Jihad of the Heart – episode 4

This is the final episode of the story.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s lawyer confronts him at the break.  “You didn’t shave this morning!”  Javeed doesn’t bother to answer.  He didn’t shave yesterday either.

David brings his face down close, nose to nose, so that Javeed smells the lawyer’s sandwich.  “To win this we each have a job to do,” David tells him.  “My job is to argue your case.  Your job—no less critical—is to present yourself as the guy you were before you were arrested.  A professional engineer, a proud Canadian, a young husband looking to build a life for yourself and your wife.  You can’t afford to let this stuff get you down!  Now, I’m going to hoof it to the hotel and beg a free razor; you can shave in the washroom.  Another thing—you fell asleep in court yesterday.  If you won’t eat, at least have an energy drink!”  He hands Javeed a bottle of bright repulsive liquid.

 

In the afternoon session, David Ogilvie cross-examines Laila.  “Were you aware that Javeed bought life insurance on April 15th 2086, the day after your wedding ceremony?”

“He told me he was going to.”

“Did you and Javeed usually share your daily plans?”

“Back then?  We shared everything,” she says as if it was long ago and irrelevant.  Even to Javeed, now, it seems like another era.

David looks sympathetic.  “Why did Javeed take out that policy?”

“I think…he wanted to protect me.  That’s what he said.”

“He wanted to protect you.”

“I suppose so.”

“What were your feelings towards Javeed, at that time—the day after your wedding?”

“Then?  I loved him, naturally.”  Still cool and distant.

“And what do you think his feelings were for you?”

Mr. Wong objects.  “My friend is asking the witness to speculate.”

“I am trying to get at the truth about the relationship between these two people,” David insists.

“Objection overruled.”

“Javeed loved me too,” Laila admits.  “We were deeply in love then.”

David asks how long Laila and Javeed were engaged.  Over the Christmas break, she recalls, they went to a movie.  She remembers it as Dutch treat, but Javeed distinctly remembers insisting on paying, overcoming her resistance.  Is that how women gain the advantage?

“That’s when he proposed to you?”

“We kind of proposed to each other.  Getting married seemed like a good idea.”

“So you were engaged almost four months.  And—forgive me Ms. Latifpour, but it’s important—during your engagement, were you and Javeed having sex?”

Javeed can hardly believe his ears.  Why would David ask that?  It’s private!

“Well, yeah!”  She almost laughs.  “I mean, we were engaged.”

How can she say that in a courtroom full of people?

David Ogilvie nods.  “Of course.  Having sex when you’re engaged is normal in Canada, so of course you did.  But Javeed was not at all reluctant to have sex with you?”

This time she laughs out loud.  “Hardly!”

“I only ask because Javeed grew up in a different culture, where a couple having sex before marriage is not the usual thing.  Possibly Javeed, if he brought Iranian values with him, would have felt it was wrong.  But it seems not.  He acted like any normal young Canadian.  Ms Latifpour, at the time of your marriage, were the two of you happy?”

“Yes.”  Her expression turns sombre. “We were happy then.”

“Happy, and in love.  Now I’d like you to think ahead to September 2087, when you’d been married for a year and a half.  How old were you then?”

“I was twenty-five.”

“And Javeed?”

“Twenty-six.”

Javeed is reminded of his confusing age—he has lived twenty-eight years, but is thirty-one by the calendar.

“This morning you told us that Javeed, after being off work for six months, refused to interview for the technician job Naser found for him.   How did you feel when Javeed wouldn’t consider that opportunity?”

“I was, frankly, pissed.  We were so stretched, and I was carrying all the responsibility.”

“Were you angry with Javeed for not doing his part?”

“Well, yeah!  And for being so possessive.  He virtually ordered me never to go for a drink or anything after work unless he was there.”

“Ms Latifpour, think back to that night when you, Javeed and Naser watched the hockey game.  Do you remember how long it was since you and Javeed had had sex?”

She looks irritated.  “I don’t know.”

“Try to remember.  Could it have been as long as…a month?”

“No.  I doubt it.  It could have been.”

“And was that because Javeed wasn’t interested?  Or because you were angry with him?”

“Of course I was angry, who wouldn’t be?”

