(Alex Wintour undergoing her first interrogation by Omar, the young terrorist assigned to her case by the elders. He is cruel at first but slowly responds to his forbidden attraction for this girl.)
We were briefed on Islam and the cultural, religious and historical differences between these sects, Sunni and Shia, and their geopolitical significance in the Muslim world. It is almost impossible to keep it straight. There is so much cross over and misunderstanding between the two. Omar is a Sunni as are most Muslims in Pakistan and over 90% of the Muslim world. The differences are historical, having more to do with political leadership and governance than religion. The Koran and its tenets are common to both but interpretation varies widely.
My mind skipped from escape to rescue to acquiescence. I wanted to talk with Max.
Omar was not smiling or smirking. He was challenging, competitive. He seemed to be saying: “How can a woman defy me, especially a western woman?”
He was right, I was defying him, this guy was with a woman the likes of which he’s never seen before. A woman comfortable in her own skin, a woman taught to be independent, a woman who’s relations with men were equal, balanced and comfortable. Muslim women were trained from birth to be subservient to men, they didn’t know any other way. I felt sorry for them.
I would never conform to Muslim attitudes towards women. The idea that women were somehow inferior and needed to be forced into stereotypical roles with dress codes, lack of education and submissiveness was foreign to Western thought and culture, especially my generation.
Omar spoke perfect English with a broken Pakistani accent. He used American slang on occasion, his syntax indicated time in the US or Canada maybe. Muslim women were forbidden to speak until spoken too. I was not a Muslim woman.
“Tell me Mr. Omar, when were you living in the US?”
The question shocked him. He squinted, his eyes turning into narrow slits. His expression was threatening as he tensed and moved his arm to a menacing position. I braced for the blow that didn’t come.
Omar glanced at Abdul Aalee who stood motionless in the back of the room. It was not clear if Allee spoke or understood English. I assumed the latter.
He spoke in very low tones, almost a whisper, as he replied.
“You know nothing about me or my background, woman. Silence!”
I ignored him.
“I know more about you than you think. Your speech betrays you. You spent time in the American Midwest or Canada maybe? You speak English like you’ve been in Indiana or Kansas maybe. Is this not so, Mr. Omar?”
Again he glared and again he glanced at Allee. I didn’t know what to expect, either he would punish me physically or lock me in my room without meals or exercise privileges. I’d hope for the former. Meals with the others and walking in the yard were essential to my health. A few more slaps meant nothing.
I was shocked, he answered with an acquiescence in his tone, as if he had discovered an old friend or compatriot.
“Have you ever been to Kansas?”
Oh my God, what a breakthrough! After all this, it turns out my hunch, and that’s all it was, is right. Omar had spent time in America. Was it as a tourist or a student or perhaps the member of a terrorist cell? We knew that terrorists preferred small towns in the Midwest. Their modus operandi were to blend into the community as newsstand owners or taxi drivers minimizing attention to themselves.
I smiled weakly, nodded my head and responded:
“Yes, Omar, I’ve been to Kansas”.