From the LA Weekly (thanks to LGF), a story called “White Muslim,” about Charles Vincent, an American convert to Islam. As I have remarked about converts many times, this man approached the Qur’an and Islam without preconceptions. Why does he think what he does about jihad?
Dressed as he is in an Islamic-style tunic and a white kufi, or cap, with an untrimmed ginger beard sprouting from his handsome, classically Californian face, Vincent may look unusual, but he certainly isn’t alienated, or for that matter, alone. In the United States, there are estimated to be roughly 80,000 white and Hispanic Muslims, along with a far greater number of African-American ones. In France, there are perhaps 50,000, according to a secret government intelligence report leaked to the French newspaper Le Figaro. (A Muslim resident of the racially mixed Belleville district of Paris told me that out of every 100 Muslims one sees there, 30 are former French Catholics.) The report stated that conversion to Islam “has become a phenomenon [in France] that needs to be followed closely.” A recent study commissioned by Jonathan (“Yahya”) Birt, a Muslim convert and the son of a former director-general of the BBC, put the figure in Britain at a more modest 14,000, and there are similar estimates for Spain and Germany. More people are converting on all sides of the globe — from Australia and New Zealand to Sweden and Denmark. At the moment the number of converts can only be called a trickle, but it is steady and gathering in power….
“Why shouldn’t you listen to music?” I asked.
“Because it takes up valuable space in my mind, space I need for the entire Koran rather than Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ or something nonsensical like that. These things are not going to benefit me in the hereafter, they will only be held against me.”
Mateen Siddiqui, vice president of the Michigan-based Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA), a Sufi Muslim organization that has many white adherents and keeps tabs on fundamentalist Islam in America, calls that “a very hardcore, Taliban-style belief. I wouldn’t say it’s militant, but it’s very extreme. The problem is it can often lead to a militant attitude in the future.” According to the ISCA, the majority of mosques in the United States have been taken over by radicals who preach the dour, restrictive version of Wahhabi Islam financed and championed by Saudi Arabia.
Funny. When I said that in talks at the University of North Carolina and Oakland University in Michigan, the Muslim students in the audience were incredulous. It was as if they had never heard of Saudi Arabia.
“If you go to an ordinary Islamic country,” Siddiqui told me, “they don’t act like that. Most Muslims watch TV, take pictures, listen to music . . . The same is true of a lot of the people who go to the mosques in America. The people who go to them are normal Muslims, but the people who run them are very strict. If a new Muslim comes, they will grab him and indoctrinate him.”…
Vincent denies that he has been manipulated by anyone in the mosques he goes to, or by his Arab acquaintances. On the contrary, he says that he and his Moroccan friend discovered — rediscovered in the latter’s case — Islam and the Koran together. Nor does he think much of Sufism. “Be careful of that stuff,” he told me in his kindly way when the topic came up during one of our first conversations, a frown furrowing his brow. “I’ll just give you a little example of what I mean by that. The Prophet Muhammad, salla ‘alayhi wa sallam [peace and blessings be upon him], anything that came out of his mouth was recorded, just like you’re recording now. And he said this religion will break up into 73 sects, and all of them are going into the hellfire except for the one on the true path of true religion. So when it comes to Sufism, it’s not anything I would consider to be . . . For me, I can’t consider that being any part of an article about Islam.”
“So you consider yourself a Sunni Muslim?”
“I would say I was a Muslim following the one true path.”…
As we headed down FDR Drive, with the East River streaming past us on our left, the conversation turned to politics. It was a week or so before the presidential election, but Vincent said he had no intention of voting. Democracy is based on compromise, he told me, and Islam does not compromise. If he could vote for an Islamic state, he would, with Saudi Arabia as the model. Asked about Taliban-era Afghanistan, he replied cautiously that he didn’t know enough about it to comment. It is his fervent hope that early next year, in the company of a million or so other Muslims, he will be able to go on the haj and circle the black stone at Mecca. “Besides wanting my parents to become Muslim, there’s nothing I want more.”…
But perhaps there is no need to say anything. When I asked Vincent what he thought about al-Yaqoubi’s statement, he answered, with a touch of defiance, that he felt just fine about it. “I do wish the American troops would be defeated,” he told me, adding, “I’m a Muslim first, and I just live in this country.” (If he could find a bumper sticker that read “AGAINST THE TROOPS,” he said, he’d put it on his cab.) And were he ever to find himself in the Middle East, let’s say Iraq, would he fight against American soldiers? “If there was a jihad,” he replied evenly, “I don’t see how I could not join in.”