“Being—understandably—angry with Javeed, did you withold sex?”

Laila takes a slow breath, dramatizing patience.  “I might have.”

“Ms. Latifpour, what effect do you think it may have had on Javeed, that you were angry with him and withheld sex for weeks on end?  Do you think that made him unhappy?”

“Well, sure.  He wasn’t happy about it.”  Watching, Javeed notices something new and forbidding in her expression.  “So what?”

“Now I’ll ask you to remember October 2088.”

“Wait, I haven’t finished,” Laila cuts in.

“You answered the question—you made him unhappy.”

“Well yeah, I made him unhappy.  He made me unhappy!  But I didn’t turn around and attack him physically!”  Her voice has a sudden, rising strength.

“Ms Latifpour…”

“I didn’t go looking for creepy friends who would give me a bomb to blow up my husband with, did I?”

“Please…”

“I’m sorry, I don’t like what you’re implying.  Would you remember who the victims were, please?   I suffered from this—but I’m still here.   He’s suffering too”—she points at Javeed—“but he’s the one who did it, not me!  And don’t forget the other victim, who is never coming back, and who was the least to blame of any of us.  I’ll be okay—I’m starting over.  Naser can’t do that.”  Laila breaks into loud, complaining sobs.

David Ogilvy’s hands flutter helplessly.  “No further questions, my Lady,” he says over the mounting hubbub in the room, and turns away from the witness stand towards the defence table, where he avoids Javeed’s reproachful stare.

 

The video from the Cormorant Café is shown again as evidence.  At 15:45, the place almost empty, on opposite sides of a booth below a streaked grey window, Laila and Naser lean towards each other.  She looks—“unsettled” is the best word Javeed can think of.  Naser smiles too much, gesticulating.  The audio picks up his voice, not hers—the brash, confident tone that Javeed knows so well, but not the words.  Then Laila looks to the side, and both go quiet.  At 15:47, Javeed enters the frame, shoulders slumped, dripping with Remembrance Day rain.  Tracking his slow progress towards the booth, Javeed feels, for the first time, that he understands why, seeing Laila up close, he removes his hands from the pockets of the green, padded jacket.  Why, standing beside her, he gazes down at Naser so calmly, while Naser’s gestures grow ever more extravagant.  Why, when Naser stands and reaches out as though to hug him, Javeed jams a hand back in his pocket, just before the final frames of light and blast.  Watching from the courtroom, he feels savage, and right.

 

The Crown tenders as an exhibit Javeed’s journal from the day before the bombing.

Nov 10th, 2088.  Pilgrim proudly calls me ‘martyr’ now.  I guess he wouldn’t say that if he knew I had insurance.  Paradise waits for those like him, a place of harmony, an exclusive club of believers.  (As if there were no disputes among believers!  But maybe in Paradise all is revealed, and disputes evaporate.)  A place of delights too: gardens full of roses and fountains.  And virgins, plenty to go round.

For me it’s not like that.  I will not come to a place of harmony, but back to this world, with its believers and unbelievers.  With its sacred places and defiled ones, with virgins and hookers, true friends and false ones and people in between (always the hardest to deal with) who are ‘well-meaning’ and ‘polite’ and ‘nuanced’ and ‘Canadian’.  For me, instead of ease, a new job search.  I won’t get seven virgins—with luck, I’ll eventually find one.  My reward won’t be Paradise, just a chance to start over, to avoid the mistakes I made the first time.  (But maybe there’s no difference!  Is a ‘martyr’ more deluded than I am?)

Listen, Javeed, listen and learn!   You are freed from your wedding vows.  You will grieve for your wife and one-time friend.  I have already grieved; but you will grieve with a pure heart; that is the best I can hope for.  The Qur’an says unclean women are for unclean men, and unclean men for unclean women.  But good women are for good men.  Go back to Iran for a wife; let our mother find her for you, and it will go better, I’m sure.  Our mother knows your heart.  Do not do violence to your origins; respect your traditions and your ancestors, who made you what you are.

