1. The Story of the One Thousand and One Meter Tower
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Wholly Compassionate. Said she to her king, It was told to me there was once an emir whose port lay on the road between the East and the Holy City, and the travelers on that road brought great riches to the port.
The emir, who was a pious man, who loved his people as his family, second only to Allah, said to his vizier, Old Friend, we have gained much from the people Allah has brought through our lands. Lo! I watch them pass by my windows each day like a parade for our Lord, who has raised this earth up from the sea. We must use our riches as did the princes of the Golden Era: to welcome our visitors, to celebrate Allah.
So along the road, which led from the East to the Holy City, the people of the port pushed sand into the sea, using machines purchased by the emir, who looked out from his home at the rising islands, their edges thinning into widow’s peaks, the people of the port shifting the gears of skidsteers and excavators against the ageing of the sea. Ya Allah, said the emir, how great are you, and effortless, that this labor is but an imitation.
Down below on the island, two young men dallied. Not workers, they, but lagabouts. Not brothers, they, but friends, waiting on one’s father. Fahd, the younger, lean and seamless, a body so long it seemed without angles. Khalid, the elder, though only months, short, stout, yet knobby, his beard so thick he might be well guessed as any man’s son.
Why, asked Fahd, should they do this? We couldn’t use ourselves better?
Why do anything? said Khalid. You use yourself so well now? That’s your problem?
They’ll raise an island and in the island an island and on the islands a city and in the city a tower a thousand meters high. Allah is up there, a thousand meters high? One thousand and one?
As much as anywhere, said Khalid.
Then I’ll stay here, said Fahd, and drink wine and sleep. Arabs, he said, doing nothing at all and always that on such useless work.
Fine by me, said Khalid. I’m proud to be an Arab. You know that tower, he said, will be so tall, they’ll use three towers to support it—the way real Arabs need four wives: three to hold the base while you show off for the fourth. The weight of Khalid’s head struck suddenly forward, he knew his father had returned from surveying the houses where his family would live, someday, on the east end of the outer sand of the port’s new manmade islands.
Ya Uncle, said Fahd.
Ya sons of dogs, said the father of Khalid, raised almost to anger not by the tastelessness of the humor but by the inference, however jokingly, that anyone presume to know the reasons for the creeds of Allah. The young men knew this of him. Only a decade ago they had been young boys in the madrasah.1 Staying afternoons in the house of Khalid’s mother, they would lose hours to internet searches on alcohol abuse and cirrhosis of the liver, to blogs dedicated to food and medicine where they sought out stories of toddlers vomiting to death from pork trichinosis2, and no matter how many times they had been told, they would run after to Khalid’s father crying vindication for Islam against the Nonbelievers.3 And each time Khalid’s father would strike them and rage against their insolence and presumption.
Peace, ya Uncle. I’m so happy to see you, said Fahd.
And Peace to you, ya Fahd, said the father of Khalid. I don’t, he said, turning to Khalid, like this talk.
Ya Babba, said Khalid.
Ya Babba, said the father of Khalid. Sons of dogs. If you are not careful you will find yourselves in the position of the king who presumed to know the desires of women. And did not Allah make all men—and women? And if a ruler of peoples cannot know the heart of even his wife, how do you claim to know the purposes of Allah?
What is this of which you speak? asked Fahd. Tell us, ya Uncle.
2. The Story of the Ruler Who Presumed to Know the Desires of Women
The father of Khalid said to Khalid and Fahd, There was once a great king whose name was—
Fahd, shouted Fahd.
No, Khalid, shouted Khalid.
Don’t be children, said the father of Khalid. There was a king who presumed to know the desires of women and—
Everything went poorly for him, said Khalid.
And he talked, said Fahd, to animals.
I don’t think so, said the father of Khalid. But he was a fool who caused much sorrow, which was faced with courage and beauty. And such a man hears the angels of his shoulders logging and taunting regrets.4
3. The Story of Abu Mohammed ibn Mohammed
The father of Khalid hacked irritably from the top of his throat as men do who know their conversation has been stopped up with drollness, men who wish to make their seriousness comical and cannot. So the talk of the two young men and Khalid’s father loped along much the same, all through their walk to the sedan and over the bridge which connected the islands now to the city of the port, where Khalid’s father left the young men in a café to spend the evening at their leisure.
