Sunday, February 25, 2007

Last bit on Imam Musa

I guess I ran out of narrative steam. I'm not quite sure what happened; I must have been distracted by a shiny bauble-- a colorful little gewgaw-- and I just love gewgaws. Love them! I apologize for losing focus.

Anyhoooo. So Big Hank dealt dope the JC Penney way. Big Hank moved from pot to harder drugs. Big Hank made a killing. At one point, Big Hank looked in the mirror of a nightclub and thought to himself, "Man, I look mean. I look like a drug dealer. I'm sitting there thinking, 'this guy, that guy owes me money.'"

Big Hank kept dealing drugs. Big Hank got involved with "fake Islam"; i.e., the Nation Of Islam. Big Hank started to associate with the Black Panthers. Big Hank fled to Algeria, where he presumably consorted with Eldridge Cleaver and the hanger-on, Timothy Leary. Big Hank changed his mind and turned himself in, eventually doing time in federal prison.

Big Hank had one of those slow-motion epiphanies. There was no one moment, he says. But he converted to Islam (Sunni, though he abhors the exaggerated divisions between Sunnis and Shi'as that prevail these days). Big Hank became Abdul Alim Musa. Abdul Alim Musa became the imam of a major mosque in Washington.

So that's his basic story. I had a wonderfully entertaining conversation with the man; we talked about drugs quite a bit. Although he travels the world to preach the evils of drug use, and exudes a convincing moral opposition to getting high (he is an advocate of legalization, tho), I can't help but suspect that he's a little nostalgic. His stories were just a little too colorful. Anyway, he seemed kind & tolerant & open-minded, despite his apparent reputation as Radical Terrorist Agitator. Now, I can't judge simply based on evidence from a 3-hour Amtrak conversation. But if asked, I will argue that his reputation comes from his rhetoric, and that his rhetoric comes from his formative years in '60s radical Oakland. If you see him on Fox News as a straw man someday, take his rhetoric & his stubborn unwillingness to categorically deny, say, hating America, as the American anti-authoritarianism that it is.