At mosque this morning, the imam spoke to me.  He is an old man, easily distracted; only half his soul remains on earth.  He has noticed me before; perhaps he sensed trouble.  He asked what was on my mind. “Jihad,” I said, because Pilgrim and I had talked about it all night.  The imam sighed. “Jihad is always in the English-language news,” he said.  “But they don’t know what it means.  Even many of our Muslim brothers do not understand jihad.”

“The word means Holy struggle,” I said, to show him that I knew.  I wanted the old man to give up on me.

But he rambled on.  “Jihad takes many forms, some more subtle than others.  The least subtle is jihad of the sword—violent struggle.  That’s what the Western media, and some of our brothers, mean by ‘jihad.’  But of all the forms of jihad, that of the sword has the least merit, and should only be used as a last resort.  More worthy acts of jihad don’t get in the news.  There is jihad of the hand, which is the struggle to do what is right.  And jihad of the tongue, which is using our gift of eloquence in God’s service.  All are part of the holy struggle.  But all, all three are useless and without merit, if the greater form of jihad is missing.” The old imam’s eyes were directed towards Mecca; I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me or to God.  “The greater jihad,” he said, “does not consist of acts or words, but if it is not behind your acts and words, they are useless to you and worthless to God.  It is the jihad within yourself, your own struggle with yourself—the jihad of the heart.”

I waited in silence until the imam went away.  He is an old man without practical concerns, fed by the mosque.  My jihad is of action.  I have to sort a few things out before I can purify my heart.  Maybe one day, in my new life, I will get there.

“That’s the final journal entry,” Mr. Mehrdad Wong comments.  “Mr. Amiri clearly looked forward to making a fresh start after being reconstituted.   His expectations were, not an end to life, nor an afterlife, but life on this earth as a more innocent, slightly younger version of himself.  He hoped he would gain from the experience of the sad events that led to this trial, events he would not remember, but of course would learn about—as he has done.”  Mr. Wong looks solemnly at Javeed, the eyes of the jury following.

 

The defence calls Javeed Amiri. On his way to the witness stand, Javeed feels his lawyer’s supporting hand on his elbow.  He shakes it off, walks alone.

David asks him to recall his decision to immigrate—what he had hoped for, and the reality that, at first, seemed not so different from his hopes.  He draws out Javeed’s first impressions of Canada—the shiny wet city on a downtown peninsula almost as tall as it is wide, squeezed between waterways and onto bridges, its sidewalks thick with people and umbrellas, men and women walking and biking briskly, each alone on a purposeful mission.  Each one choosing his or her path within the combinatorial explosion of possibilities the city presented.

“Was that frightening?” David asks.  “To realize that you too were expected to find your own way?  Without rules, and a muezzin calling the times of prayer?”

“A bit,” Javeed admits, conscious of the jury’s attention.  “I wasn’t used to that much freedom, but it was more exciting than frightening.  I really felt like a weight had been taken off my back.  And it helped that Naser was there to show me the ropes.”

David takes him through the long struggle to find his first job, with the successful outcome at Delmar.  The warmth of smiles and handshakes from coworkers of every imaginable origin.  Then being turned loose with a tablet and the vaguely-specified task of designing a valve to dispense lubricant precisely in temperatures ranging from –45 C. to +50 C.  Javeed was astonished by the lack of supervision in the office—people came and went when they chose.  They were held responsible only for deadlines and the quality of their work, which they were expected to manage in the face of a barrage of urgent requests to attend meetings and provide information.

Then the double date with Laila.  Although Naser brought her, it was clear she didn’t belong to him.  She felt free to disagree with anything said at table, and she backed up her opinions.  Her work at the hospital E.R., stickhandling the unscheduled traumas of the disorderly city night, impressed Javeed.  She was so self-possessed—confident, capable, with an unforced cheerfulness that emanated from her eyes and the way she held herself.  Her eyes across the table drew Javeed’s attention most—when he looked at her, he saw she was looking at him first.

“Were you surprised when Naser urged you to ask Laila out?”

“He said she wasn’t his type.  But he thought there was a chance for me, which I should seize.  And it seemed like he was right; Laila and I had lots in common.”

“And love?”

“Yes, love.”  Javeed doesn’t want to talk about it, but knows he must.  “I loved her deeply.  And she was the same.  I have no doubt about her love at that time.  She opened up to me like a flower.  She trusted me with her life, her inmost thoughts, everything.  The same way I trusted her.”  Saying these words, Javeed wonders whether he still believes them.

