When I wrote my book, I had no idea I would be receiving mail from all over the world.
The feedback has ranged from the random (“By the way, do you ride sport bikes?”) to the specific (“I hate all things Islamic.”) Some write to declare their own war on Islam, such as Bobby: “I am ready for any and all attacks from any evil Muslims that attack my country.”
These “live free or die” e-mails often assume (erroneously) that I am on the side of terrorists: “The bloodthirsty followers of Osama, Saddam, and Arafat will meet the same fate as the Nazi thugs of WWII. Your side will lose and lose big.”
Some of the nastiest mail came in response to my first Post column, “Urban legends about Muslims.” Ms. Watson wrote me several catty e-mails: “Little [newspaper] pieces… and presumptuous little books you write that you may feel are highly educational… will only bring you further ridicule and pain.” Another Coloradan, named Mick, wrote, “Please excuse me if I don’t get all liberal and run up to kiss your #$%, now that you’re the victim.”
Evangelical Christians write to me on a regular basis, sending me pages on why Islam is a “satanic” religion. Sometimes I receive more than one a day, and the similar contents makes it seem as if my e-mail address and talking points were featured in a newsletter the day before.
Fred, a frequent writer, closed one e-mail with: “You will either live with Jesus or live in hell with Mohammed and the devils.” Comparing Islam to Christianity, another Fred writes, “One teaches fatherly love and kindness, eternal security in God. Another teaches hate, cutting off heads, throats, sexual perversion, shocking nonsense, sodomy, and an X-rated paradise.” (I wonder which one describes Islam.) They are not the only ones who are upset. Ali Salam, a Muslim, wrote an angry e-mail, upset that I was not wearing a head cover when he saw me on television: “I decided to shut down my TV and not let my wife listen to you.” A Bryn Mawr student argued that Islamic and American values are not complementary, as I assert in my book.
Most Muslims disagree with that student. One, after hearing an NPR interview, wrote: “Listening to you made me proud to be Muslim and also proud to be American.” Amer, another Muslim, happily declared, “Finally someone from my team telling the real story of the American Muslim.” Sean, an African-American convert, wrote, in a touching e-mail: “When I read your book I knew that it was a blessing from Allah. You addressed everything that my soul was searching for.” Nadir in San Francisco wrote, “Hearing another Muslim on the radio reaffirm our common humanity just lifted my spirits.”
What has surprised me the most is the attention paid to my looks. After seeing me on TV’s “Politically Incorrect,” Scott from New York said I was “one of the few people… on that show with a brain… (and) a totally cute dress.” John from Chicago said that he was going to buy my book because, “If it is as good as you are beautiful then it should be fabulous.” Steve from New Jersey asked, “Do you date 52-year-young New Jersey residents when you’re not in Colorado?” One Muslim man even wrote to say that, as a Muslim woman, I am required to cover - and that I should meet him for coffee! (I replied that if I’m supposed to wear a cover, I probably shouldn’t be dating him.)
Knowing you’ve touched people, whether they are in Japan or in Pueblo, whether you expected to or not, whether that someone is angered or inspired, is so rewarding that I wish I could share the feeling. My favorite fan letter came from Shannon in Indiana, who wrote: “Your book was meant to fall in my lap. I needed to be enlightened so that I may share my knowledge with people I know and help them to rid their minds of misconceptions of the Muslim religion.”
Sometimes, the things we don’t plan for, like fan mail, are what we enjoy the most.