It was the evening, time for a Maghrib prayer. The local Islamic community of a large Austrian city under the Alps gathered in the mosque, where Imam Faraj served, to pray to Allah, to ask for His endless Compassion and Mercy, to have their sins forgiven and to be led on the Straight Path of peace, morality and truth.
At the courtyard, a middle-aged woman in hijab just caught her disobedient son behind the neck, and dragged him back into the mosque, when he tried to slip away, to omit the prayer, as the evening in the city center was tempting with many options of wordly entertainment. He wasn’t pleased, but she insisted, so he followed, and joined the rest of the men, standing in perfect rows behind Imam Faraj, leading the prayer, in direction of Kaaba, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Fatima, a female aide of Imam Faraj, 32 years old and still unmarried, was standing nearby, watching the funny scene with smile. But soon, her face was serious again, when she noticed two men coming, high members of AAIC (=Association of Austrian Islamic Communities). If these officials showed up, something was usually happening, and Fatima knew well the reason of their unexpected visit.
She came here eight years ago, as a part of post 9/11 effort of the Austrian government to gain direct control of events and movements at all Austrian mosques, to prevent potential spread of Islamic radicalism. The demanding task was executed by domestic Intelligence agency, BVT (=Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism), picking and training suitable operatives, useful for the covert infiltration operation, and Fatima, originating from Yemen, recruited during her University studies at Vienna, was one of such clandestine assets.
The basic problem was, that any Muslim is firstly a servant of Allah, and only then a citizen of the state, so any pledge to the Constitution is only relative, and BVT knew this fact in advance, thus they were never able to trust their assets completely, so the operation had only a questionable outcomes in the end, and this HUMINT (=Human Intelligence) was slowly replaced by a standard electronic surveillance measures.
Anyway, Fatima volunteered at this mosque many years ago, to provide “useful consultancy in female Islamic affairs”, and Imam Faraj, who interviewed her, had to agree, that this kind of help can be useful for taking proper care of the growing local Muslim community with many various needs. (Fatima invented this ingenious method of infiltration herself, and she was suggested for promoting to a First Lieutenant by her BVT superiors).
Now, Fatima was one of the few remaining operatives, who survived at their original destination, and the reason was simple: as they were operating constantly in an extremely demanding environment, which tested their faith and values every day, sooner or later, all of them either left for “personal reasons”, or even confessed to their Imams about their real backgrounds and mission.
The same happened to Fatima, but to her surprise, Imam Faraj insisted, that she stays in the mosque, as she was generally a very useful asset, favored by local women, which appreciated her discretion, devotion to the Islamic faith, and good advices she could provide to them.
“If they sent you, they did a good thing,” the Imam told her, and it was one of very rare opportunities, when Imam showed something as open respect to Fatima. Otherwise, he spoke to her very sporadically, usually only issuing orders, never saying thanks, not to corrupt her and to keep the desirable distance, plus, he rarely had a look at her face directly, as Allah doesn’t like, when a man watches an unrelated woman, her face or body, without serious reason.
But he was willing to listen to her, he accepted her opinion about important matters, and it was a wise decision. As an active member of the domestic Intelligence service, with the status of a police force, she could provide access to many special places and services, desirable for the community interests: like preventing and protecting youth from falling into crime or extremism, thus she fulfilled her original mission for the state, and the higher places appreciated it, perceiving her as one of their promising assets, deserving another promotion.
Of course, that she was not allowed to share all the information and contacts she possessed with the Imam, but she could inform him about latest developments in the city, concerning Islam or the mosque anyhow.
And right now, something was happening, jeopardizing the whole existence of the mosque, as somebody extremely powerful started pulling levers at high places. So Fatima asked Imam Faraj to discuss the fresh disturbing news today, later in the evening, after the prayer.
But now, when the men came, it was Fatima’s duty to attend the meeting, although the officials, unaware of her real value, never liked her presence too much. So she usually sat in the most distant corner, pretending to be just a part of the furniture, not to disturb the meeting anyhow.
An hour later, when the prayer was finished, there was no time to rest: the meeting started.
“It came into our attention,” one of the visitors, brother Saad, started with serious voice, “that there was a public petition launched in adjacent quarter recently, demanding to change this ground into a public park, and it’s getting massive public attention and support. We would like to assure you, brother, that you have our utmost support in the matter, we perceive it as a challenge that concerns the whole community, so we will not only supervise the upcoming development of the affair closely, but we will provide all possible resources, to win in this important cause. Our lawyers and Public Relations specialists were introduced to the new situation, and they are preparing counter moves, a complex strategy to avert this threat.”
“The information arrived just this morning,” Imam Faraj said with effort to cover any excitement, to remain calm, to be able to think clearly, without fog of emotions. “Such things happen, only the speed of this particular matter is surprising. It seems, that someone is pushing it from behind, backing it, very interested in complicating our religious operations, or in getting the ground for a large construction project, so it’s all about the money.
The latter seems to be the real reason here. The opposite side changed approach this time so substantially, avoiding any attacks and raising fear of Islam in local people. There must be a new powerful player in the town: calm, systematic, calculating, playing a big game with experience.”
