Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, was sworn in as the nation’s first Muslim member of Congress in early January, but he is not the highest-ranking Muslim official in the United States. That honor belongs to Vice President Dick Cheney, who during one of his many trips to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s on behalf of Halliburton secretly converted to Wahabbi Islam, a rigorous fundamentalist version of the faith. In 1997, according to sources in Riyadh, Cheney visited the dusty provincial town of Bakh-Asward, a Wahabbi stronghold, where he realized he had found exactly what he was looking for, a religion that was grim, rancorous, authoritarian, and violent, and yet, on the other hand, insane.
Since that time, Cheney has been working tirelessly to restore the medieval Islamic empire, or caliphate, in the Middle East and has actually been toying with the idea of naming himself caliph, or at least pulling strings behind the scenes as vice caliph. The centerpiece of this secret strategy has been the carefully planned and executed war in Iraq, which has done so much to raise the prestige and power of jihadists in that country and elsewhere. That’s why Jihadtime magazine, a weekly published out of a cave somewhere between the lawless Pakistani border region of North Waziristan and the lawless Afghan border region of South Wazooistan, sent Cheney a copy of its year-end issue with a mirror on the cover, which proclaimed that “Our annual “Person of the Year” is you—yes, you, along with all the other neo-armchair warriors out there who have done so much for our cause.”
Cheney has kept his faith a private matter, choosing not to reveal it to President Bush, a sincere Christian who has vowed to read the entire Bible someday, just as soon as he finishes My Pet Goat. But it has led to considerable tension in the Cheney household, where the devout veep unrolls a prayer rug and prays five times a day facing toward an oil well just outside Mecca. In particular, his conversion to Wahabbi Islam has led to bitter arguments with his daughter Mary, who converted to an entirely different sect, Wasabi Islam, while having dinner at a fusion sushi and shish-kebab restaurant in Georgetown last month with her partner Heather Poe. The heated exchanges between father and daughter have been further complicated by the fact that Cheney’s wife, Lynne, is a devotee of the ancient Egyptian snake goddess Irma.
Cheney’s strict adherence to militant Islam has also caused problems with his fellow neoconservatives, most of whom are equally devout, but adhere to a rival sect, militant Bedlam.
Eric Kenning is the pen name of a writer in New York. He can be reached at [email protected] This piece originally appeared in the journal Liberty.
Daily updates with TM’s latest