The father of Khalid almost never thought of himself as the father of Khalid. He had had three wives and eleven sons, and a daughter, the last of his dozen. The father of Khalid fancied himself The Man with a Daughter. Mustn’t Allah want him to think thus, thought he, to have given him first a wall of men to see her against, his sons like himself all burnt ochre with sun, but his daughter fair as her mother, fairer, for her mother had veiled the girl, even when she was very young.
The Man with a Daughter went to visit his first wife, who never called him The Man with a Daughter. Nor did she, as did the people of their apartment, call him The Father of Many Sons. The Man with a Daughter was called by his first wife Abu Mohammed ibn Mohammed, the father of Mohammed the son of Mohammed. They had too many Mohammeds, she said. This should not have bothered The Man with a Daughter: his father had been Mohammed; his first son had been Mohammed; he was, in fact, a Mohammed. And when his eleventh son was born—by his second wife, his second wife who was thought to be barren, so much so she had never objected to his marrying a third—Mohammed, not then yet The Man with a Daughter, declared his son a gift of God, and named him Mohammed, after himself.
Mohammed, the father of Mohammed, had been so encompassed in his sense of this miracle, it never crossed his thoughts that a man ought not to have two sons of the same name. Mohammed’s first wife, however, whose first son was the first Son of Mohammed Son of Mohammed, thought ill of this immediately and long, and though the second Mohammed, born to the second wife of Mohammed, was of twenty years and had for twenty years been called Khalid, though Mohammed, her husband, was now a man with a daughter, a daughter fair and beautiful and of eighteen years, the first wife of Mohammed, who thought of herself as The First Wife of Mohammed, greeted him at the door with kisses on each cheek, saying, Abu Mohammed ibn Mohammed, there is a young man in the apartment of your third wife who wants to marry your daughter. He is the friend of one of your sons. I have forgotten now his name.
4. The Story of the Two Young Men and the Beautiful Jinn’s Wife
Khalid and Fahd drank coffee, percolated and milked and with hardly any sugar. The café played dubstep renditions of American pop hits, loud enough to be recognized and soft enough not to be listened to. From time to time a barista came by to ask after the young men, their coffee, their comfort. Fine, they said. Humdullah, habibi. They marked in their minds to give him big tips.
Across from their table in a circular booth by a window, through which the two young men saw jasmine fast in bloom, a woman sat, as beautiful as the mind could imagine, her face in the blue light of a tablet. Said Khalid to Fahd, she is perfect for me. She must be my wife.
Perfect? said Fahd. She’s tall for you. She is a height for me.
What of height, cried Khalid. Short, she is. You want to touch her. I, I would make this woman my wife.
I would make her my wife, cried Fahd. And the two young men continued as this, growing louder and more vehement until the beautiful woman, acquiescing to the critical eyes of other customers, rose and came to them.
You make such a commotion, she smiled.
You must marry me, declared Khalid.
Not he but me, then shouted Fahd.
Pretty Ones, said the woman, and I would. Both of you, I would, but of living men I can only marry jinn, and a powerful one.
I knew, said Khalid, his arm lurching forward, his empty mug cracking decisively against the table.
Don’t talk nonsense, beauty. I won’t be swayed by nonsense, Fahd said. Do marry me.
He’s drunk, accused Khalid. Not now but always, he is drunk.
Smiling mutely still, the beautiful woman pressed her hips into the table. Stand, she said, and the young men stood. Don’t touch me, she insisted, but place your hands at the height of my eyes. The men did—Khalid five centimeters below the height of his, Fahd five centimeters below the height of his—and at the same moment saw each other and cried: What is this?
5. The Story of the Cuckolded Jinn
I will tell you, said the woman pulling up a chair and laying hands to the table, but you must sit now and be silent.
We will, said the men, and sat down to listen.
I, said the woman, was the youngest daughter of the emir, by his second wife, whom he loves but for whom he is passionless. She is quite ugly and has always been so. Allah made her body for worship, she used to tell me. I worship. I worship.
I was very ugly too, much as my mother. Said the daughter of the emir, I was long of limbs and squat of body. My fingers stayed close to my hands. Such a woman could be beautiful if she wished, if she learned to carry herself. But, like my mother, I never wished to fetter time by pottering in the affairs of men. If Allah, I said, wanted me to be beautiful, he should have made me so.