“From the time of your engagement in December 2085 until you were married in April, was there ever a break in that love and trust between you two?”

“No, nothing.  I trusted her like my own self.  And she the same.”

“Like your own self.”

The jurors, taking in his words, are not skeptical, only absorbed, as if watching a movie drama.  Questions will occur to them later, when they are sequestered.  “During the aqd,” says Javeed, “the bride and groom face each other in a mirror.  We looked at each other the whole time—just, you know, happy.  I don’t know what could have gone wrong.”

David emanates sympathy.  “Something went wrong between you later, but at that time, you had no idea that might happen?”

“I still have no idea,” says Javeed bitterly.  “I don’t understand it.”

“And on the very next day after you were married, you took out life insurance.”

“I didn’t want to risk our happiness.”

“To protect her, she said.  Do you agree?”

“Yes.”

“And the very next thing you remember is…?”

“Being called out of the cube.  The police.”  Javeed tells of his shock in learning what had happened—incarceration—the beginning of his long struggle to prove his innocence.  The jury, he dares to think, is on his side.

 

Mr. Mehrdad Wong begins cross-examination the next day.  Up close, Javeed finds the the prosecutor’s face, with its unfortunate heritage, viscerally repulsive.   The kinky Semitic hair and dark beard-shadow clash with the broad face and high cheekbones; the nose is mapped ambiguously between squashed and sharp.  Wong’s eyes are intelligent, like David’s, but their intent is veiled.  “My friend asked you many questions about your feelings, and your wife’s, in 2085 and 2086, before the trouble started.  That was quite a long time ago.  Six years have gone by since you bought that policy, three and a half of them since you were reconstituted.”  He makes it sound as though the delay was Javeed’s fault.  “Three and a half years during which, I suggest, you have learned several things that surprised you.  Evidence presented during your two trials, as well as things you learned outside the courtroom.”  Mr. Wong turns to size up the jury, then confronts Javeed again.   “You told us how deeply you trusted your wife, when you were engaged and newly married.  But two years later, your own journal reveals that you no longer trusted her.  You asked her to wear a GPS bracelet, ‘so you could always find her,’ you said, but she flatly refused.  You offered to wear one too, but she still refused.  Mr. Amiri, why do you think she refused?”

“I don’t know.”

“Really, Mr. Amiri!  Are you sure you don’t?  Then here’s an easier question.  Why did you ask her?”

“It wasn’t me who asked that.  I can’t imagine why.”

“You can’t!” Mr. Wong hammers.  “Yet I think everyone else who heard the evidence knows why you made that request.  I’d be surprised if the members of the jury found your motivation as mysterious as you apparently do.  We heard your ex-wife’s testimony on this point.  When I asked what she thought you might suspect her of, she said, ‘Having an affair with Naser, I suppose.’”  Mr. Wong pauses, like a bird adjusting its grip on its prey.  “Doesn’t it occur to you that jealousy may have been your motivation?”

David warned Javeed about such questions.  “His motivation,” he corrects the prosecutor, “not mine.”

“Not yours, eh?   Don’t you think, now, that you were naïve to trust your wife so absolutely?”

“Laila never gave me reason to mistrust her,” Javeed counters warmly.

“You are a trusting person, aren’t you, Mr. Amiri?   We heard evidence of that in your drawn-out dealings with Colin Honeywell at Delmar.  The company laid you off.  Most young engineers would have seen the writing on the wall—brushed up their resumes that very night and fired them off to job postings.  Not you.  You kept calling Colin, and he kept stringing you along with—not even promises, but—hope.  For month after month, until your employment insurance ran out, and your family finances were in a very precarious state, and your marriage fell under a cloud.  You hung on, because you…trusted…Colin.  Mr. Amiri, you heard him testify that it wasn’t in the company’s interests to let you know how much trouble they were in.  You trusted him as a mentor, even a friend, but I suggest to you that he always put his own interests and business interests first.  Now that you’ve heard what you’ve heard, don’t you agree?”

A sudden flow of saliva forces Javeed to swallow.  “I guess so.”

