Article entitled, “Mixed Message: The testimony of a self-described former terrorist,” by Doug Howard, for

On Christmas Day 2009, our youngest son, Jay, found himself on Delta Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Toward the end of the flight, Jay’s seatmate, a Nigerian Muslim about his age named Umar abd al-Muttalib, tried to blow up the plane using a bomb hidden in his underwear. Reflecting on Jay’s experience, and on Umar and the failed efforts by his father to warn authorities, has helped me clarify my attitude toward American Christian anti-Islamic literary polemics, including Kamal Saleem’s “memoir,” The Blood of Lambs. The book fits the familiar pattern of reassuring Christians of the superiority of their own faith tradition by negative comparisons with a dehumanized Islam. But Kamal Saleem’s titillating dance with violence and fame makes the book more complicated and more uncomfortable than most like it. By embracing the glamorous violence it claims to abhor, it raises readers’ hopes of touching secret human meanings through it.

I first encountered Kamal Saleem when he appeared at Calvin College in November 2007. A look at his website told me immediately that he was not who he said he was. The signature of his deception was his statement that “in my family was the Grand Wazir of Islam.” The term is ridiculous, a spurious title meant to mislead the innocent with an aura of authority. The audience, including many from the Grand Rapids Muslim community, watched Kamal Saleem’s performance with quiet restraint. He told stories, now repeated in The Blood of Lambs, of being recruited as a child for missions against Israel via tunnels under the Golan Heights, disguised as sheep; of visions of a rider on a white horse who, drawn swords in hand, commanded him to sever the heads of the infidels. In one painfully disturbing account, the mother of his friend screamed with joy that her little boy had met a violent death and joined the martyrs in heaven. He continued with the story of his immigration to America to recruit for jihad. Instead he was converted to Christianity as the result of a car accident, when he was taken into the home of a Christian physician and cared for out of selfless love. These tales were interspersed with exhortations for America to “wake up” to the threat of radical Islam and testimonials to the power of Christ in helping him forsake his old life.



From the Economist:

In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. By Martin Gilbert. Yale University Press; 320 pages; £25 and $35. Buy from,

The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives. By Gilbert Achcar. Metropolitan Books; 400 pages; $30. Saqi; £25. Buy from,

FROM 624 to 628AD, several Jewish clans in the Arabian peninsula joined forces with an Arab tribe, the Quraysh, to make war on a renegade Qurayshi named Muhammad who had had the chutzpah to claim he was a prophet of God. They lost. Piqued at the Jews for rejecting a creed that—with its dietary laws, ritual circumcision and daily prayers towards (at first) Jerusalem—was so closely modelled on their own, the Prophet Muhammad decreed that they, along with Christians, would henceforth be considered dhimmiyeen under Islam; “protected” as fellow monotheists, but subject to a heavy tax and various other indignities.

Dhimma status was later extended to other religions, then abolished by the Ottoman Turks in the 19th century. It is often still invoked by Islamophobes today as proof that Islam is inherently intolerant and, specifically, anti-Semitic. Martin Gilbert, a British Jew who was knighted in 1995, and Gilbert Achcar, a Lebanese-French Christian, have both written books in which this question looms large. It would be hard to find two more different treatments.


By Anna Momigliano, for the Christian Science Monitor:

American pundits and politicians continue to argue over whether building an Islamic cultural center two blocks from ground zero – where Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center nine years ago – is appropriate.

But as the debate, centered around religious freedom and the role Islam itself played in the 9/11 attacks, continues in New York another of the world’s great cultural cities is arguing over a proposal for its first mosque. And proponents are getting help from an unlikely corner: the Vatican.

Milan, the northern Italian city famed for finance and fashion, is home to about 100,000 Muslims, mostly migrant workers from North African countries. But within city limits, there isn’t a single mosque.


From the Economist:

IT WAS an unusual book launch. Journalists jammed themselves into a suite of overcrowded rooms at the headquarters of Berlin’s press corps. Security was tighter than for appearances by the chancellor. When the author at last showed up he was greeted with the flashbulb fireworks you expect on the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre. The centre of the fuss was Thilo Sarrazin, a rather dour economist who sits on the board of the Bundesbank. His book, “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (“Germany does away with itself”) is explosive.

In a nutshell, Mr Sarrazin’s argument is that the right sort of German women are having too few babies and that the wrong sort—Muslims and those with little education—are having too many. The result is not only that Germany’s population is shrinking, it is also getting dumber. “With higher relative fertility among the less intelligent, the average intelligence of the population declines,” he writes. His defence of eugenics—through policies to encourage fertility among smart women—seems like a throwback to a grimmer time.


From Spiegel Online:

Are Muslim immigrants a drag on German prosperity? A new book by provocateur Thilo Sarrazin, a board member of the German central bank, argues that they are. His over-the-top comments have triggered yet another debate on immigration in the country.

Thilo Sarrazin has never been one to mince words. The German central bank board member and former senior city official in Berlin has long been a strident critic of German immigration policies, even going so far as to say in an interview last autumn that immigrants sponge off the state, are incapable of integrating themselves into German society and “constantly produce little girls in headscarves.”

In the interview, which appeared in the cultural magazine Lettre International, he also said that “a large number of Arabs and Turks in (Berlin) … have no productive function other than in the fruit and vegetable trade.” In the same interview, he claimed that the Turks were “conquering Germany … through a higher birthrate.”This week, though, the Social Democrat (SPD) seems to have outdone himself. German media outlets, including SPIEGEL, have published excerpts of his soon-to-be-published book on Germany’s supposed demise. As Sarrazin makes abundantly clear, that demise comes as a result of immigration. The bluntness with which he presents his ideas has kicked off a debate in Germany, and within the center-left SPD, as to whether Sarrazin has crossed the line into racism and whether he should be censured.


By John Esposito, for the Washington Post:

One of the frequent battle cries raised by those who warn that Muslims want to overwhelm the West is that that Muslims want to impose Shariah in America and Europe. Just as critics of Islam in the West question whether Islam is compatible with democracy and Muslims can be loyal citizens, many Muslims, in light of the rise and increase of Islamophobia and threats to their civil liberties, ask if democracy can accommodate Islam. Others, Some Muslims in the West in light of have also questioned, for different reasons, whether they could be both good Muslims and loyal citizens in of “foreign” non-Muslim states based on a Western secular laws? More isolationist and militant Muslims tend to associate Western countries and societies with kufr, unbelief, and look upon its citizens as unbelievers to be avoided, converted or attacked.

While devout Jews can follow Jewish law and Christians follow their doctrines and laws and be at the same time fully American citizens, can Muslims? What is the relationship of the need to follow Shariah to Muslims living in non-Muslim societies? Is there something peculiar about Islam that presents Muslim from living in a secular pluralistic America or Europe?


Zuhdi Jasser

During the past few months, a brouhaha grew over the construction of a Muslim Cultural Center, known as the “Cordoba House,” near ground zero. The center was dubbed a “mosque” by its detractors; the supporters, however, proclaimed that it was a Cultural Center, which would serve as a response to the perpetrators who conducted the atrocious attacks against America on 9/11 as well as serve as a memorial. Indeed, within the Cordoba House, there is also a project underway to construct a prayer space for Muslims. Of course, it is this particular project that is galvanizing some individuals to take to the streets and protest against it. One individual, who spoke out against the mosque and is celebrated by the media and the right-wing as the true, unapologetic moderate Muslim, was Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.