, another vet, who not only supported that conflict

but said we should have gotten in sooner (why on earth did

we wait till October '01, giving bin Laden a chance to

escape?!) and should have stayed longer to bomb Tora Bora.

What did the anti-Afghanistan war activists suggest we do in

the weeks after 9/11? Serve bin Laden a subpoena in the

neverlands of Tora Bora? And what if his protectors had

started shooting? Then we're shooting back, right?

Well, hey, that's precisely what war is!)

PAGE 186

I heard some imbecile on ABC's "Nightline" say that militants didn't

fly planes into the World Trade Center for no reason. That's like saying

that Charles Manson or Seung-Hui Cho didn't murder all those good people

for no reason. They had a "reason" but they had no good reason.

What that person doesn't get is that the hijackers's "reasons" were

delusional (they actually thought they were going to be met in

paradise by virgins) and their militancy was the result of

an early indoctrination that they couldn't overcome in adulthood.

And the 9/11 conspiracy theories spouted by Cindy Sheehan and others

are equally bogus. Sheehan acts like someone who should be under the

care of a psychiatrist who specializes in delusional thought disorders.

Her opinions on the tragedy of 9/11 – she actually called it a "controlled

demolition" -- put her in the same league as people who believe the

moonwalks were staged and that the holocaust was a fabrication. In

other words, she seems like a nut.

PAGE 187

Incidentally, let's hope that we don't let the national trauma

over the unjustified Iraq conflict cloud our collective judgment so

that we don't see that the next war, if there is one, may be a very

necessary one. A patient traumatized by surgery may be overly reluctant to

have even urgent surgery in the future.

And where might the next necessary war be? Perhaps Iran. Perhaps


After all, a Taliban-run Pakistan with nukes is only one simple chess move

away, one coup away.

And it would be hard to see how the U.S. could avoid some level of

involvement in Pakistan if that were to happen. Everyone is focused on

Tehran, but the real danger may be elsewhere.

It's like that scene in the movie "Jaws": everybody on the crowded beach

mistakenly thinks they see a shark in the open ocean, and there is a

stampede and panic as everyone frantically swims to shore. Then, as

PAGE 188

things calm, a lone voice shouts, "The pond, the pond," warning everyone

the shark is actually in the more remote pond, which nobody had been

paying much attention to.

And that may be, analogously, what’s happening now.


Chapter Thirteen: Did Awlaki Have Foreknowledge of the 9/11 Attacks? The (Possibly) Tell-Tale Copyright Date.

Anwar al-Awlaki, the late Islamic militant known to have met

with two of the September 11th hijackers, spent the weeks

prior to 9/11 collecting much of his life's work for publication

and copyright.

The proximity of his work's official publication date to the

9/11 attacks arguably gives the appearance of someone summing up or

getting one's work and affairs in order before an anticipated upheaval or

interruption of some sort.

It's worth noting that defendants are often convicted of

serious crimes based solely on circumstantial evidence. (An

analogy: the Securities and Exchange Commission often launches

investigations and even indicts based on this level of

circumstantial evidence (i.e., increased business activity preceding

a dramatic market downturn or upturn).)

PAGE 190

According to the online records of the U.S. Copyright Office,

reported for the first time here, Awlaki has filed for a copyright

only twice in his career: for a 22-CD audio compilation of his

lectures that was published on August 15, 2001, and for a cassette

tape version published months earlier. (The formal copyright for

both works was registered in subsequent months.)

Awlaki's copyrighted oeuvre -- "The Life of the Prophets," an audio

anthology of his speeches spanning some two dozen discs and

18 cassette tapes -- was published by the Denver, Colorado-based

Al-Basheer Company For Publications & Translations, which

shares the copyright with him.

The Al-Basheer Company initially promoted the CD-set prominently

on its website's front page but has since removed it from its

online catalogue altogether. However, the publisher does

currently publish and promote works by another jihadi, Bilal Philips,

who the U.S government has called an "unindicted co-conspirator"

PAGE 191

in the World Trade Center attack of 1993. (It was previously

thought that Philips' works were only available at the few

western libraries that hadn't yet removed them from the shelves.)

In the period before the 9/11 attacks -- from August 24 to August

27, 2001 -- Awlaki and Bilal Philips both appeared at a Da'wah

Conference at the University of Leicester in the U.K. with

other Muslim activist speakers, including Rafil Dhafir, now

in prison in the U.S. on terrorism charges.

