Remembering Uzza

A Black Comedy in Three Acts


I think it was Pierre Burton who said that a writer is always writing two books at a time—the left-over research and the cuts from the book your working on becoming the raw material for your next book.

I started work on the sequel to The Fractured Nation Interviews after completing the first edition of Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice. The extensive research I had already in writing both made it a natural.

In the sequel some of the worst fears expressed by guests of television host Johnny MacDonald are now a reality.

Remembering Uzzah is meant to make learning about the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad a painless and mostly pleasant experience while not sugar-coating or leaving out the naughty and nasty bits as does Little Mosque on the Prairie.

And, is there a better place to learn about Islam then in the relaxed atmosphere of a favourite pub in the company of friends and a beautiful, bright, doomed young woman to give you an insider's perspective?

Except for Uzza, and her nemesis from H.A.M.M., all other characters, including Archie the bartender, are modeled on real patrons of a popular Ottawa night-spot.

The sequel to The Interviews adopts the same play-like format as that milestone publication. Again, the format chosen breaks with Dramatic Play Services and Playwrights Canada and the so-called Standard American conventions for plays. Names of characters are not CAPITALIZED so as not to distract the reader with excessive CAPITALIZATION. Only the first letter of the character’s Name is in uppercase. The names of the characters still appear in bold.

The portion of the interview which led to Johnny's injuries is summarized in a newscast in the opening Act.

Why the Name?

Uzza’s personality is modeled on Mary, although, unlike Mary, Uzza is a “good girl” and does not earn her living as a prostitute. Mary was not her real name and neither is Uzza the real name of the doomed protagonist of Remembering Uzza.

The name Uzza is from al-Uzza, the goddess Uzza, who as the Arab Venus was the most revered of all  ("al" before the name means "the" which is why sometimes you see it, and sometimes you don't).

Pre-Islamic Arabs worshipped three goddesses, al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat who they believed to be the daughters of the moon god "al-Ilah" (Allah).

Pre-Islamic Arabs had no problems with a spiritual existence that included gods and goddesses.

The Meccans, when the Prophet showed up with his army, gave up without a fight after God’s Messenger assured them that if they became Muslims they could continue to worship Lat, Uzza, and Manat.

The next day, after he had complete control of their city, the Prophet told the Meccans that it was all the devil’s doing; that Satan had intruded on his conversations with Allah the previous night (the Satanic Verses which were stricken from the Koran) and that in the morning Allah had set him straight, that only He was to be worshipped, and Lat, Uzza, and Manat were history.

22:52 We have not sent a Messenger or Prophet before you but when he recited the Devil would intrude into his recitation. Yet Allah annuls what the Devil had cast. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. Allah is All-Knowing and Wise.

The satanic verses are two short revelations:

These are the exalted cranes (Lat, Uzza, and Manat)

Whose intercession [with Allah] is to be hoped for.

The Prophet's tribe the Quraysh used to chant, as they circumambulated the Ka'ba,  "Al-Lat, and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other; indeed these are exalted gharaniq (cranes); let us hope for their intercession. " F. E. Peters, The Hajj, p 3-41,

In revelations which immediately follow the deleted satanic verses Allah repeats parts of this invocation in His vociferous denunciation that He has daughters.

53:19 Have you, then, seen al-Lat and al-‘Uzza?

53:20 And Manat, the third one, the other?

53:21 Do you have the male and He has the female?

53:22 That indeed is an unjust division.

Allah will return to this monumental, unforgiveable insult that is associating His Omnipotence with females in another surah (remember, the numbering of the verses of the Koran is not normally indicative as to when they were received. Apart from a general categorization of verses as having been revealed during the Prophet's time in Mecca then in Medina the Koran contains no timeline).

16:57 And they ascribe to Allah daughters [glory be to Him!], but to themselves what they desire (sons).

16:62 And they ascribe to Allah what they themselves dislike (daughters). Their tongues utter the lie that theirs will be the best reward. There is no doubt that the Fire awaits them, and that they will be left [there].

To the Meccans who felt betrayed, Allah sent down a revelation about saving them from a terrible punishment in the here-an-now and the hereafter as comfort.

Whether the "you" in the following verses refers to His Messenger or the Meccans is unclear, but the message and for whom it is meant is unambiguous; that without His intervention the Meccans would have continued worshipping the goddesses and He would have had no choice but to punish them severely. These verses are also in  keeping with a central theme of the Koran, that women are devious whether they be mortals or goddesses.

17:73 They were about to lure you away from what we have revealed to you, so that you might replace it with false inventions against Us. Then they would have taken you for a friend.

17:74 Had We not enabled you to stand firm, you might have inclined towards them a little.

17:75 Then, We would have made you taste double [the punishment in life] and double the punishment after death, and then you would not have found any supporters against Us.

The denial of the existence of al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat marked the end of the Arab Civilization. The contrast between then and now, from Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice:

I am not aware in the entire history of civilisation of a more gracious, more loving, more vibrant society than that of the Arabs before Islam … [it was a time] … of unbound freedom, lofty sentiments, a nomadic and chivalrous way of life, [a land] of fantasy, joy, mischievousness, bawdy impious poetry, refined love-making…

Ernest Renan, cf. Robert Montagne La Civilisation du désert.

They were a people of primary colours, or rather of black and white … They were a dogmatic people, despising doubt, our modern crown of thorns. They did not understand our metaphysical difficulties, our introspective questioning. They only knew truth and untruth, belief and unbelief, without our hesitating retinue of finer shades.

This people was black and white not merely in clarity, but in apposition. Their thoughts were at ease only in extremes … they never compromised; they pursued the logic of several incompatible opinions to absurd ends, without perceiving the incongruity.

They were a limited, narrow-minded people, whose inert intellect lay fallow in curious resignation. Their imaginations were vivid, but not creative.

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The Humour

Allah, the Logger

Yes, the humour, even the morbid humour that is to be expected in a black comedy like Remembering Uzza usually has some connection to something Allah said. The connection to burning logs and Allah in Apple Juice, Shirley Temples and Burning Logs is, we admit, a tenuous one but it is there, and has to do with Allah piling unbelievers, like a cord of wood one must assume, before he tosses them into His Fire place.

8:37 So that Allah might separate the foul from the fair and place the foul, one upon the other, piling them up all together and casting them into Hell. Those are truly the losers.

A Bad Joke

Lee is Jewish. If you have read Shooting the Messenger Lee’s name may ring a bell. Lee was the only colleague at Foreign Affairs who, at considerable risk to his career, warned me about management’s intentions in my regard.

Lee, told me the most insensitive, anti-Semitic joke I have ever heard. He was trying to make a point, that sometimes we say the most stupid, inconsiderate things. It was at a dinner with the parents of the Jewish girl who would become his wife.

He had never met her parents before and he was still nervous when dessert was served and it was apple pie. Not thinking, he asked “What is the difference between an apple pie and a Jew?” Not getting any response, he said: “An apple pie does not scream when you put it into the oven.”

He expressed both surprise and gratitude that the parents still allowed him to marry their daughter after that boner.

The joke, which ends Apple Juice, Shirley Temples and Burning Logs, is a variation on Lee’s joke and is meant to make a point, as are all the jokes in the dark pub-comedy that is Uzzah.