FOREIGN EXCHANGE, a novel, due 2016

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This didn’t feel right to me, I felt from the beginning, the Ambassador’s family should be off-limits, kidnapping his daughter would bring unwanted attention and reprisals not prisoner exchange. This would excite an emotional response, stepped up Drone surveillance, US Navy Seal reconnaissance and intelligence gathering from underworld informants whose loyalty to our cause was for sale at the right price.

 

She was a pretty girl, looked older than her reported 16 years. Allah forgive me if I’m not attracted to her in ways that are forbidden to me.

 

She was tall by Pakistani standards, 5’9″ and slim, not skinny, with an athletes build. Her hair was the color of straw from a late harvest and short with streaked highlights. She had small firm breasts and blue eyes, her tight skinny jeans showed off her long legs.  When I studied at Kansas State, I met others like her but none exactly like her, this girl had attitude and seemed fearless.

 

The look she gave me when entering the house was not fear or loathing, more inquisitive, wondering why someone my age was there, among these bearded geriatrics. She was exhausted from the trip but stood tall with a defiant demeanor. When the house mistress took her by the elbow she followed her but jerked away from her grip, she turned for a second look at me.  What was it about these Americans, they were innately competitive, they wouldn’t back down, even in the face of danger.

 

I worried about reprisals, her father, US Ambassador Owen Wintour, was new here and untested. None of us knew how he would react or whether the US government would relax their policy on negotiations. We had been unsuccessful in the past. The American aid worker we’re presently holding had not generated the response we anticipated, it was becoming expensive and inconvenient to continue his captivity. When a hostage was no longer useful to our cause the question became one of disposal. The elders would either make an example of them by releasing humiliating videos or decapitate them or both.

 

Kidnapping the Ambassador’s daughter was an escalation in strategy, we were desperate to secure the release of Abdur-Raheem, he was our spiritual leader and strategist. Raheem was Ben Laden’s chief of staff and chief organizer of the 9/11 success in NY, he was brilliant. Training our people as suicide bombers took patience and religious fervor, Abdur had both. The team carrying out 9/11 were trained by him personally, they knew that success guaranteed them a special place in the presence of Allah, their last words before impact would be “Allah Akbar”, God Is Great!

 

The coming days would challenge me and my devotion to Allah, I had no right to feelings for this girl beyond our political ends. I should have requested a transfer to Karachi or a move back to the States as a team leader planning our next event in the service of Allah.

 

Some Muslims believe the US is bent upon the destruction of Islam but they’re misinformed. The Americans know nothing about our holy book, the Koran. They criticize our Madrassas where the Koran and precepts of Allah are taught, and yet their children attend Christian bible school or Jewish training for Bar Mitzvah from the age of five.  The Muslim world is backward by Western standards and yet we all come from the same human mud. We want medical care and education for our children, we want freedom of religion and assembly, we want economic opportunities and parity with the west and access to modern conveniences. The desperation of Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and parts of North Africa seeds the breeding ground for Taliban and Al Qaeda. These movements, while extreme, are options to desperation. The economic and political challenges facing indigent Muslims are not being met by the Western indifference of world leaders. Young Muslims, myself included, are attracted to military solutions to an economic dichotomy. The west calls us terrorists or extremists, we call ourselves soldiers in the service of Allah. Is there a difference between the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, both meant to stun the enemy into submission? For Muslims dedicated to Allah and strict interpretation of the Koran, the West is our enemy, no less so than Japan in the early 40’s was to America. The difference was that Japan, like Al Qaeda, did not have a nuclear capability. Al Qaeda is working on that.

 

While studying at Kansas State I became disillusioned by liberal attitudes towards women, sexuality, drugs and alcohol on campus, attitudes accepted by American students. They were diametrically opposed to Muslim teachings. It was there, in Kansas, that I accepted Allah as my ultimate teacher and the Koran as my bible. I would oppose American culture, the great Satan had taken hold of the West, extreme measures were needed to preserve the true word of Allah.

 

And yet, there was this American girl in the next room, I couldn’t take my mind off her. My emotions and physical arousal were defying my logic and training as a Muslim, I was conflicted and anxious, what was happening to me. The call to prayer came in time, I needed Allah’s intervention. I rolled out the rug and went to my knees, bowing my forehead to the ground, I begged Allah for guidance and the strength to follow his teaching.

 

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