The camel is a noble animal. Had it not existed, Islamic civilization would never have gotten off the ground, just as, in the absence of the horse, we in the West would still be lugging barrows and scraping along in donkey-hauled slipes. The camel is perhaps even preferable to the horse. It is fast, carries its own water, and provides what SUV manufacturers call “command seating,” rivaled only by the elephant. Indeed, Mark Twain understood the inherently exalted nature of the creature when he introduced the cameleopard in Huckleberry Finn. Of course, the cameleopard or “Royal Nonesuch” is really a giraffe (Arabic: ziraffah, “tallest one”), but it sounds like a camel with a temper and enviable velocity, a beast that demands respect. Detective writer David Baldacci calls his group of likeable, informal sleuths “the camel club,” whose goal, according to author’s website, is “to seek the truth.” With so much going for it, it’s a crying shame to see the desert taxi disparaged, rejected, or ignored, especially by those who should know better.
For example, even the great historian Edward Gibbon and so prominent a writer and intellectual as Jorge Luis Borges lay it down that there are no references to camels in the Koran. Borges comments in his essay “The Argentine Writer and Tradition”: “Gibbon observes that in the Arabian book par excellence, in the Koran, there are no camels.” Gibbon and Borges obviously skipped surah 88:18 in which the Prophet (PBUH) urges the redeemed in paradise “to reflect on the camels, and how they were created.”
Joining this cabal of camel skeptics is one Fatima Al-Dhaher, a young Muslim student who attended Ann Coulter’s talk at the University of Western Ontario on March 22, the first in a three-lecture swing through Canada. A firebrand conservative critic of the Western multiculti tendency to appease and coddle Islam in the wake of 9/11, Coulter has suggested, with her characteristic brashness, that Muslims be banned from commercial flights and rely on flying carpets instead. Challenged by Ms. Al-Dhaher, who took the jibe with utmost seriousness and felt “stabbed to the heart” by so callous a recommendation, Coulter shot back “take a camel.” This was not, apparently, an allusion to a famous brand of cigarettes, as if to say, “relax, light up, think it over,” but, from Ms. Al-Dhaher’s perspective, a politically incorrect snub of epic proportions.
I believe the only one who should feel slighted is the camel, who has furnished transportation over the millennia through drought, heat, sandstorm, and mirage with nary a complaint. And maybe, too, the hundreds of thousands of frequent flyers who are subjected to all manner of indignity and inconvenience because teams of aggrieved Muslims are prone to wreaking destruction in and from the air. Ms. Al-Dhaher should have understood Coulter’s point regardless of its heavy-handedness, namely, given the well-attested fact that the overwhelming majority of the world’s terrorists happen to be Muslims, and assuming that we are really interested in saving lives, what we call “racial profiling,” however unpalatable, is nothing short of a civic obligation. Although the fact that the young Muslim woman had no compunction approving of the Facebook group, It’s Called Palestine, not Israel!!!, which advocates the annihilation of the Jewish state, renders her troubled innocence rather suspect. (Incidentally, her name has strangely, suddenly, been deleted from the site.)