“We agree, and our counter media strategy will emphasize this very possible construction background of the petition,” the AAIC man nodded. “But we still don’t know who is standing behind it, and for the counter campaign to be effective, we need a name. Wasn’t here someone with some offers? Some new alleged friends of Islam?”
“Many people comes into the mosque daily, including non-believers, we are open for everybody,” the Imam explained, that he has no particular suspicion. “But the people involved in this operation are definitely the most inconspicuous. A different kind, than we ever met: smart and slick.”
“We need to know the name, as the problem is more and more serious any minute we are just talking and hesitating,” the second visitor now sounded rather disturbed. “For your information, their massive media campaign will be launched tomorrow. Our PR people made some digging, and they found, that the budget is about 500.000 EUR. Nothing modest, nothing small indeed!
This kind of money gets you something. Tomorrow, the whole town can be against us, and local politicians will follow. You know them: they turn heads, where the wind blows. And we don’t know how much of them could be bribed, or let’s say decently, motivated, and how many of them will damage us with innocent smile, that there is nothing they can do, as the will of the people is sacred.
As there is no attack against religious freedom or hate crime this time, so our support structures, highly positioned allies and NGOs can hardly help us: and if we will lose here, in this city, it could become a dangerous precedent, it could provide a perfect guideline for other opponents of Islam. Or at least a new hope for them, new strength.”
Imam Faraj had always one firm rule: to fear only Allah, nothing and nobody else. This fearful kind of talk wasn’t something he would like. The people from AAIC soaked into the politics at Vienna too much, slowly becoming politicians themselves. Always counting, planning, discussing, talking, instead of turning to Allah for advice and letting events flow freely, under His wise command.
“More information is needed to understand the affair well, as it seems too complicated, and still unclear,” the Imam said after a while, to finish the meeting. “You said, that a media campaign will start tomorrow, so it would be best to wait, what will occur in the newspapers, before making a qualified decision.”
When the men left, promising to stay in close contact, and Imam remained at the office just with Fatima, he touched the Qur’an with his palm. It was the late evening already.
“It’s just another test of Allah, nothing more. And He is known as the Remover of obstacles. So why to worry? This sacred mosque will stand here for hundreds of years yet, long after all those malicious plans against it will turn into dust,” the Imam smiled with trust.
After all what was spoken today, Fatima had no desire to add anything more. Why to bother the Imam, with such worldly affairs? Why not to let those men from AAIC to handle the thing?
Usually, when all meetings of the day were over, Imam Faraj started to pack his small suitcase, and it was the signal for Fatima, that she is no longer needed, and she is allowed to leave. But today, it seemed that he is still considering, whether to continue in the discussion, or to go home, keeping his mind clear, leaving all problems for tomorrow.
“In certain sense, it’s a good thing, that this all is happening,” the Imam was thinking loudly. “It’s good to meet new friends, to get to know them. Their plans, their strategy.”
Fatima was still sitting quietly, with her hands in the lap. Maybe it was the right time to say something.
“We met the person already. Countess Von Laubringen. She made a deal with the Chinese,” Fatima said silently. “They joined forces: she wants the mosque to be removed, and they want the grounds.”
“Aha, the Countess,” the Imam seemed surprised. “Her determination should be appreciated. What else is known?”
“There are some rumors, that also a foreign entity is involved,” Fatima continued to share her information. “It was them, who delivered the overall Public Relations strategy. It was them, who inspired Countess to negotiate with the Chinese: the only group we can hardly counter. The subject is allegedly a highly classified Military unit from abroad. Special Forces, Psychological Warfare. Their local interests are not clear.”
The Imam watched the ceiling, like if he would see it for the first time. “And in the center of all those powerful entities and interests, is this modest mosque. It’s the reason to be proud.”
“The easiest way to contain the situation would be to persuade Countess to stop, through her father, who was always inclined towards our interests,” Fatima explained with indifferent voice. “Without her, everything will fall apart. She is the basic element, holding the whole operation together.”
“They trained you really well,” the Imam appreciated such strategic thinking. “You were born for such big game. Against all that powerful players of the world, with their unlimited budgets and precise strategies, standing behind these walls to launch a devastating attack soon, this mosque will send just one asset: YOU. Isn’t it romantic? A woman against woman, a sister against sister, one devoted Muslim against them all non-believers who want to steal a sacred land from the Ummah,” he decided quite coldly, and started packing his stuff, like if nothing happed, like it wouldn’t concern him anymore.
“The most efficient way would be to convert her to Islam,” Fatima replied. “But that would be an active conversion, a tool of warfare. This is not what you teached us, Imam Faraj. You said to let them kaffirs to come to us, so they can test the depth of their faith.”
“Out there, a big game for power and influence is running,” Imam Faraj showed his hand to the door. “It’s ruthless, it’s neverending, wolves against vultures, and this mosque is forced to become an active part of it, regardless of wishes to stay safe and passive inside these walls. It was Allah who sent the Countess here, so you can help her to discover Islam, lead her to submission to His will, and save the mosque in the process. She will become a servant of Allah, she will become an asset, if it’s the intention of Allah with her. All sides will win, if the matter will be handled correctly. And you can prove yourself here, if Allah will permit,” the Imam ended the conversation.
Fatima said nothing to reply or to protest, still sitting in the corner.
But she won’t stay there for long.