GM - Story #3

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Chapter 33

Hakim El Amer crossed Houston Street and made his way through SoHo to a small non-descript brick building between a breakfast café and nail salon. He pushed through a small black metal door, climbed the steep, creaky wooden stairs. He called out in Arabic to the Imam of his mosque.

He had received instructions regarding the Holy Man, Jaio, that troubled him. He needed clarity and reason. He knew his religion forbade him to question or cast doubt on the absolute will of God.

Maybe his apprehension stemmed from all his years among lifelong Americans with their radical concepts of free will and open speech. Maybe he had been influenced by his connection to his roommate, Cidalia Gaudin. Or maybe it was just his own conscience calling to him. But Hakim felt the strongest need ever to question the feedback and direction he had received from his Iman.

“Look, I don’t know what I think about it anymore,” Cidalia had said to him back at their apartment one evening. “But, he makes a lot of great points about human nature and God and our behavior. I’m trying so hard not to flip all my religious beliefs upside down. But the more I listen to him, the more I find myself wanting to learn from him. It doesn’t have to be a betrayal of my beliefs. It can be an evolution of them. Most religious doctrine was written thousands of years ago. I’m not saying any of it is wrong or no longer valid. But maybe it can’t hurt to listen with an open mind.”

Cidalia’s next comments turned Hakim upside down and led to his ten-block walk under the Washington Square arch to his destination on a Saturday morning.

“I believe in Jesus and the word of God in the bible,” she said. “You believe in Mohamed and the divine word of God in the Koran. But what if we lived back in the time of Jesus and Mohamed. What if I lived in Rome or Jerusalem during the time that Jesus walked the Earth? Would I have been one of the people laughing and jeering him as he died on the cross? Or would I have been one of the people praying for him and spreading his teachings after his death?

“Is Mohamed the end all? Will there never be another prophet of Allah? What if Mohamed came to you back in 500 AD - or whenever - and you didn’t believe in him because others told you not to? How would your life and all the generations of your family have been different? What would become of your soul?”

Hakim had a pit in his stomach as his Iman Ahmedi welcomed him into the small square room of worship. Iman Ahmedi placed a scarf around Hakim’s neck and they knelt together on a prayer mat. They chanted their Salaat together. The sound of their voices rose into the air and filled the room with what Hakim could only describe as soothing beauty.

He loved the sound of his Muslim prayers, the rhythmic peaks and valleys of the Arabic language and the pleasantly non-American cadence and harmony of the chanted tones. The dark Middle Eastern décor and the smell of incense, curry and tamarind reminded him of his childhood home in Morocco. In the 12-years he had spent silk screening and selling T-shirts to shops in Greenwich Village, he always felt his most relaxed and at home at the mosque where he attended to pray nearly every day.

“Iman Ahmedi,” he asked after they completed their Salaat and sat in the small office adjacent to the prayer room. “I seek your guidance regarding your instructions about the Holy Man, Jaio. I find myself intrigued by his words – interested in his message.”

Iman Ahmedi did not react. Instead, he almost softened, smiling slightly in a subtly reassuring way.

“You wish to seek enlightenment from one who professes outside your Muslim faith?”

“I do not wish to defile my faith in Allah,” Hakim replied. “But I seek understanding of his message and how it compares to our word of God. I need to know that my faith is the only faith.”

“Do you doubt this to be true?”

“No,” Hakim hedged. “But many of our people have chosen to listen. And they say that the words of this prophet match and support much of the words of the Koran.”

“But they are not the same words,” the Iman explained in a soft, patient voice. “They are not God’s words. They are the words of a man who may have some good ideas. He may be versed in our teachings. And he may even share with his followers many of the stories from the Koran. But he is not Mohamed or Allah and he does not speak for or to our people.”

“Many have listened,” Hakim spoke quietly as if hoping that God would not hear him.

“What people?”

“Just people I meet during my day. Good, faithful practitioners of Islam. Not always people from this Mosque, but some.”

“Because a man reads the words of the Koran and speaks them, does that make him divine? When you pray the word of Allah, you honor him and praise him. You seek his salvation. But you do not become divine yourself.