When the circumstantial evidence about Awlaki's activities

in the weeks before 9/11 is put together, one has to wonder

and ask about the possibility that Awlaki had

foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

First, as has been widely reported, Awlaki knew two of the

hijackers -- Hawaf al-Hizmi and Hazmi's roommate Khalid al-Mihdar --

in the months prior to the hijackings. (A third, Hani Hanjour,

PAGE 192

attended the mosque where Awlaki was the imam). Second, as

reported exclusively here, Awlaki spent the months and weeks

before the attacks getting his life's work together, assembling

together a sort of 'collected works' retrospective of his

lectures (though he had never before and hasn't since

copyrighted his material). Third, in the week before the

hijackings, he was participating in a seminar with a militant

involved in the World Trade Center bombing of '93.

(It should be noted that a cassette tape edition of Awlaki's

work had been published in January 2001, and even this date

supports my theory that he was tying up loose ends. After all,

the hijackings were originally scheduled for early 2001 and

then for July 2001, with the final date of 9/11 decided only

at the last minute. So if hijacker al-Hizmi had confided

in Awlaki in 2000 about the upcoming attacks, Awlaki would have

come into 2001 knowing only that the hijackings would take

place some time that year.)

PAGE 193

For the record, the conventional wisdom has it that Awlaki

publicly condemned the 9/11 attacks at the time. But

close scrutiny of his statements reveals that he almost always

talked about 9/11 in highly ambiguous and almost sneaky terms

that could easily be read as an endorsement of either side.

For example, Awlaki was quoted by The New York Times in '01 as saying

the following about incendiary jihadi talk that leads to violence:

''There were some statements that were inflammatory," Awlaki told The

Times -- while not specifying whether he was referring to statements by

Muslim radicals or by the so-called infidel -- "and were considered

just talk, but now we realize that talk can be taken seriously and

acted upon in a violent radical way." (Again, his meaning was

slippery and could have easily been along the lines of:

'now we realize that blasphemy and anti-Islamic talk must be

taken seriously and should be combated with violence.')

By the time of the 9/11 attacks, al-Awlaki had already been under

PAGE 194

investigation for a couple years by the F.B.I. for suspected al Qaeda

ties. (The myth that he was a moderate then and became an

extremist later is evidently just that: a myth.)

Still, The New York Times covered al-Awlaki in print back in

2001 and came away impressed.

By the time The Times interviewed him in ‘01, al-Awlaki

had already been under investigation for a couple years by the

F.B.I. for suspected al Qaeda ties, according to

the Times of London, and had admitted meeting with one of

the 9/11 hijackers, Hawaf al-Hizmi, several times.

When he was praised by the Times in '01, al-Awlaki had also admitted

meeting Al-Hizmi's roommate and fellow hijacker Khalid al-Mihdar, who

was part of the team with Hani Hanjour (another attendee at al-Awlaki's

mosque) that crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the

Pentagon. The three hijackers and Hasan were all attendees at the

PAGE 195

mosque where Al-Awlaki was an imam in 2001 – the Dar al-Hijrah mosque

in Falls Church, Virginia.

Even though al-Awlaki had such a history, New York Times reporter Laurie

Millstein characterized al-Awlaki as "a new generation of Muslim

leader capable of merging East and West."

Here's what she wrote in an article that ran in The Times on

October 19, 2001:

"Mr. Al-Awlaki, who at 30 is held up as a new generation of Muslim leader
capable of merging East and West: born in New Mexico to parents from
Yemen, who studied Islam in Yemen and civil engineering at Colorado State University."

A close read of the article and al-Awlaki's quotes in it reveal

a sneaky ambiguity in al-Awlaki's words, a kind of plausible

deniability -- or perhaps, al-Awlaki was playing Millstein for a fool,

feeding her quotes that she thought meant one thing and he

intended as something else.

PAGE 196

In the article, Millstein first summarizes, in her own words, the criticism aimed

at America by Muslim hardliners:

"Their most frequent grievances were sexual promiscuity, movies and media perceived as anti-Muslim, racial prejudice and American foreign policy of supporting Israel, blockading Iraq and bolstering what they perceived as corrupt Middle Eastern regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt."

Then she quotes al-Awlaki's very ambiguous remarks, which I'm presenting

here with my own annotations in capital letters:

''In the past we were oblivious. [NOTE THAT AL-AWLAKI DOESN'T SAY
TO ALL THE BLASPHEMY OUT THERE."] We didn't really care
much because we never expected things to happen. [NOTE HE
Now I think things are different. What we might have tolerated in
the past, we won't tolerate any more." [HIGHLY AMBIGUOUS.

