[This is a fiction I co-authored with Louise Norlie. I will be publishing the story in serial installments, every Monday for the next little while. Stay tuned.]
The first time I went to mosque opened my eyes. I decided to attend the fajr prayer because I reasoned that there would be fewer people there and whoever was there would be devout. The imam and congregation greeted me with polite indifference, and tolerated my presence for salat.
I forget the name of the imam and the few members of the congregation who introduced themselves to me. I remember the prayers being conducted in Arabic, the voices obediently chanting in rapt concentration. There was something soothing about this: the musical flow of a speech I could not understand did not humiliate or hurt me. It simply washed over me through my ears and I felt empty and silent when it ended. As I bowed my head to the ground I turned to watch the others out of the corners of my eyes. No one was watching me. It was as if I was alone, though among many.
After that, I would attend mosque at dawn infrequently and try to be incognito, just nodding a greeting to faces that became familiar. Now that I come to think of it, I have never assaulted a religious institution. But if I attributed my actions to a God or higher cause, I would be no different from the system that turned me into this, or the “radicals” seemingly opposed to such a system. And, just because I say, “the system that turned me into this,” this does not mean I attributed my creation to the system: there was a dialectics of hatred, deeper than any bond of love, between us.
I had no political agenda. I had no illusions about what I was doing, although I can honestly say it brought no joy. For me, joy was snuffed very early. So long I cannot even remember what the word “happiness” feels like.
I turned to terror for the sake of terror. To hurt whomever I could for the sake of hurting them the way I was hurt over and over again, without reason, without remorse, and without hesitation. I did what I did because I hated, and as long as I am alive my hatred will be alive. No god used me or spoke through me, no “higher cause” prompted me to “put things right.”