From the Worthy of Kafka Dept.
Dr. Moniem El-Ganayni, a long-time Pittsburg, Pa resident, Muslim imam and nuclear physicist with Dept. of energy security clearance who also worked part-time as a prison chaplain, has, over the past year lost his security clearance, his job and perhaps his career, becoming transformed from respected member of the Pittsburgh Muslim community and a founder of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland to a national security risk and FBI target. The reason: a two sentence description of ant warfare. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette tells the story
It all began with a book, "The Miracle in the Ant," one of numerous
volumes published by Harun Yahya, an Islamic creationist from Turkey.
The book details ant anatomy and behavior, and argues that these
characteristics disprove the theory of evolution.
Dr. El-Ganayni had ordered the book for the Forest prison library
and was passing out photocopied chapters for the Muslim inmates housed
in segregation to read in their cells. Eventually, he came to the
chapter called "Defence and War Tactics," about ants that produce acid,
use camouflage or enslave other ants.
Then there's this passage, under the heading "Walking Bombs":
"The ultimate in public service is to destroy enemies by committing
suicide in defense of the colony. Many kinds of ants are prepared to
assume this kamikaze role in one way or another, but none more
dramatically than a species of Camponotus of the saundersi group living
in the rain forests of Malaysia."
A quick Internet search shows that this passage and others (minus
the creationism) were lifted almost verbatim from "Journey to the
Ants," by Pulitzer Prize winning biologists Edward O. Wilson and Bert
Holldobler. "Journey" was published by Harvard University Press in
1994, six years before the Harun Yahya version.
Dr. El-Ganayni said he scanned the chapters before passing them out,
and the "walking bomb" passage didn't seem problematic because it was a
scientific description of an insect. The passage must have raised
hackles at the prison, however, because the Rev. Glenn McQuown, the
chaplaincy director, was asked to examine the book -- he declined to
say by whom.
"In my view, the book was completely benign," said the Rev. McQuown
from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he was about to deploy to Afghanistan with
the U.S. Army. He added that he would be happy to work again with Dr.
El-Ganayni anytime and said, "I have him on my list to call for support
as I prepare to engage with Muslims in Afghanistan."
Somehow, the prison literature made its way to the DOE. Dr.
El-Ganayni is convinced it was sent in retaliation for his dispute with
prison authorities, but Sue McNaughton, spokeswoman for the state
Department of Corrections in Harrisburg, said any prison employee or
inmate could have put a copy in the mail.
In any case, the DOE questioning began. "They asked, 'Would you
support killing Americans?' I said, 'Of course not.' 'Are you loyal?' I
said, 'Yes.' 'Would you do anything to harm this country?' I said,
Then they asked if he advocated suicide bombing, and if the "walking
bomb" passage could be read as promoting attacks against Americans.
"I couldn't believe my ears," Dr. El-Ganayni said. "I am an
American. How could I advocate killing myself? I am also a Muslim, a
man of peace. I do not advocate killing anyone."
He said he told his questioners that he was against suicide bombing,
and explained repeatedly that the passage was about ants, not people.
"You can twist anything to mean something else if you want to," he said.
From his office at Harvard, Dr. Wilson, the world's foremost
authority on ants and the real author of passage, said he was startled
to learn that his words had become an issue for Dr. El-Ganayni. "My
reaction is astonishment at the unfairness of it," Dr. Wilson said.
Dr. El-Ganayni said he was similarly astonished. "I told them, 'Look
at my actions. I have been here since 1980; I never had a problem at
work; I never broke a law; I never had any trouble except the dispute
at the prison.'
"Now they are taking two sentences from a book about ants that
anyone can get in the bookstore, and making it more important than [my]
27 years in this country."