My father objected to this. He said to me, I must marry you to the son of my friend, the vizier. We spoke of this even long ago when the two of you were small—you were a gorgeous child—and how tarnished will his memory be if you are shaped thus and yet obstinate. I know this pain.
If I must marry him then, I won’t unveil, said I. Not even in our marriage bed. He will know me by my eyes and by the scent of my body.
Then you won’t marry, said my father.
Then I won’t marry, I agreed.
The emir could not abide this disobedience. He went stomping through my mother’s home clattering platters of sweets, lifting and setting glasses down on a half set table and complaining after to the maid that the dishes seemed array. I had too often seen such insolence, and told him as much. He said he should send me out in the streets with the rest of the dogs. And I left.
That night I walked the streets along the bay, one eye to the ground and one to the glistering of the waveless waters as they rocked beneath the city lights and the white gleam from the moon. I am hopeless now, I said to myself. I can have anything.
Beneath the shimmering waters rumbled and from them rose a jinn whom I could not see but by the flashes of moonlight on the drip as it rolled from his immensity. You can have anything, said he, and I will grant you it. But you must first agree to marry me.
Ifrit!5 I shouted. What a wretch you must be to want a woman such as me for a wife.
A woman such as you, he said, with passionate eyes and the scent of a virgin.
Leave me, I cried to the demon. But he persisted.
I am the son of the Son of Iblis.6 He said, You will marry me and I will make you all the things which are desired. He took me up then and lay me in a trunk, upon which he placed many chains held with seven locks, and carried me away into the sea. Thus I come to you.
Thus? said Fahd. What thus?
Ya Pretty One, she said, but you have spoken.
6. The Story of the Barista and his Banker
What is this? yelled Fahd.
I will tell you, said the daughter of the emir. But you must be—
Quiet, pleaded the barista. Ya sir, ya sir, my customers complain of your shouting.
Ya son of dog, said Fahd.
Ya son of dog, said Khalid. In their minds the young men decided not to tip him.
Come, said the daughter of the emir. I will show you. Leaving her belongings in the booth, the beautiful woman walked out of the café. The young men followed behind her.
When the young men left, the men who had been shouting at the grotesque woman, the barista went to the woman’s seat and collected her effects—her purse, a small package, her tablet. He might, had he just then put it in mind to pursue the strepitous threesome, have been able to return to her these items, but presuming they must not be belongings of which the woman was in great need, if she could afford to be so negligent, he took them to a back room and placed them in amongst the items of his reticule—a change purse, a novel, a gift for the banker, a small Qur’an. Having thus attended to the booth of the woman, the barista wiped its table clean and did the same to the table of the two young men, and having no others to whom he was obliged, the barista set his sights to the evening’s amusements.
The barista folded his apron top to bottom, then symmetrically. His employer had a distaste for this, theorizing that the first was the dominant fold, that which was redoubled by the fabric folded again: thus the fabric folded downward first asserted a horizontal line at the center of the stomach rather than supporting the vertical red stripes that made the baristas, all hired trim, appear tall and much leaner than they were. The barista did not believe this, rather he did not believe cotton thread behaved as such, nor that he, spun long by God, could be made to look otherwise, whatever shape pulled the eyes. A man of mischief and yet unwilling to accept the consequences thereof, he set his soiled apron on the pile of clean aprons and took a clean apron from the pile, arranged it neatly, and lay the clean and correctly folded apron on the shelf of the coatrack.
In the evening dim the heat of the air had become bearable. He stood on the corner south of the coffee shop waiting, hearing somewhere nearoff boys playing at football. They yelled, Yalla! Yalla! They cursed at mislaid kicks. Yalla, he shouted at the boys unseen. Yalla, yalla! Hinnah, hinnah! He pictured the abrupt torsion of their bodies, offenders and defenders both seeking for the open child. Delighted with the notion, he cupped hands around his lips and in the most boyish tenor he could produce called, Come on, come on! Here, I’m here! again, and again.
Someone took him by the shoulder while he did so, a delicate, long-fingered grasp that he knew a moment even before he spun his countenance around on the banker—his banker—and cried out involuntarily. She said, I’ve frightened you? Ah, well, I’m sorry, but it is a shame some other holds so much of your attentions.
