Islam Is The Religion Of Peace
7:45 p.m. May 3, 2006. I pull off on a side street from 11461 Sunset Blvd and meld right in behind a row of Mexicans in gardening vehicles. Free parking. Yay!
I run across six lanes of traffic to the Luxe. I hold the door open for three women, one of whom thanks me so genuinely that I flush.
I see an overcrowded gathering of the Jewish Symphony. I see lots of youngies at other happy gatherings while I'm headed for a grim discussion of Islamic terror.
Sometimes the burdens of being a moral leader are too much and I yearn to lose myself in a woman, yet my strict religious practices prevent me.
Tonight's program is billed (but not publicly advertised, only emailed to those of us in the know): "Dr. Wafa Sultan is a Syrian-American psychologist who has written essays on Islam, debated Muslim leaders and been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs. Tammy Bruce is the best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Dr. Sultan feels compelled to speak out about Islam and has been both hailed as a courageous reformer and threatened as a blasphemer of Islam."
When I contemplate the courageous work of people such as Wafa Sultan and Michael Finch (executive director of the Wednesday Morning Club) I feel keenly the iniquity of my life and I seek the sturdy chastisement of a strong lesbian such as Tammy Bruce. I feel embarrassed by my maleness. I feel embarrassed by my objectifying gaze. I feel embarrassed by the way men such as myself have held women down over the millennia and treated them like whores.
I seek solace in the company of a male friend who is similarly tormented by patriarchal instincts.
Tall Sabra-looking Jewish Journal correspondent Orit Arfa steps into the room and we gasp. She's tall and strong and gorgeous. She has thick black hair. If she shook her head at me, her every hair would be a whip punishing my bad thoughts.
I see Orit in an IDF (Israeli Defense Force) uniform, carrying a big gun, and punishing me for not making aliyah (moving to Israel).
I hope to Moses she doesn't know about the shameful way I ignored Israeli Independence Day on my blog so lost was I in the soul-destroying search to pay my bills (that stuff squashes my artistic yearnings).
She used to be the secretary to Rabbi Danny Gordis.
Why must I wax lyrical about beautiful women when I have the Torah?
Confused by the intensity of my desires, I seek solace in four helpings of desert. Frankly, I didn't much want the fourth, but Janet Levy ordered us to our seats and so I took my final two portions and I felt guilty about not cleaning my plate (I thought the raisin-nut cookie was chocolate chip but ate it anyway).
I believe we perfect faith that everything's kosher.
I know the fruit is but I don't eat any.
I engaged in an intense conversation with my friend Cathy (not Seipp) and slowly scrunched my fruit-custard thingy until it threatened to collapse all over us. Turning away, I stuffed it in my mouth.
There's only one word I want to hear from Cathy yet it is the single thing she denies me all night -- "Behave!"
Rap music plays next door. It makes me very excited.
Orit sits in front of me. Her presence makes me yearn to leave the material world and surrender myself to the divine all by drinking Kabballah Centre water.
Orit (circa 25) is the youngest person in the room. She once sat precisely where I sit now, in front of my computer, on Tishu B'Av 2001.
So much time has gone by, so many opportunities missed, but one thing stays constant -- my chastity, poverty and humility.
"Where's Michael Finch?" I asked David Horowitz's assistant Elizabeth. "He must be getting a facial peal."
"And a manicure," she says. "Put that on your blog."
I see Michael as the perfect apostle to the Hebrews next door, converting them from their stiff-necked liberalism.
Why must Jews (particularly young hot female ones) party for the symphony when we have a global struggle against Islamic terror?
I tell my friend: "You're my mini-me. You don't have the courage to be me."
Friend: "Good thing."
He asks me why Elizabeth's husband never comes to these events.
I answer that he does the videotaping at these events.
Janet Levy begins the evening on a fiery note. She says Islam is not like other religions, because if you leave it, you're liable to get killed.
"Our guest has done the unthinkable. She condemned Islam and she did it on Arab television.
"She felt paranoid [in Syria]. She felt that the walls had ears. Her only confidant was her husband.