“You guess so.  Would you trust Colin Honeywell now, if he held out hope of a job?”

“No.”  Javeed feels humiliated to have conceded the point.

“You trusted Naser, too, didn’t you?”

“He was my friend.”

“But Naser didn’t tell you he had several dates with your ex-wife before he introduced her to you.  Was that friendship?  Can’t you answer?   Your ex-wife told us Naser wanted to move too fast for her.  What does ‘move too fast’ mean?”

“It means having sex.”  Javeed felt this way when he was a schoolboy in Iran, hectored by a turbaned master.  He hates Wong’s overbearing attitude, his belittling implications.

“And why do you think Naser urged you so strongly to ask Laila out?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Mr. Amiri,” the prosecutor says with a show of great patience, “we are now discussing the time before you were married.  A time you can remember.   Knowing what you know now, what do you suppose Naser’s motives were?  He and Laila had a fight.  By setting her up with you, his best friend, he would at least stay in social contact with her.  While time went by, hm?”

Javeed’s lawyer objects to this, and the judge supports him.

Mr. Wong presses the tips of his knobby fingers together, forming a sort of cage, and launches on a new tack, extracting Javeed’s memories of how, as boys, he and Naser answered the muezzin’s call to prayer with one voice; but in Canada, Naser made fun of Islam.  Naser said all religion was rubbish.  Javeed felt differently.  Although he wasn’t always sure what to believe, he respected the religion of his parents.

“You did not reject Islam.  Is that a fair statement?”

“Yes.”

“And Naser?  Did he reject Islam?”

“Obviously.”

“This court has heard that under sharia law, an Islamic man who rejects his religion should be killed.  Do you agree with that statement?”

“Not at all.  And it’s not in the Qur’an, as I think you know.”  Javeed is thrilled to have scored a point.

“You are right,” Mehrdad Wong acquiesces.  “It’s not in the Qur’an.  How familiar are you with the Qur’an, Mr. Amiri?”

“Now?  Quite familiar.  I’ve had plenty of time to read.”

“During your long period of unemployment, you also had time to read.  And we know you read the Qur’an then too, because you quote it in your journal.  But perhaps you interpreted it differently, then, being under the influence of older men, figures of authority like your handler.  The man you knew as Pilgrim believed, and still believes, that sharia law has divine authority.  Do you think that—trusting as you were—you might have adopted his opinion?”

Under the barrage of questions, Javeed’s head has begun to swim.  “What opinion?”

“That an Islamic man like Naser, who turns against his faith, should be killed, on God’s authority.”

“I guess he might have thought that.  I can’t say.”

He being Javeed Amiri?  Mr. Amiri, do you feel unwell?”  On that note of concern, Mehrdad Wong steps closer to the stand.  The jury sees Javeed’s eyes half-closed, his mouth remaining open.  “I was afraid he might faint,” Mr. Wong tells the judge.  “It’s near the end of Ramadan.  Devout Muslims fast all day; it’s hard on their systems.”

“Mr. Amiri, can you hear me?” the judge asks anxiously.

“Yes,” says Javeed, although the courtroom looks as though it is filling with dark liquid.   He interrupts David’s request for an adjournment.  “I don’t need a break.  Let’s get this over with.”  He accepts a glass of water.

Smiling charitably, Mehrdad Wong begins again.  “Well then, Mr. Amiri, I’d like to come back to your feelings towards your ex-wife today.  Now that you know what you know.  You saw her on this stand, crying over the death of your friend Naser.  But she did not answer one of the many messages you sent her over three and a half years.  Javeed—do you now regret marrying Laila?”

Javeed feels he is on treacherous ground, as hard to judge as the prosecutor’s wonky face.  “If I hadn’t, I guess I wouldn’t be in this trouble.”

“Very true.  I’m going to replay a sound bite from your journal.”

Go back to Iran for a wife; let our mother find her for you, and it will go better, I’m sure.

“It seems you reached a similar conclusion back in 2088.”

Javeed feels woozy again.  “Those are not my words.”

“So you insist.  But perhaps you agree with them anyway?   Things might have gone better with a partner who was brought up the way you were.  As opposed to one educated here, where girls are taught to assert themselves instead of obeying men?  If you were a free man today, Mr. Amiri, wouldn’t you perhaps take your own advice?”

