It Was No Accident

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(This is an excerpt from My Name Used to be Muhammad by Tito Momen and Jeff Benedict.)

An ominous feeling swept over me. I had read stories about this man. According to published reports, he held the rank of colonel in the Egyptian military at the time of Sadat’s assassination. He had worked in intelligence, which contributed to the belief that he had been behind the unpredictable plan for military personnel to fire on the presidential stand during a military parade held on the eve of Egypt’s Armed Forces Day. He had denied the charge, insisting he had only supplied the ammunition. But the Cairo criminal court had sentenced him to life behind bars for his role in the attack. As a result of that conviction, he emerged as a leading figure in the Egyptian Jihad Organization.

No wonder the militant Islamic inmates practically worshipped him. And now this same man was an imam and my ticket to protection in prison in exchange for my teaching him English. The image of a guardian angel no longer seemed appropriate. It was hard picturing an assassin as heaven sent.

I didn’t know whether to feel grateful or guilty. Over breakfast, I thought, I’m breaking bread with one of the most notorious criminals in the Middle East, a man who had helped take out a world leader.

But he had saved my life. And if I cut ties with him, I would not survive long in a wing of Islamic jihadists and fundamentalists.

My situation was complicated. I tried to figure out what God wanted me to do, but I received no inspiration, no clear signal. So I went with my gut instinct—life is better than death. It was no accident, I told myself, that I had crossed paths with this man when I did. Nor did it make sense for me to judge him for his past. I decided I would follow through with the plan to be his English teacher.

(Tito Momen, My Name Used to be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian [Salt Lake City: Ensign Peak, 2013], 224–25).

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