No, said he, only I must occupy myself in waiting lest I become overwhelmed with anticipation.
The banker—his banker—convulsed with laughter. She said, Your face. Your face. And the sudden wind of his sorrow led her quite hastily to suggest they end their loitering and begin their walk to her home.
The banker lived on the edge of the sea, in the final story of what had once been the tallest building in the port between the east and the Holy City. She had shared this home, once, with her husband, who was gone, said the banker, and not dead, she explained whenever given condolences, but whose current engagements she would not discuss. The home was hers, she said. The silver was hers. The view from the windows, which now gazed over the houses of the islands and the low and starlit windows of man’s largest tower, were hers.
Alone with his banker, sitting beside her on her divan, the barista set his tea down and laid a hand upon her kneetop. She continued much as she had before, discussing with the barista affairs of her business—a minor argument between two men with whom she was employed, the conception of which was mysterious even to her, the heat of the vault, an error in accounts of the rate of exchange, which profited her firm so negligibly and marred travellers so little that to draw someone’s attention to it would be an undue burden to all.
He said, Yes, but the day is near over and the dawn is near. Won’t you offer me something on which to muse come the dawn?
Wasn’t once, she asked, sufficient?
The barista recalled to her then how before herself he knew no woman in the flesh. He professed to her that, had he not wished her forever his bride, he would not and could not have so debased the two of them, but having once done so, the insatiability of his desires had become evident. Please, he said. Allah will surely forgive us our indiscretions when we are wed.
The banker took him by his hand and kissed its back, only after to leave to the kitchen and return with tea and a tray of delicate pastries. My lover, the barista pleaded. If he loved you so much as I, how could he resist but each night be here—and yet!
He did once, said the banker laying her tray to her table and warming the barista’s tea, and as all objects of pleasure our nights were diminished by their own addition. Some visitors come to eat camel so when they return home they may say they have eaten camel like the learned. A blessing.
The barista watched the shoulders of his banker while she arranged her glasswares on her table. He said, You speak, I think, of an impure love. But I—
I, she interrupted, see into your heart. I see into your eyes that blink so often you never think to close them.
7. The Story of Dabbat al-Ardḍ7
On the center island, beneath the sands pushed even in twilight mechanically up and up again, a beast, who too could see into the hearts of men, was shifted by the feet of a girl being chased by two of her cousins. The children, whose maidservant was trailing them quite frantically amongst the new and uniform houses, raced to the tower, the doors of which were not yet hinged, the stories of which they proposed to climb.
Small though she was, the girl sped ahead of her pursuers, hurrying into what was not yet an exit, leaping up two stairs in a motion. Her cousins, frightened by the shadow greys of the building’s low floors, unfinished and lit colorfully though only from the exterior, called up to her. You must return, they warned. Trouble will soon commence.
But the girl only paused, challenging them to chase her, counting time as did the children whose parents brought them to the city of the port so they might have some winter sun. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Before reaching three, she heard the echoed smacks of the boys feet rushing up another flight, and she took off down the next floor’s hallways, hitting doors with her fist, hither and thither. The map in her mind of the movement of boys drawn from the map in her mind drawn by her eardrums: she wanted them to think she darted through many rooms.
The map in the mind of the beast drawn much as any waking thing, an instinct of lumbering in the direction of its duties, a wariness of the waking earth concommitent with the time of its repose. It rattled amongst the houses, the ring enstoned on its hoof turning them black and burning to cinder. The houses collapsed into the sands, upon which drug the rod of the beast and by which they glowed in the darkness brighter even than the lights of the tower, the luminous arboreal forest of the tower—its spotted flowers of reds and blues, its green underbrush streetlamps, the diaphanous chartreuse canopy commanding all that which flies to yield. A pitiful imitation of Jannah,8 or a sculpture of Eden carved from a story carved from a story carved from a tree some son of a son thought close enough to what Âdam had called this thing some now called tree.
The girl, not mocking the boys but with sincerity, insisted, You wanted to come. Now you come as you asked. And the boys, so much taller than she, only heard the distant chiming of her voice. They sat upon the stairs, one then the other, much too tired to worry of the maidservant, who, following their pants and heaving, was soon to take them by the ears. The maidservant, who would be the first struck by the Rod of Moses, the small, quick girl, the second.