“Do you presume to make your own interpretation and invent your own new word of God? If everyone had the ability or desire to speak for Allah, how would anybody ever know truth? There must be one word or there is no word. And without the one word of God, our entire faith comes into question. We cannot have this. It would spell the end of Islam. And this is why you are forbidden to engage with this false prophet.

“Do you understand Hakim El Amer?”

“Yes, Iman Ahmedi,” Hakim bowed his head. “I do understand.”

Iman Ahmedi turned in satisfaction. But Hakim asked one last question.

“If I hold fast to our beliefs and do not waiver in my devotion to Allah and the Islamic faith, would it be blasphemous to listen to a recording, watch a video or attend an event? I would just like to see how this man …”

“When you open your ears to outside influences,” Iman Ahmedi interrupted Hakim with his hand in the air between their faces. “You open yourself to not just hearing, but to listening. And when you listen, you open your heart to understanding and agreement. You do not want confusion of choice in your heart. It is a dangerous path.”

“But am I forbidden?”

“If your heart leads you to this direction, you risk excommunication and exile.”

“So, I have no choice?”

Iman Ahmedi paused. He drew a breath and placed his hands onto Hakim’s shoulders.

“It is not that you have no choice,” he said. “I seek to guide you in your choices. You should understand that choices have consequences. Will we exile you from the faith if you attend an event? That is up to you and whether you turn away from the ways of the Islamic faith.

“You interact with the faithless all the time. Living in this society exposes you to many who have no hope of salvation. You watch American television and conduct business with non-believers every day.

“You are not forbidden to attend. But I must warn you. You face a dangerous path. Curiosity is the enemy of absolute faith. If you find yourself questioning your God, I fear for the salvation of your soul.”

In a poorly ventilated, windowless basement deep in the Northeast corner of Syria, one of Al Khomeni Massad’s agents reviewed a ping on their screens.

Members of their team had observed Greyson’s movements following the memorial service for Jameis Thomason and established his unorthodox daily patterns. He spent inordinate amounts of time in his apartment on his computer, iPad or on his Google Trinity account on his television. He had lunch and dinner with the girl from SoHo and her hypocrite fake Muslim roommate, who lived and worked among the evil Americans despite his claims to honor and worship Allah.

They noted in their system that Greyson saw the occasional client and spent countless hours watching TV, browsing the news on his Google Trinity account and napping his days away.

This relaxed, aimless schedule perplexed Al Khomeni Massad as he believed that he had successfully tagged a key handler of his enemy. He had also expected to observe a greater security detail around him. But instead, he appeared to have been abandoned by Jaio’s team aside from the occasional check in.

Their agents had followed Greyson’s car and watched his movements through the city. They knew his circle of acquaintances. They had been inside Greyson’s car and manipulated is XM radio into a two-way device that they could monitor. When Greyson’s Bluetooth from his phone connected to the car, they gained access to his phone as well. As soon as he interacted with the infidel Jaio and his wicked followers, they would know about it.

And yet it had been weeks without a single ping. Khomeni Massad had nearly given up on Greyson and admonished his agents for selecting the wrong mark.

Until today.

“Mention of the enemy prophet,” said Khomeni Massad’s technical specialist. “It came up in the voice to text translation. There is a meeting. One of his apostles wants the driver to attend. He is reluctant. I can’t say whether he has accepted the invitation.”

“Where is this meeting?”

“Unknown at this time,” the agent replied, switching between monitoring applications on his three large screens. “I only have the few words through the audio bugs. But the car is on the move.”

“How many martyrs have we moved into the city of New York?”

“Twelve,” the agent replied, pulling up a map. “We regrew our presence quickly after losing our cell last year. One team came in through Mexico and another through Canada. We also successfully recruited three American boys. Our cells used the Americans’ own public transportation system to arrive at their target destination, the New York City by their buses and Taxi cabs.”

“When the American driver arrives in the meeting, you will be able to translate more of the discussion?”

“Yes,” the agent replied. “I can activate the driver’s phone and use his Face Time application to enable the camera and microphone. I will turn it on, but suppress the application, which will run in the background unknown to the American. We will hear them speak, and depending on where the phone is positioned, we may see them as well.

“So, we will be in the meeting with our enemy and they will not know we are there,” said Khomeni Massad, looking out over the deserted city below him. “This is the start of our victory over this false Messiah.”

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