"She published her first article criticizing Islam in the Beirut Times [after moving to LA in 1989]. She started writing for an Islamic reform website. One of her articles was noticed by Al Jazeera...
"She plans to start a foundation to reform Islam.
"Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world."
The room is jammed -- about 100 persons.
We watch a three-minute clip of Dr. Wafa Sultan (raised by Muslim parents) on Al Jazeera.
My friend vigorously applauds Dr. Wafa Sultan, digging his elbow into my side.
"I can't applaud," I explain. "I'm a journalist. I'm disinterested."
Note to the ignorant: "Disinterested" means impartial.
My interests are sometimes so passionate that my knees go weak and my morals fly out the door, yet I never lose my steely objectivity.
"I'm a humble servant of the truth," I tell my friend. "I'm impartial. I'm only partial to hot chix."
Dr. Sultan steps out.
The audience gives her a standing ovation. On his way up, my friend smashes into me. "Would you get out of my way?" he says.
"I can't," I reply. "I'm your conscience."
Dr. Sultan stands behind the microphone. "I'm shaking," she says, "not because I am scared, but because I am calm.
"This is my first English speech. Please excuse my heavy accent and be patient.
"...In 1979, I was a medical student at the University of Aleppo in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood committed ugly and violent crimes against innocent Syrian people. Professor Yusef Al-Yusef had nothing to do with the government. They filled his body with hundreds of bullets before my eyes while screaming 'Allah is great.'
"At that moment, I lost faith in our God and started to question His teaching. This was the turningpoint of my life. I wanted the freedom to express my ideas.
"Since emigrating to the United States in 1989, I have been trying to analyze Islam scientifically."
Much of the audience feels compelled to welcome Wafa as though she arrived yesterday.
Dr. Sultan's husband and sister sit in the front row. She has three kids. She receives numerous death threats. She's working on her third book, tentatively scheduled to be published by Random House (first two books were self-published).
Dr. Sultan says she became an atheist. "When you worship a monster, you will become that monster."
She says a Moroccan mullah whose holy book was the Koran emailed her that his new holy book is her book.
"Hate has no place in my heart but I do feel pain for my people who lack the freedom of thinking and the freedom to criticize their own teaching[s].
"I have lost hope for Islam. It is the duty of all freethinkers to be blunt and straightforward in an effort to enlighten Muslims.
"The United Nations should have a major part in monitoring the educational curriculum in Islamic countries.
"My mission...is to bridge the gap between Islam and the rest of the world."
She closes her ten minute talk with an Islamic anecdote about Jotha. He's told there's a fire yet he keeps walking calmly. "As long as it is not in my neighborhood," he says.
"It is in your neighborhood," he's told yet he keeps walking.
"As long as it is not in my house," he says.
"It is in your house," he's told yet he keeps walking.
"As long as it is not in my underwear."
Dr. Sultan implies that Islam is about to light our underwear on fire.
I meditate upon her teachings and feel a fire in my loins.
Telegenic Tammy Bruce takes the stage. She speaks with grace and assurance.
She has great hair.
I'd join The New American Revolution but I'm too passive.
"She's smiling at you," says my friend.
Tammy gets more applause than a lesbian atheist has a right to.
Tammy castigates feminists. "It's an honor to do anything for the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, David Horowitz, Janet Levy...
"Feminists believe...that women around the world are not worth advocating for as long as there's a Republican administration. While it was profitable to advocate for Afghani women while Bill Clinton was president, now they've grown silent..."
She's so strong. I want to lean on her.
"You're more than welcome to," Tammy replies a few hours later. "Thanks for coming tonight. I just got home and noticed some traffic from your site."
On Wafa's first Al Jazeera appearance, she was bulldozed by this mullah until she told him to shut up and let her speak. She still gets emails applauding that outspokenness.
"There is no moderate Islam," says Dr. Sultan. "Islam is different from any other religion. Muslims believe the Koran is the word of God."
Fundamentalist Jews and Christians, by definition, believe their Bible comes from God. We just don't think it instructs us to blow ourselves up and take as many infidels with us as possible.