8. The Story of the Son of the Son of Iblis9
On a street nearby the emir’s beautiful daughter unlocked a small black sedan, its passenger seat stacked with books above the height of a man. Khalid and Fahd each in turn offered to move them, but the woman only asked them to take the seats in back.
When they had sat and shut their doors, the woman drove, silent, forward, seeming never to turn. She took them to the center—the island in the island. The sky had hued dark but for a dim moonlight. She walked them to the end of the sand, the rocking water wending off with a grain, or five. Dig, she said.
And the men dug.
Beneath their hands, a jinn, the Son of the Son of Iblis, one such jinn, for these most impudent creatures have befouled jinn and women without number and their progeny walk every place amongst the living and rest every place where buried are the dead, sleeping within his enclosure dreamt restfully of his father. He envisioned that story his mother had told him hundreds on hundreds of times. She said, Your father was bound in Jerusalem by the ring of Sulāmon, King of the Jews, who knew the tongues of all beasts and took of God the power to command jinn, every one.10
The Son of Iblis, like his father, of a single mind and jealous of heart, was amongst those jinn tasked with attending to the needs of Sulāmon, while he was carried on his great carpeted platform high above his dominion,11 which he hummed approvingly of while observing. Always, m-mah…m-mah…he would hum, and when the son of Iblis delivered to him baskets of dates and proffered him wines, the King would say, A fine palace. A delightful wall, he would declare. He would ask himself, Mustn’t we have our jinn build us another bedroom for we haven’t place to rest without our servants or our wives to disturb us.
Quite vexed at hearing this question so oft repeated, the Son of Iblis asked, Shouldn’t we all hope now for a bit of rest, Master, with your kingdom already the grandest in all of God’s creation.
Jinn, said Sulāmon, if only I were built as you, without muscles to be wearied, and still thought myself in need of what God had not granted me. Having scolded the Son of Iblis, Sulāmon sent the jinn to fetch a chamber pot, and then to empty it.
Outraged at such a dismissal, the Son of Iblis took the King’s mud and covered himself with it. Your pleasure, he said to the King, is my obligation.
Ifrit, cried Sulāmon. Ya shaitan, what sacrilege doest thou?
That which you have asked of me. Master, only that. If you wanted, Master, I should lick the filth from your bowels.
Never do this, commanded Sulāmon. With his signet ring he pushed the demon afield of his platform.
Lo! Master, like God I make, and like Him my power lies in my birth before thine and in my passing after. You are the last commander of jinn and after few again will see us. When you are muck in the sand, when your temples stand as fairy tales, the children of mine will bathe in the wretch of your offspring. Your children will plead for companions, even in the night, because they will never know solitude. Mine will lie with them above and beneath the rubble.
9. The Story of She and Her King
And the men dug. Hardly. Just beneath the sand they felt what they thought to be wood scraps and metal. In moments, they had raised from the beach a small trunk, not big enough for a skull. On the trunk were many chains, which were held with seven locks, on which were inscribed seals much too rusted now to read.
In this I lie, said she, and my husband-lover, who has made me all things desired. In his trunk, she lies beside him, king of his dominion, outside of which there is nothing. Inside, she is elegant and lustful and his want for her is raised again each time between their lovemaking when she tells to him a story.
They are endless and all imagination.
Above two young men and a woman the highest tower of this god’s earth rises, and it rises.