Millstein quotes al-Awlaki again in her story (it’s the quote I note above --

and I've added annotations in caps here):

''There were some statements that were inflammatory [STATEMENTS
PAGE 197

MUSLIM REACTIONARIES?], and were considered just talk, but now we
realize that talk can be taken seriously and acted upon in a violent

After his time as imam at the Dar al-Hijrah, Al-Awlaki left the

U.S. in 2002 and moved to Yemen, his parents's birthplace.

He later ran a popular jihadist website, Anwar al-Awlaki On-line

(at, where he wrote the blog that

praised Nidal Hasan, saying:

“Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to
Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of
what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically
justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to
follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”

“The heroic act of brother Nidal also shows the dilemma of the Muslim American community. Increasingly they are being cornered into taking stances that would either make them betray Islam or betray their nation. Many amongst them are choosing the former. The Muslim organizations in America came out in a pitiful chorus condemning Nidal’s operation.”


Part Four

Blasphemous Verse

As an epilogue, here are the lyrics of religious-themed songs I’ve written

over the past few years!

Some have already been aired on various alternative radio stations; others

have landed high on online charts. (The MP3 editions of the songs

themselves are available via a Google search.)

All lyrics here are irreverent in some way. I wrote “Backfire” as a sort of

retort to the Howard Zinns and Noam Chomskys who, after 9/11, said that

to kill bin Laden for the attacks would be reducing ourselves to his level.

To which I thought: well, you have to take a little smallpox to get rid of the

smallpox,right? You have to light a backfire to get rid of the main fire.

The others include “They’re Building a Mosque in My Mind,” a spoof on the

whole Park51 controversy; “The Monster Mosque,” a funny parody of “The

Monster Mash”; a catchy ditty called “Taliban Virgins”; a song called “Pray

to the Devil” (which notes, it’ll do you the same good as praying to anyone

else); “The Creationist Anthem,” “Please Turn Me Into Rushdie,” “The Holy

PAGE 200

Country Song,” and “I’m Coveting (My Neighbors Wife),” which poke fun at

fundamentalists; “Stop the Beer Hall Putsch” and “Draw Me a Picture of

Muhammad,” written in anger about fundamentalists telling artists what they can and can’t draw; and

“Death Falls Like A Sunset,” a non-theist view of death as it really is.


Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

You've gotta take a little smallpox
To get rid of the smallpox
You've gotta take a little polio
To get rid of the polio

You've gotta light a little backfire
To get rid of the main fire
To get rid of the main fire
You've gotta light a little

You've gotta take some medication
To get rid of medication
You've gotta take a step backward
To take another step forward

You've gotta light a little backfire
To get rid of the main fire
To get rid of the main fire
You've gotta light a little

PAGE 201


Sometimes you've gotta get high to stop a high
Sometimes you've gotta get low to stop a low
Sometimes a little bit of peace will stop the peace
Sometimes a little bit of war will stop the war

You've gotta light a little backfire
To get rid of the main fire
To get rid of the main fire
You've gotta light a little

Sometimes you've gotta get high to stop a high
Sometimes you've gotta get low to stop a low
Sometimes a little bit of peace will stop the peace
Sometimes a little bit of war will stop the war

You've gotta light a little backfire
To get rid of the main fire
To get rid of the main fire
You've gotta light a little


Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

They're building a mosque in my mind (my mind)
They're building a mosque in my mind
They're taking over all the grey matter
They're building a mosque in my mind

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The preachers and imams and rabbis and priests
Who populate the part of my mind
Where Hindus are praying near by left hippocampus
Where the Shintos are building a shrine

They're building a mosque in my mind (my mind)
They're building a shrine in my mind
They're taking over my entire cerebellum
They're building a mosque in my mind

The Hares spray graffiti on my left ventricle wall
They've got a real Jones for the Tao
They're confusing Confucians as to their actual intent
They're saying, "Hey, man, don't have a sacred cow!"

Anglicans and Brahmins fight for my synaptic cleft
In the pre-frontal lobe of my mind
Orthodox Jews are building a temple
Using words like thee and thou and thine

They're building a mosque in my mind (my mind)
They're building a shrine in my mind
They're taking over my entire cerebellum
They're building a mosque in my mind

Mental health professionals visit me at work
I tell them they're bombs in my brain
The Sunnis are fighting the Sufis for turf
I say this as they take me away

Take me away!