"I don't know how serious the free world is about changing Islam. America is the world leader. It is your responsibility to change Islam. America is like Jotha. 'As long as the fire is not in my underwear.'
"It takes a terrorist only 20 hours to come from Jordan to the U.S. to blow himself up."
Wafa says that in much of the Arab-Islamic world, everything bad, including AIDS, is blamed on the Jews. "The Jews send prostitutes to infect Arab men with AIDS," she says as an example of this warped thinking."
Tammy: "I'm surprised that Al Jazeera gave you that time. There's no American network that can reach so many Arabs."
Wafa: "They probably had me on to ruin my reputation and it turned against them.
"My writing was flying all over the Arab world. They said, 'We have somehow to stop her.' That's why called me.
"I had never watched this program before. I don't like TV. I don't watch TV much. They asked me to come on the show the next day. They didn't give me time to look at the show and see what type of show.
"When I talk to Americans about Islam, I get so upset because they don't know anything.
"...We need not only Donald Rumsfeld, but Dr. Phil and Oprah [to spread the truth about Islam]. We need books, not just tanks."
After almost twenty minutes, Tammy opens up to questions from the audience.
The first questioner, a woman, says: "Because of our democractic culture, in America we can't label a religion as the enemy. So everybody watches what they say. How can we break the barrier? How can we say that Islam is an ideology not a religion? An ideology of hate, of violence."
Dr. Sultan repeats that Islam is not a religion. It's a program for world conquest. "Go to a mosque and have the imam open the Koran and read it and answer your questions about his teachings."
If we can have army bases in Saudi Arabia, we can also offer schools, says Dr. Sultan.
She disagrees with President Bush's position that "Islam is the religion of peace."
Most of the audience applauds Tammy's desire that Wafa is more widely listened to than the president on this.
Dr. Sultan says the native European birthrate is 1.2 percent while the birthrate of Muslims in Europe is over four percent.
An audience member says Islam declared war on the rest of the world in 622 CE.
Dr. Sultan says the Koran has never been translated accurately into English. Translations often use the word "fight" when the Koran means "kill."
About a decade ago, Wafa said to her husband, "The internet is the beginning of the end of Islam."
"You'd be surprised by how many people in Syria believe as I do. Behind the scenes, they support me.
"It's often said there are 1.3 billion Muslims. Well, give them the freedom to choose and then tell me how many Muslims there are."
How do we replace Islam? With scientific knowledge.
The problems between Israel and its neighbors are religious, not political and geographical. "Our Messenger told us that the Jews are not human and they are to be killed."
"I am not a Muslim but my heritage is Islam. If a patient becomes cancer-free, he can still fight cancer. I still fight Islam. I have every right to talk about my experience."
She grew up in a relatively liberal city (Banias) in Syria.
At the end of the night, she says, "God bless you. God bless America."
Michael Finch receives the rapturous applause normally reserved for Air Supply concerts to Ivy League universities. He talks about the CSPC's new Jihad project.
Moved by Wafa's words, my friend and I look around the room.
"I love women in sweaters," he says, checking out Elizabeth. "The sweater was created to embrace the woman's upper torso."
I tell Michael I'll write a Jihadist approach to dating.
I believe I once told my friend, "Go yellow, young man."
So as we walk out, we pass this network marketing meeting for burnlounge.com. It has a better demographic than our friend. My friend spots an Asian chick and asks for a cigarette as a way of starting a tawdry connection that may well lead to behaviors prohibited by the Torah.
Inside I spot a friend who introduces me to his teenage son as the most religious member of my profession.
He asks what have I been doing lately to piss off my father?
As I walk out of the hotel, I notice the Jewish Symphony event has flamed out. But while it burned, it burned brightly. To have tasted such wild ecstasy...
This could be my last night alive (if there's a terrorist attack or something) and what am I doing with it? Blogging.
Blogging is for losers.
Chaim Amalek writes: "Do you have public lectures in LA on topics at which invariably all the crazy white people show up to espouse their pet theories?"
Yes, I just went to one.