“If I were free?  How can I answer that?”

“Surely freedom is the outcome you hope for from this trial.”

Javeed takes hold of the sides of the witness box for support.  “I’m here to prove my innocence.  I didn’t kill anyone.”

“That is the argument of your counsel.  Which, if the court accepts it, will allow you to walk free from this courtroom.  And perhaps return to Iran where your mother will, I’m sure, be delighted to find a new bride for you.”

Javeed hates the prosecutor’s warped face, which looms too close.  “Why are you bringing my mother into this?”

“You brought your mother into it.  That was your own voice.”

“My mother had no more to do with this than yours did!”

“Mr. Amiri, no one’s suggesting…”

Javeed can hardly see past his fury.  “Your mother, who named you ‘Mehrdad’, did she accept Islam?  Do you?  What has this to do with anything?  I could not be at my father’s bedside because I was in jail for a crime I didn’t commit!  Do you know what that’s like?  You’re free to see your father, your mother, your whole mongrel family.  What are you?  Iraqi?  Chinese?  Canadian?  What do you believe in?”

“My Lady!”  David Ogilvie’s voice is raised in alarm.  “Madame Sorenson!”

“I believe in the law,” Mr. Wong tells Javeed firmly.  “You must calm yourself.”

“I believe in justice!”  Letting go the witness box, Javeed lurches forward and catches hold of Wong’s lapels.  He pulls up, tipping the lawyer against the witness stand.  The sheriff behind Javeed, finger already on the trigger, lets fly; Javeed’s galvanic response makes him clutch even tighter, choking the prosecutor; so the sheriff stuns him again and then—as insurance against more surprises—a third time.  Javeed’s arms spring apart, and Wong staggers free; then Javeed crumples, convulsing, into the box.  For good measure, the sheriff leans over and fires a fourth round.

 

The jury is led out, the public benches cleared.  Court sheriffs, police and lawyers stand around conversing excitedly while the medics work, and continue after the medics give up.  “I sincerely regret what has happened,” MehrdadWong tells the judge.  “I wanted to show that the defendant’s character was consistent with the crime.  I may have succeeded too well.  However, I could not have anticipated that lethal force would be used.”  He looks at the sheriff with dismay.

“Stunners can’t kill,” says the sheriff.  “That’s guaranteed by the manufacturer.  I expect the autopsy will find another cause of death.”

“Oh, is that what you expect?” says David Ogilvie sarcastically.  “Do you think he’d be lying dead if you hadn’t shot him?”

“They won’t bother with an autopsy,” someone mutters.  “He’s insured.”

“Well—that’s right!” Mr. Wong speaks up.  “This trial is so important!  It would be a shame to cut it short just because the defendant has unfortunately died.  He is insured, after all.  May I suggest, Madam Sorenson, an adjournment for one week?  No longer, for the jury’s sake.”

“It’s very irregular,”  she says unhappily.  “When was his last backup?”

“Monday,” Mr. Ogilvie contributes.  “Before start of court.”

“He’ll have missed the entire week’s evidence, including his own.”

“No—we can replay the court record,” says Mr. Wong.  “Bring him up to speed, in the jury’s presence of course.  I think we have a duty to proceed.  The public needs certainty.”

 

Javeed’s journal: July 1st, 2099.  Today an inmate approached the fence.  The alarm went off, and the robots forced his face into the dirt.  The other prisoners were ordered inside.  Although we remained obedient, we were punished.  It’s the way the system has to work.

Infidels built the system; but God made the infidels!  Whenever I remember that, I smile.  They perform His works.  If I were not confined here, I would have followed Naser’s lead and turned my back on Him.  Who but a foolish man would renounce the faith of Abraham?  When his Lord said to him: ‘Submit,’ he answered, ‘I have submitted to the Lord of the Universe.’

Being foolish then, I did not submit.  A convicted terrorist is never eligible for parole.  I am thirty-eight years of age; I know my life.  I will remain in submission until I am seventy or older.  When I die at last, they won’t restore me.  But it would make no difference, to God or me, if I died tomorrow.

God guides to his light whom he will.  Allahu Akbar!


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