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.
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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 rsum 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.
At these conferences and seminars, Morey and his supporters usually make the following claims:
•Morey is on a Hamas assassination list.
•The FBI once foiled an assassination attempt against Morey.
•An Israeli policy to take land from Palestinians after every Palestinian suicide attack was instituted after Israeli military officials consulted with Morey.
•Morey has read every book the Library of Congress offers on Islam—about 7,000.
•The first commentator on national radio to identify Osama bin Laden as the mastermind behind the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Africa was Morey.
•He predicted the 1993 World Trade Center attack two weeks before it happened.
•Morey worked as a consultant with the Los Angeles Police Department, who wanted to know if Muslims would "shoot them or kill them" if officers entered Southern California mosques to seize computers.
* * *
In November 2001, Morey told a San Diego church he had advised the State Department to blow up the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina if they wanted to win the war on terror quickly. "These cities could be vaporized in minutes, and there is nothing that the Saudis or any other Muslim country could do to stop us," Morey wrote in his 2002 Winning the War Against Radical Islam. "With these surgical strikes, few lives would be lost. And, with three strikes against them, Islam is out!"
The State Department didn't agree with his idea, Morey told the church audience, because State is "full of wusses."
"Like the heroic figure 'Valiant for Truth' from Pilgrim's Progress, Dr. Robert A. Morey has been waging warfare against the enemies of the Gospel for 40 years," his website once boasted. "His books are weapons that he has forged in the fires of biblical truth, and you can use them to defeat the enemies of Christ."
Morey's claims are repeated over and over by conservatives, but little of the Morey story is verifiable. A spokesperson for the FBI refused comment, as did the Los Angeles Police Department—which did say it was "highly unlikely" they would have used Morey. In 2004, Faith Theological Seminary asked Morey to return his doctorate while the school determined whether he had earned it. When Morey accused Faith principal Timotheus Nasir of being a Muslim, the school revoked Morey's doctorate "in the light of his un-Christian behavior, [and] below-Christian-standard Christian services that have brought sham [sic] to Christianity and his ignorance to the Word of God." What's more, according to Nasir, Morey's doctorate was never legitimate in the first place.
"We categorically deny the claim of Robert Morey. We did not award any certification or degree to him," Nasir told the Weekly via e-mail. "The degree he claims was not initiated from Pakistan. Thus the degree he claims is 'Forged and Fake.'"
Morey also claims to have received a doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University. Two problems: LBU is unaccredited by the United States government, which means no serious academy would recognize it. Then there's this: LBU doesn't offer a Ph.D. in Islamic studies.
* * *
In 2002, the conservative website WorldNetDaily published a fund-raising plea on behalf of Morey's Research and Education Foundation. He was asking for $1.2 million to "launch a national crusade" against radical Islam. "Dr. Morey has stepped forward to debate Muslim leaders in universities across the nation . . . and they were defeated so completely that they now run from any further public debates," the fund-raising letter claimed. "Like 'a voice crying in the wilderness,' Dr. Morey has done all in his power to prepare America for the coming storm of Islamic terrorism."
Tax records obtained by the Weekly show the fund-raiser failed to hit its target, raising just $92,707 for his Research and Education Foundation in 2002. But that hasn't stopped Morey from pursuing cash under the auspices of battling Islam. In 2005, Morey filed for and received nonprofit status for his Faith Defenders Ministry by turning it into an Irvine church. There, Morey offers membership in the Crusader's Club. The Crusader's Club website lists four membership levels along with corresponding dues and benefits, ranging from Crusader ($300 per year earns you a CD of the month) to King Richard's Court ($5,000 per year gets you the CD, a mug, a subscription to Morey's Journal of Biblical Apologetics, Morey's private e-mail address, a piece of battle armor and an invitation to the annual Crusader's Club banquet).
"If you wish to join Dr. Morey on the front lines in the cause of God and truth, then you must join the Crusader's Club," reads his pitch to potential members. "Join us on the front lines as we fight the cults and the occult, Islam, and other false religions."
"He has a hide as thick as a rhinoceros," says Charles Welty, who has worked with Morey on translating the Bible from ancient texts. "He'll argue with everyone."
In an interview with the Weekly, Morey had an answer for everything:
•He's never met Dr. Abdullah Aziz but thinks he's a Persian engineer who lives in New York. They've communicated only by phone or e-mail.
•He's never met anyone with Crescent Moon Publishing.
•His consulting job with the LAPD involved accepting an invitation by the staff chaplain to speak about various religious groups so "that the police should understand their beliefs so as not to unnecessarily offend them or to walk into a situation that could be life-threatening."
•The FBI told him he was on a Hamas assassination list.
•He read all the Library of Congress books on Islam for a project on English-language books on the religion.
•Dr. Nasir, principal of Faith Theological Seminary in Pakistan, is "a Muslim sympathizer." He doesn't recognize Nasir's "power to do anything."
•When told LBU offers no program in Islamic studies, Morrey corrected himself and said his doctorate is in theology, with an emphasis on Islam. He's the first and only student to receive such a degree from the school.
* * *
Morey insists Islam isn't his primary focus. "Only three of my 47 books have been on Islam," Morey says. "If 9/11 would've not happened, and the specter of terrorism hadn't arisen to threaten the public, I wouldn't have been called upon to lecture on the issue."
Morey wasn't always so belligerent toward Islam. "We must state at the outset that it is not our intent in this book to offend devout Muslims," Morey wrote in his 1992 book The Islamic Invasion. "We are not trying to hurt their feelings or embarrass them in any way. We know from personal experience that many Muslims are good, hardworking people who have overcome impossible odds to make a new home for themselves in the West."
But his tone changed with 2002's Winning the War Against Radical Islam, which featured a nuclear mushroom cloud on its cover. "Liberalism is absolutely impotent to fight Islam because it cannot condemn it as false or evil," Morey noted near the end.
The book ends with plugs for various Morey books—and Mohammed's Believe It or Else!
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