They're building a mosque in my mind (my mind)
They're building a shrine in my mind
They're taking over all the gray matter
They're building a mosque in my mind

PAGE 203

They're building a mosque in my mind (my mind)
They're building a shrine in my mind
They're taking over my entire cerebellum
They're building a mosque in my mind


Parody by Paul Iorio (based
on "The Monster Mash" by
Bobby Boris Pickett)

I was working in the mosque late last night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
My Islamic Center began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He built a mosque
He built a monster mosque
The monster mosque
Near the Ground Zero crash
He built the mosque
It caught on like a rash
He built the mosque
He built the monster mosque

PAGE 204

Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

Well, God created Earth 10,000 years ago for
Jesus Christ, who owned a pet dinosaur

Well, Darwin's mom might've been an ape
But the last I looked, my mother sure looked great
All of creation took about six days, too
God's a fast worker, let's give him a brew

Well, God created Earth 10,000 years ago for
Jesus Christ, who owned a pet dinosaur

Everyone drowned in Noah's flood
And their fossils got stuck in all of that mud
Mary gave birth without a man
She was so good-lookin', God gave her a hand

There were dinosaurs in Shakespeare's time
They became extinct in 1829
Read all about it in Genesis
And take a gander at what Charlie Darwin missed

Well, God created Earth 10,000 years ago for
Jesus Christ, who owned a pet dinosaur

Jesus Christ, he died for my sins
Picked up the tab for all that I did

PAGE 205

Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
copyright 2010

Don't you hate all of those country songs
Saying, "I am the way and the light"

That "Jesus Christ is comin'
And everything'll be alright"

They say, "The Lord is my savior/
Won't you do me a favor, and get me into heaven tonight"

I heard them thankin' Jesus
On the CMAs last night

I heard them thankin' Jesus
On the CMAs last night

They talk about resurrection like it was an erection
Natural selection ain't right

"Don't talk that evolution/
Creation just took one night

The Ten Commandments make you a helluva man/
And I believe the ones I like

Though shall not go a killin'
Except when you're havin' a fight"

I heard them thankin' Jesus
At the CMAs last night

They can't have some nook

PAGE 206

Because some boring book with badly translated text

Says you can't commit adultery
Or have recreational sex

Well, Jesus Christ put up a helluva fight
Takin' heat for what I done

Enabling bad behavior
So I'm forgiven for my fun

I heard them thankin' Jesus
At the CMAs last night


Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2011

They tell me what to draw
And, baby, that ain't all

They say that I can't drink
I think that you can't think

They've smashin' the beer hall

(Stop the) Beer hall -- putsch!

PAGE 207

Beer hall -- putsch!
Beer hall -- putsch!

We welcome them to town
Then they push us around

We let freedom sound
They shut our paper down

They've taken the beer hall

(Stop the) Beer hall -- putsch!
Beer hall -- putsch!

Beer hall -- putsch!
Beer hall -- putsch!

Beer hall -- putsch!
Beer hall -- putsch!

Let a thousand flowers bloom
But don't give weeds room
Weeds that strangle flowers
And start takin' over gardens

(Stop the) Beer hall -- putsch!
Beer hall – putsch!

PAGE 208

* * * * *

Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

(Oy vey, Maria!)

Pray to the devil
Like you pray to your god
Pray to the devil
You'll have the same odds

Pray to the devil
Pray like you should
Pray to the devil
It'll do ya the same good

Is just wishful thinkim'
Is worse for you than drinkin'

Lead us not into temptation
Unless it leads to gratification

Pray to the devil
Pray like you should
Pray to the devil
It'll do ya the same good

The Lord is my schlepper
Pray or
They'll treat you like a leper

PAGE 209

Though I walk through the valley of death
Praying's just a big waste of breath

You know, how do you know whether your
prayer to God doesn't go to the devil
instead? Is there a special exchange for
all this, like a phone exchange that gets you
to the right party? Is there a limit to how
many prayers you can pray per month? Are
there rollover prayers?

Is just wishful thinkin', baby
Is worse for you than drinkin'

Lead us not into temptation
Unless it leads to gratification


I'm Covetin' (My Neighbor's Wife)
Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

I'm a-covetin'
I'm a-covetin'
I'm a-covetin'
My neighbor's wife

I covet in the morning, covet in the evening, covet during suppertime
Covet out in Memphis, covet out in Houston, covet out in Cherrywine

Can't stop covetin', can't stop covetin', I tried and I tried but I can't stop...

