The full text of the email I sent him is reproduced here for posterity:
From: "Aziz H. Poonawalla"
To: "John Derbyshire"
Subject: Re: your article on Islam
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 13:31:56 -0500
I live in Houston and am a practicing Shi'a muslim myself. I have been
raised in my community's tradition of being loyal and law-abiding to the
country where you reside, and have always been grateful that it was my
fortune to have been born here in America. I have traveled to Britain,
India, and Pakistan extensively and I am aware that my freedom to practice
my faith is orders of magnitudes more free in America than anywhere else in
Prior to 9-11, I had often attracted attention here in Texas for my beard
and my intention of praying in public if I happen to be out during a
prescribed prayer time. But after the attack, my perception of others'
attentions changed. I am more hesitant in public to "flaunt" my being Muslim
(though with a full beard, it's pretty obvious). But after a few tense
paranoid months I realised that people were supportive, kind, and
Not to say I haven't encountered bigotry. I have been spit upon, called
names, and even mooned :) But I haven't experienced a single incident of
prejudice since 9-11 (though, others in my community have been subjected to
abuse, especially in Dallas).
But my main observation is that Americans (myself included!) are for the
most part more tolerant and educated than people give them credit for. I
realize that there is a rabid fringe, but I have great optimism in the
nature of humankind, a principle I derive from my faith. I am sure that for
every accusatory email you receive, there are ten Americans out there who
are thoughtful. I hear invective against my faith evey day on talk radio
here in Houston but I have experienced the opposite in my dealings on a
Until the threat recedes, there will be a source for anger. And the angry
are often the most vocal!
PS. I know you are a scholar and so I think this might interest you. I
heartily recommend the text, "Peak of Eloquence" by written by Ali ibn
Talib, who was the chosen successor of the Prophet Muhamad. Its a much more
accurate look at what Islam's moral code and structure is, undistorted by
the Wahabis and the Qutbis and the attached cruft of their self-serving
hadith and fundamentalist interpretations. Shi'a revere Ali as the only
person of the Prophet's SAW companions who had the permission and authority
to interpret the Qur'an. Muhammad SAW himself said that "I am the city of
Knowledge, and Ali is the Gate.
Amazon link (non-affiliate): http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0940368420/qid=1026129803/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/103-4216917-3204626
online freetext: http://www.al-islam.org/nahj/