An Orange County evangelical partnership hoping to destroy Islam has a new enemy: itself.
In the battle of the Christian titans, Irvine pastor Robert Morey, a self-styled expert on Islam and terrorism, is fighting with Fullerton-based Davidson Press over the rights to publish the comic book, Mohammed's Believe It or Else!
Morey's MBIEclaims to offer a "true" retelling of Mohammed's life, liberally quoting from the Koran and various Hadiths (collections of Mohammed's sayings). Like all Good Books, the Koran has its bizarre passages, and MBIE author Abdullah Aziz focuses exclusively on these—like the one in which vegetables 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. More inflammatory is the way the book depicts the Prophet Mohammed: he's an ape. Flies buzz around 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."
That sort of stuff has drawn death threats. But it has also boosted the book's popularity: last February, following publication of Danish cartoons that disparaged Mohammed, readers looking for free downloadable copies of MBIEswamped a Davidson Press website, islamcomicbook.com. Visitors to the website typically numbered just 1,000 per week; following the Death Match in Denmark, that number grew quickly to 180,000.
Then the comic disappeared. A note on islamcomicbook.com explains Davidson's side of the rift. Shortly after the book's stratospheric rise, Morey—who owns the copyright to MBIE—demanded that Davidson Press cease free distribution. He refused Davidson Press's demand to be reimbursed for the costs of translating MBIE into 34 languages and maintaining islamcomicbook.com.
Why would Morey stop free distribution of a book suddenly so popular? Davidson says it's the money. No longer available at islamcomicbook.com, MBIE is now on sale for $6.95 on Morey's site, faithdefenders.com.
Davidson charges that the new comic, printed on glossy paper, "costs far more to print than it should have cost, given its original intent as a 'missionary publication.' In short, its ministry value is zero as a missionary publication. But, man, can it make money for Dr. Morey!"
Morey fought back. On March 2, his ministry's board of directors threatened to sue Davidson Press publisher Charles Welty if he continued to offer free electronic copies of MBIE through islamcomicbook.com.
"We pray that you cease your current activities before any remedies are pursued against you," read the letter, signed by Faith Defenders board members Cynthia Ortiz and Mark Ziebold.
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On islamcomicbook.com, where readers once downloaded MBIE, Davidson Press has posted another note. "We have no files to offer to you," it reads. "Sorry. What the Muslims could not accomplish, the Christians did. Amazing."
Despite the battle, Welty and Davidson Press still support Morey. Islamcomicbook.com offers links to Morey's The Islamic Invasionand Winning the War Against Radical Islam. The latter advocates nuclear attacks on the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
"In spite of the differences that have arisen between us, we still recommend Dr. Morey's books," reads a note on the Davidson site. "That may change if he threatens to sue us. We offer links to Dr. Morey's other books and to his website as a courtesy because, notwithstanding Dr. Morey's questionable ethics in how he treated us, we still think he has some of the best books on the subject that are on the market. Too bad he can't see past his own problems to work with people like us, who work diligently and efficiently toward a common goal."