Excerpt from "Madrassa Jihad",  available soon on Amazon.com in print and for Kindle

Folding his menu and looking up at the waiter, Ayez said, “We’ll both have the oysters and pressed duck.”
The waiter took the menus and left to put in their order.
“Are you a strict Muslim, Ayez?” Jade asked.
“I grew up in Saudi Arabia, so I was raised a strict Muslim.” Ayez was not proud that in the past week he had broken more than a few Islamic laws.
“Are you a member of the Wahhabi sect?”
“I was.” Ayez could not believe he was saying this. What was happening to him, making him almost deny his God?
“Was?” Jade was quick to pounce on his answer
“Since I have been living in America, my views have become tempered somewhat. Things here are nowhere near as bad as the imams back home make them out to be.” There. That sounded good while saying nothing.
“What do the religious leaders in Saudi Arabia know about how things are here in America?”
“As it turns out, not much.” That statement was truthful, at least. “Back home, the imams believe the Christians of the world are organizing another crusade against Islam. Since I’ve been here, I’ve come to realize that the Christians in this country really don’t care much what the Muslims do.”
“As long as they don’t attack Americans. That’s the point they missed before 9/11. It’s what the Japanese missed when they attacked Pearl Harbor.”
“Yes, Americans don’t like to be attacked.”
“And it’s what these crazies cutting off Christian minister’s heads are missing.”
“Maybe.” Ayez had not thought this through when he had agreed to Imam Ali’s plan.
“No maybes about it. Americans hate to be attacked by foreigners. And they don’t scare. Attacking them only makes them angry and want to counterattack. It’s like poking a stick in a hornet’s nest.”
Ayez felt the small cell phone in his shirt pocket begin to vibrate. He had forgotten to turn it off before entering the restaurant, where he was sure phones were forbidden. While deciding what to do, he took a sip of his wine. He should not answer it, but it might be important. Only a few people had his cell number. It must have something to do with his work. While he considered this, the phone ceased vibrating. He set his wine glass back on the table with an inward sigh of relief.
“What do you think the Muslims should do about the current situation with the western world?” A week ago, he would never have asked such a question of an American, particularly an American woman. He must be going soft in the head.
“I think the Muslim world should go back to their mosques and pray for guidance. Their problem is not western civilization; their problem is themselves. You have the various sects killing each other in nearly every country from the Middle East to Asia. The Muslims are at the same juncture the Catholic Church was six or seven hundred years ago. The church leaders—in your case, the ayatollahs and mullahs and imams—are all fighting for their own power, even as they are losing to secularism.”
The phone in Ayez’s pocket began to vibrate again. Whoever was calling wanted him badly. What should he do? Maybe he could excuse himself and go outside. But what would Jade think of his doing that? He should have turned off his phone before coming in. Or left it in the limousine.
“Did I say something wrong? You look pained.”
“No. No. You didn’t say anything wrong.” The phone stopped vibrating again, and Ayez relaxed. “It’s just that I left my cell phone on, and it keeps vibrating. I know I can’t answer it in this restaurant.”
“You can look at it and see who called. Nobody would mind that.”
“It’s all right. You were saying the Muslims should look inward and forget about the West. A part of our religion says we should go forth and seek converts.”
“All religions say that. It’s how the religious leaders build their power. The more converts, the more money coming in, and the more influence the leaders have over the populace.”
“That’s very cynical. Our religious leaders are scholars who have studied from an early age to garner the knowledge to lead their followers.” Ayez could not believe he was listening to this drivel—and from a woman, no less. Then he was seized by the fear that if he got into an argument over religion with Jade, she would drop him and refuse to see him again.
“It’s not cynical. All religious leaders make the claim to greater knowledge than their followers. Your religious leaders just haven’t had to learn such over the past thousand years, because their followers were mostly uneducated. The riches they have reaped from oil over the past hundred years have jerked them into the twenty-first century with all the attendant dislocations in their power structure.”
The phone began to vibrate again. Grabbing it from his pocket, Ayez looked at the screen to see who insisted on calling. The call came from Imam Ali’s mosque in Detroit. “I’m sorry, Jade. I’m afraid I must go outside and return this call.”
“I understand. Take your time. I’ll be right here when you get back.”
Ayez hurried across the dining room, past the maître d’, and into the street. He stood close to the building so the evening strollers on this warm Sunday evening would not pass close enough to overhear his conversation. Not that it mattered. If it were Imam Ali who had called, they would be talking in Arabic.
Ayez’s return call was answered in English on the first ring.
“To whom am I speaking?” Ayez asked in Arabic.
“This is the Imam Ali.”
“It’s Ayez, Ali. Did you phone me?”
“Oh, Ayez. Thank Allah you called. There has been a disaster.”
“What sort of disaster?” Ali’s voice held none of the confidence he had exuded two weeks ago when he was trying to sell Ayez on opening another madrassa.
“A terrible disaster. And I can’t find Omar. He’s not at home, and he doesn’t answer his cell phone. Even you, Ayez, didn’t answer your cell phone.”
“Just tell me what happened, Ali.” He must have thought Omar and Ayez sat around waiting for his call.
“The three men who operated Omar’s RV, they’re all dead.”
“How?” Ayez felt a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“They died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Somebody ran a hose from the RV’s exhaust to the air-conditioning. Somebody murdered them.” Ali was talking so fast Ayez could barely understand him.
“That sounds like a difficult way to kill somebody. Are you sure they didn’t commit suicide?”
“Forget how they died. The FBI found them and also found the things they used for the beheadings. They found the drapes they used to shield the scene, and they found the video equipment used to make the recordings we sent to the media. Now the FBI is here at the mosque searching the place. They showed up about a half hour ago with search warrants.”
“Have they questioned anybody?” Ayez thanked Allah that Omar’s name was not officially tied to the RV.
“They told everybody here to stay put while they searched the mosque and offices. I’m sure they’re going to interrogate us as soon as they finish their search.”
“You’d better get in touch with a lawyer. Phone CAIR and ask them to recommend one.” CAIR stood for Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group that pretty much followed the militant Islamic party line.
“We’ve already done that. That’s why I’ve been trying to reach Omar. The FBI knows Omar has been using that bus every weekend. They’ll want to question him. And you too, Ayez.”
Ayez’s spirits sank. Strangely, his first thought was that this might ruin his relationship with Jade. Would she hate him if he were accused of being a terrorist? He said, “You will have to tell the FBI you lent the RV to Omar because of his ongoing financial support for your mosque. You can say you had no idea the RV was being operated by terrorists.”
“I’ve already said that, but I don’t think the FBI men believe me.” Ali’s voice verged on panic. “I don’t know what I should do.”
“Stick to your story. The FBI has no way of proving anything different.” Advising the panicky Ali came easy to Ayez, who at the moment was far more concerned over his budding relationship with Jade.
“I’ll try. Will you warn Omar that the FBI is looking for him? I don’t know how much longer they’ll let me use this phone.”
“I’ll get in touch with him.” The FBI would probably let him make calls as long as he wished. No doubt they were already monitoring the lines and recording the numbers called. It occurred to him that they might also be listening to this call. “You just sit tight and tell the FBI the truth. How could you know the men you hired to operate that RV were killers?”
“All right. But keep your cell phone on in case I need your help. And get in touch with Omar.”
“I will.” Ayez hung up and hit Omar’s cell number on his speed dial. The answering machine cut in immediately, indicating Omar had his phone turned off.

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