PAGE 210

I'm a-covetin'
I'm a-covetin'
My neighbor's wife

They say covetin' leads to harder things
She's gettin's so thin she's a-losin' that ring

Can't stop covetin', can't stop covetin', tried and I tried I can't stop

I'm a-covertin'
I'm a-covetin'
I'm a-covetin'
My neighbor's wife

That Commandment was written in stone
But I ain't feeling it in my bones

Can't stop covetin', can't stop covetin', tried and I tried I can't stop

* * *

Please Turn Me Into Rushdie
Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

Please turn me into Rushdie
I wanna wear a disguise all around
I wanna wander from town to town
Please turn me into Rushdie

I tried to insult the Ayatollah
(I wanna wear a disguise all around)

PAGE 211

I painted bin Laden as a drooling Chihuahua
(I wanna roam around from town to town)

I tried to be offensive and violate mores
I even said the Torah was such a crashing bore

Please turn me into Rushdie
I wanna wear a disguise all around
I wanna wander from town to town
Please turn me into Rushdie

Satanic verse, not the same as the first

I dissed the messiah, tried to be a pariah
(I wanna wear a disguise all around)
I told some snarky gossip about Jesus and Allah
(I wanna roam around from town to town)

I sacrileged for years
It fell on deaf ears
I looked to cause a riot
But nobody would buy it

Please turn me into Rushdie
I wanna wear a disguise all around
I wanna wander from town to town
Please turn me into Rushdie

I wanna be the target of
cloak and dagger plots.
And have Barack Obama
save me from those nuts.

But every time I diss a major deity
I find that nobody pays attention to me

PAGE 212


Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

Taliban virgins
They tell me they await
Taliban virgins
If I blow up the plane

Taliban ladies, makin’ me crazy
For a little bit of jihad
Taliban virgins are a motivatin’ force
They make me wanna pull the pin hard

Taliban virgins
They tell me they await
Taliban virgins
If I blow up the plane

I’ve got my eye on imaginary virgins
Oh, they look so fine
I’ve got my eye on eighty imaginary virgins
Serving me all of the time

Taliban virgins
I’ve got to know who that you are
Taliban virgins
I’ve got to know who that you are

When she lifts up that holy veil
My resistance is to no avail
When she takes off her holy burqa
Oh, I wanna work her

Taliban virgins

PAGE 213

I’m gonna be the first in
Taliban virgins
I’m gonna be the first in


Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

Draw me a picture of Muhammad
He's really not a bad looking guy
He really shouldn't be so shy
Draw me a picture of Mohammad

In pictures of old, he sorta looks like Mastroianni did
[draw me a picture of Muhammad]
Hey, the ban on graven images was before digital pics
[draw me a picture of Muhammad]

Hey, I hold a lotta things sacred
But I don't expect others to feel the same way, kid

Draw me a picture of Muhammad
He's really not a bad looking guy
He really shouldn't be so shy
Draw me a picture of Muhammad

They say, "The rules of my mosque gotta be the rules outside"
[draw me a picture of Muhammad]
"Or else we're gonna commit mass homicide"
In the West, we say worship as you please
But they think everybody should be protrate on their knees

Draw me a picture of Muhammad

PAGE 214

draw me a picture of Muhammad

If I've offended anyone human
From the 15th century
Hey, get yourself a sense of humor

Draw me a picture of Muhammad
He's really not a bad looking guy
He really shouldn't be so shy
Draw me a picture of Muhammad

Hey, I've drawn pictures of the Queen of England's bacon
Of Jesus Christ naked
With Mary Magdalene in waitin'
So what king says I can't draw ol' Muhammad
I'll draw a picture of anything I want


Music and lyrics by Paul Iorio
Copyright 2010

Death falls like a sunset
On everybody equally
Death falls like a sunset
On everybody, even me

Did you see it fall forever
On people you'll no longer see
Did you see it fall like timber, in December
Every single month, I tell you

Death falls like a sunset
On everybody equally

PAGE 215

Death falls like a sunset
On everybody, even me

Did you see it wilt the flowers
In the penitentiary?
Did you see it block the sunlight
It gets unlight
Enjoy it every minute 'cause

Death falls, death falls

Birth comes like a sunshower
It only comes sporadically
Birth comes like a sunshower
It leads to death eventually

Did you see it bloom in deserts
Where nothing is supposed to be?
Did you see it die in springtime
when you think time/will always last forever?

But death falls
Birth comes
Death falls
Death falls