Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Interview with a Cairo rioter

I must protect my sources and means, but I have this morning conducted an interview with a Cairo resident who took part in the riot against the American embassy in Cairo last week. In fact, he was one of the relative few who actually made it over the wall into the grounds of the embassy.

My interview was with a Cairo man, 28 years old, named Muhammad Achmed Mohammed. He speaks English well but not quickly and sometimes stops and restates his point. In the transcript, I have omitted those kinds of gaps or restarts in order to enhance clarity.

ME: Hello, Muhammad, thank you for agreeing to speak with me today. I hope my readers and I will understand better what happened last week with the events at the American embassy.

Muhammad: Yes, of course. I am happy to talk with you. We need to understand one another better, I agree with you.

ME: Well, then let's start there. What would you like Americans to understand most of all?

Muhammad: It is very simple: If you insult Muhammad the prophet, peace be upon him, we will kill you.

ME: So if I said to you, in person, not on the telephone – and please understand that I am not saying this, I am merely proposing a fictional situation for discussion, nothing more – that Muhammad was a false prophet, what would your reaction be?

Muhammad: I would have to kill you.

ME: Even though I am not a Muslim?

Muhammad: There is only the consideration that because you are not a Muslim of course you do not believe that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a prophet. Nonetheless, you would deserve to die unless you immediately repented of you sin and made shahada that,"There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet." If you did that, of course then we would be brothers and you would live.

ME: What if someone who has already made shahada said that Muhammad was not a prophet after all?

Muhammad: That is apostasy and he would have to die without hesitation. So you see, Islam is actually more forgiving of nonbelievers than Muslims.

ME: But my fictional example was purely religious in nature, whether Muhammad was or was not a prophet. What if I said something not really religious, such as – another fictional example to help us understand, please remember – "Muhammad was a murderer and pedophile child rapist?"

Muhammad: It does not matter. You cannot insult the prophet in any way and expect to live.

ME: So, no claiming that Muhammad snorted cocaine?

Muhammad: Afraid not.

ME: Kited checks?

Muhammad: No.

ME: Voted for Obama?

Muhammad: Still death, except for that insult I would torture you first.

ME: Let's get back to the embassy matter. What did you do that first night?

Muhammad: As I was leaving my workplace that later afternoon, my friend Achmed Muhammad Achmed called me on my cell phone and told me that we were going to storm the American embassy later that evening. I told him I wanted to take part.

ME: Did he say why you were storming the embassy?

Muhammad: No, it was not necessary. We had been talking with the Salafis about it for a long time. They said that September 11 would be a good date. That made sense.

ME: When you said, "we" would be going against the embassy, who do you mean by we?

Muhammad: Achmed Muhammad Achmed and two thousand of our closest friends. There were more than that in the event, but I didn't know all of them. We are aligned with the Salafis but when the riot began, the Brotherhood tried to horn in. That was rude.

ME: Did you and the other Salafis riot because of the Youtube video?

Muhammad: Huh?

ME: Did you and the other Salafis riot because of the Youtube video? The one that was said to insult Islam?

Muhammad: Let me see . . . Oh, yes, that was the reason, certainly.

ME: The White House says that the riots in Cairo and Libya and eighteen or so other Muslim nations are not protests against America or the Obama administration. Your response?

Muhammad: Oh, yes, of course, that is correct. We love America and especially we love President Hussein.

ME: Obama.

Muhammad: Gesundheit. Is that the right word?

ME: No, I mean President Obama, not President Hussein.

Muhammad: Who?

ME: Obama!

Muhammad: What?

ME: I don't know! ... Okay, reset. You mentioned your workplace and that you love America and its president. What do you do for a living?

Muhammad: I own "Achmed's Flag Emporium," where my brother and my cousin make and sell American flags that are specially designed to burn easily and brightly. Business is excellent!

ME: But you love America?

Muhammad: Of course! Selling American flags to burn is making me rich!

Update: Jump ahead to 3:07


Endnote: Just to make sure - please realize that this is "interview" is a work of fiction, intended as satire. I did not actually speak to anyone in Egypt.

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