By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Forget Danish cartoons. You want an offensive Mohammed? Cast your eyes homeward to Orange County, to Mohammed's Believe It or Else!
The 24-page comic book is available on islamcomicbook.com, a Fullerton-based website. Before the Danish cartoon controversy, the MBIE got 1,000 hits a week. Last week, it got 180,000.
MBIEoffers readers a "true" retelling of Mohammed's life, liberally quoting from the Quran and various Hadiths (a collection of Mohammed's sayings). Like all Good Books, the Quran has its bizarre passages, and MBIE focuses exclusively on these—like the one that says vegetables would sing to Mohammed. Such selectivity isn't outrageous—it's just not fair: one could play similar games with the Book of Revelation and much of the rest of the Christian Bible. But the way author and illustrator Dr. Abdullah Aziz depicts Mohammed, founder of Islam? That's just plain retarded: Aziz draws Islam's holiest prophet as an ape. Flies buzz him. His beard and hair are scraggly. He's got horrific dentition, even, one imagines, by the standards of the first millennium Arabian peninsula; gaps separate the teeth in his overbite. Stink lines radiate from his armpits. When the Messenger of Allah speaks, it's usually in grunts and infantilisms—"Pretty!" "Ahhh!" "Me forget."
After weeks of searching, I could find no one who could identify Aziz, or whether he even exists. On islamcomicbook.com, he says he lives "deep underground in Mecca." Although MBIEfeatures an ISBN, the United States Copyright office doesn't have it on file. The book is supposedly published by Crescent Moon Publishers in Las Vegas, but the Nevada Secretary of State has no record of the company. The only similarly named firm is Crescent Moon, an Orange County company founded in 1999 and dissolved in 2001, with J. Patrick and Orshi K. McNaughton (both of Costa Mesa) listed as officers.
The Fullerton-based Davidson Press maintains islamcomicbook.com and offers free downloads and translations of the comic in more than a dozen languages. But Charles and William Welty, the brothers behind the website, say they've never met Aziz or anyone associated with Crescent Moon Publishers. They offer an interesting genesis story about the book, and it begins with an infamous local Christian, Dr. Robert A. Morey, head pastor of Faith Defenders Community Church in Irvine.
The Weltys say they met Morey shortly after the comic's publication in 2001. They say Morey approached them on behalf of Crescent Moon Publishers with the idea of converting MBIE into easy-to-download files that people could print out for free.
"Morey and the people he's associated with, they didn't have the staff for the job," says Charles. Following the Danish cartoon furor, Davidson Press began charging for downloads, and Charles says, "Dr. Morey has indicated they want to take all these rights [to the comic book] back."
The website has been down since Feb. 24, a day after I spoke with the Welty brothers.
In fact, all available evidence suggests Morey is behind MBIE. Islamcomicbook.com asks anyone interested in contacting Aziz to call (800) 41-TRUTH. That phone number belongs to Faith Defenders, Morey's longtime ministry. Morey is also president of the Research and Education Foundation (REF), an Orange-based nonprofit; islamcomicbook.com says REF offers "educational resources on Islam and other religions." The only non-comic-book items for sale on islamcomicbook.com are two Morey books, Winning the War Against Radical Islam and The Islamic Invasion, and Between Jesus and Mohammed, a collection of essays by Morey and William Welty. The only other online store I could find that stocks Mohammed's Believe It or Else! is the website for Faith Defenders.
Morey's involvement with the crude MBIE is about par for a man who has built his career on "exposing" Islam yet has long escaped similar scrutiny of his own work.
* * *
In March 2002, Morey sat for an interview with Mark Ellis, assistant pastor at Calvary Evangelical Free Church in Laguna Beach. Based on that conversation, Ellis wrote "Islam Expert Warns of [Three] Nuclear Terror Devices Inside U.S.," an article for the Christian news service ASSIST.
"I have Middle Eastern friends throughout the U.S. who continually feed me information as to what the terrorists are up to," Morey told Ellis. "I, in turn, feed that information to the FBI and Naval Intelligence. I've been right so many times the FBI showed up at my house, suspicious as to whether or not I was somehow involved—because I knew too much. I simply pointed out to them they don't have their ear to the ground in the Middle Eastern community."
You'd think news of three nukes hidden in American cities would make headlines around the world. But no mainstream journalist reprinted Morey's claim—despite the fact that Morey pitches himself as one of the country's leading experts on Islam. His résumé lists a doctorate in divinity in Islamic studies from Faith Theological Seminary in Gujranwala, Pakistan, and a separate doctorate in Islamic studies from Louisiana Baptist University. For years, he hosted Bob Morey Live!(heard locally on KPSL-AM 830), where he mixed commentaries on the Bible with jabs at Islam; on Dec. 9, 2003, during one of his last broadcasts, Morey told listeners Islam was "rotten in its roots."He travels the Christian fundamentalist circuit delivering the same message: Islam is inherently dangerous.