1. Literally, school. The word has the broad and indefinite configurations that the American-English word would take on and has no necessary relationship to Islamic teachings, though because of the cultural ubiquity of Islam in the Arab-world, schools of many kinds have elements of Islamic education, much, I think, as American public schools are invested in Christian morality and ideologies. [back]
2. In many cases major search engines filter results based on a given user’s location. While most of these conditions are recreatable in the United States, American media hegemony has led to situations wherein individuals in, say, Cairo or Kuwait City may receive information from American sources as well as from more local ones upon first searching, while the reverse is unlikely. [back]
3. لكفار (al-kafirun, the Concealers) in Arabic refers to those who do not believe in Islam, especially those who practice Islam and do not, in their hearts, fully accept Islam. I dislike the term Infidels, which sounds to me like a late-colonial hangover and which rings, in my 21st century American ear, as unknowingly absurd. [back]
4. Not unlike cartoons of the angel and the demon on a character’s shoulders, Raqib and Atid, the kiraman katibin, are the “scribes” who record the acceptable and unacceptable actions of human beings. They don’t involve themselves in human decision making. In Islam, angels and jinn are different species. Angels, made from light, are without free will and so only serve Allah. Jinn, made of smokeless fire, have different bodily constraints than human beings but, like them, have the power of choice and the capability of self-actualization. [back]
5. A particularly heinous caste of jinn, often described as having great strength and the power to fly. Sometimes also associated with that class of jinn that luxuriates in toilets and other unclean areas. The Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH), according to hadith, stories of the Prophet’s life told by one of his associates or their associates, you can fend off such jinn using certain du’aa, incantations. For example, before going to the bathroom, it is recommended you say: In the name of Allah, I seek refuge from evil and malice (implicitly of these jinn): اللُّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْخُبْثِ وَالْخَبَائِثِ Not all jinn are evil, but ifrit are almost always considered so. Interestingly enough, Ifrit has historically also been a racial slur against black Africans. [back]
7. In Islamic lore, “The Beast of the Earth” is a chimerical creature that hails the end of days. While the Qur’an, itself, is fairly unspecific about the “Beast” or whether that beast is a metaphor, later sunnahs, secondary teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, PBUH, expounded by those close to him and his companions, and consequent mythologies become very specific about the Beast as a literal being. While understandings of the Beast and its qualities vary, it does tend to have wings, camel hooves, elephant ears, and an oxtail. It also, in some interpretations, takes on parts of small cats, pigs, lions, bulls, and human beings. The Beast usually carries the Rod of Moses and wears the signet ring of Sulāmon (Solomon). Those struck with the rod are marked for Jannah (Heaven). Those struck with the ring are marked for Jahannam (Hell). [back]
8. In Surah al-Jinn (a chapter of the Qur’an entitled The Jinn), a party of jinn describe how, once able to eavesdrop on the talk of angels in the heavens, the transmission of the Qur’an (from God/Allah to the angel Gabriel/Jibril to Mohammed, PBUH) coincides with the appearance of a fireball (sometimes translated as comet) security system, which denies jinn access to the heavenly realms. [back]
9. Ibilis, the Qur’anic character most similar to the singular entity of Satan, is a jinn (rather than an angel), who like the Christian rendition of this figure, refused to bow to Âdam (Adam), and was banished from Jannah. The access jinn had/have to Jannah differs according to different sources. What is clear is that jinn, like human beings, have free will, and with that free will comes an ability to accept or reject Allah and Mohammed, PBUH, as His final Messenger. The word shaitan, related to Satan, may either refer to Iblis/Satan or to any jinn who rejects Allah. [back to Note 6] [back to main]
10. In Islamic mythology, Sulāmon (Solomon) asks Allah for a gift that no other human has had or will ever have and to have a kingdom greater than any that has or ever will exist. Allah gifts him both the powers to speak with all animals and to control all jinn—which power in some accounts is directly associated with Sulāmon’s signet ring, much like Samson’s strength and hair are bound. In some such narratives, the signet (likely featuring a Star of David) controls or contains jinn, as in “The Fisherman and the Jinn” (typically the first second-level story of the 1001 Nights), in which a fisherman lets a jinn out of a lamp in which the jinn is contained by Sulāmon’s seal and is able to recapture the jinn by tricking him into the lamp and simply placing the seal back on its spout. [back]
11. The platform was not made of carpet. Nor am I all that certain it was carpeted—I concede this detail to Western jealousy of well-crafted Arab and Persian rugs. Islamic mythology holds that Sulāmon had an immense flying platform, one on which he could seat many guests and sometimes stayed comfortably for months on end. [back]
For more information about this piece, see this issue's legend.
Adam al-Sirgany writes the sounds of words to match pitch with the resonance of a chord that keeps chiming in the orchestra pit of his dreams.
5921 Darlene Dr, Rockford, IL 61109
This is the address of the Muslim Community Center in Rockford, Illinois. For many Muslims in that city, I think the MCC functions as both a standard prayer space and a refuge from a community and culture that hasn’t developed along the same lines as conventional Islam.
The son of an Arab-expat and a lapsed, Midwestern Catholic, I was introduced to communal Islam at the MCC. As that same person, a Dead Sea ape, unsure of most things, the MCC seems an estuary between u- and dystopia.