Serves Me Right For Being Intellectually Curious ...
How's it going? So far, Karen Armstrong's right: the Q'uran is wholly underwhelming to me as a Westerner in much the same way that the Bible is baffling (and, frankly, ugly) to folks from wisdom traditions like Taoism, who read religious books expecting poetry, not obscure history. (And the Q'uran, which literally means "The Recitation," is apparently best appreciated by knowing Arabic and hearing it spoken aloud, the way observant Jews treat the Torah---which is also dull reading, but is written in a holy language that makes the begats irrelevant to its adherents.) All the interesting stories (especially the folktales about The Holy Prophet) seem to be in the "strong six" hadith---sort of a parallel tradition to the Q'uran about what people near The Prophet remember him saying and doing---and I can't find but the one copy of hadith that I currently own. Which doesn't have any stories, but has a surprising amount of information about brushing your teeth.
Also, I've joined a few Islam discussion groups, and one of the weirdest things about it is how much it's like reading an evangelical Christian discussion group: combatting the dangers of Darwin; too much sex on TV; the downside of feminism; post after post about how great God/Allah is and how to spread the faith; tons of testimonials. I feel right at home in many ways.
Karen Armstrong's Muhammad is far and away the best of the resources I own, and I recommend it highly. Did you know, for example, that when the leader of one of the forty-five schools of fatwa (which is simply a religious ruling, kind of like a papal bull but without pope-level leadership because Islam has almost no hierarchy) declared that it was acceptable to kill Salman Rushdie for portraying Mohammed as a sleazebag in The Satanic Verses, forty-four other leaders--you know, all the rest of them---all immediately condemned this statement? But since that runs counter to the "story" about Islam, it didn't get any coverage. Remember that the next time someone on a talk show says "Where are the Muslims standing up against terrorism?" They do it all the time. But no one is actually interested in listening.
Anyway, if I show up on a no-fly list, that's what happened. I'll be accused of Open-Mindedness and Willingness to Believe That The Fastest-Growing Religion in the World Probably Isn't Run By Murdering Assholes Completely Unlike Other Humans I Know.
By the way, it's starting to look like that huge plot to blow up 11 airplanes is another example of an arrest that was premature and overhyped. I no longer care about My Pet Goat; has Bush never even read The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Jesus.
Sorry for any confusion. I thought this would be all over the web by now. It's become clear (via NBC among others) that the U.S. pushed the British government to speed up its arrests, and that, like damn near every such plot that has made front-page news, there's less to it than meets the eye. If our government keeps up this behavior, an actual credible threat will spark little interest. A more responsible, or perhaps less desperate, Commander in Chief would, I hope, act more in the interest of stopping actual threats (which means, among other things, gathering evidence sufficient to prosecute) rather than cutting corners for P.R.
That said, I admit that in this particular case, the link between our government and the British government is more tenuous than usual. I'll back down when someone points this out to Dick "Al-Qaeda types" Cheney.