Yemen Times – Al Qaeda in The Arabia Peninsula expert Saeed Ubaid says that, contrary to reports from intelligence services, AQAP leader, Naser Abdulkareem al-Wahishi was not killed in a 28 December missile attack in Pakistan.
Nor was he killed (twice) as reported in September of this year by the Yemeni government.
He was also not killed in the Hadramout counter terror raid of last month, nor was he killed when escaping from a Yemeni jail last June.
He was also not killed in November by American Idol judge, Simon Cowell. That was a misunderstanding.
Cowell, known for his acerbic critiques of American Idol contestants, evaluated al-Wahishi’s singing voice as similar to what would be uttered by a camel caught in barbed wire. To al-Wahishi, (stage name, Mr. Fabulous) who had hoped to trade the meager existence of a jihadist for the glamorous life of a pop star, the criticism was a stinging blow. His tweet on the topic said that he had been “slain” by Cowell, giving rise to the understandable confusion.
“How does it feel,” I asked al-Wahishi when I caught up with him at one of Waziristan’s toniest cafes, “to be the second-most not-killed pop star ever?” (number two with a bullet!) He scratched his beard absently for a moment before answering.
“I guess it’s better than nothing,” he began, “but to be honest, I really was hoping for more.” He paused and scratched again, and I began to wonder whether local hotels were bedbug-free.
“I know I can’t complain,” he continued. “I’m lucky to be where I am, but at some point you begin to add it all up, and you wonder if it’s been worth it. I mean, the voice lessons, the dancing lessons – have you met my choreographer? He’s an absolute dream. Those Pakistani boys are natural dancers, you know.”
He stopped talking and closed his eyes, a subtle smile on his face, and for a moment I was afraid I’d lost him.
“But to work so hard, only to find yourself at the end of your dream. You know, I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life,” he said. “I mean, the jihad is all well and good, and when I’m not on stage, I’m all about killing the infidel, but nothing makes me feel so alive as being under those lights.”
Al-Wahishi paused to adjust his woolen pakol hat. It was interwoven with a pale blue thread that matched a delicate border on his sleeves of his tunic. His shoes were Italian. I’d always seen him wearing sequins previously, but he explained when I asked him about it, that ever since Pakistan switched to environmentally friendly chemicals, dry-cleaning bills were outrageous.
I was about to ask him about his next show – was it true he would open for Lady Gaga? when a rough-looking bunch of characters entered the café. They sat in the opposite corner and almost immediately began glancing our way, and holding an animated sotto voce conversation. Al-Wahishi paid them no attention, but I couldn’t help noticing that they were becoming more and more agitated, and that they kept pointing in our direction.
Just as I was beginning to think it was time to end the interview, the tallest of them, a fierce-looking man, whose dark turban matched his piercing brown eyes, strode to where we sat. Towering over us, he pointed to my companion, and in a breathless voice said, “Mr. Fabulous?”
Al-Wahishi favored him with the slightest of nods, such as one that royalty would bestow upon the least significant of peasants.
“It’s HIM girls,” the tall man said, “I told you it was him!”
Almost immediately, we were surrounded by giggling, squealing mujahedin who, while stealing jealous glances in my direction, fawned over al-Wahishi, saying things like, “We absolutely ADORE you,” and “What was it like working with David Archuleta? He’s so yummy!”
Another said, “I just despise that Simon COW-ell. Who does she think she is, treating you like that? Don’t worry about her, darling, we’re issuing a fatwa…”
It seemed as good a time as any to bring my interview to a close, so I nodded thanks to al-Wahishi, who waved a languid hand in my direction, and I headed to my hotel to pack and file this report.
I was happy to have seen the artist surrounded by appreciative fans, but even then, I could detect his disappointment. I found something so human, so vulnerable, in his desire to emerge from his jihadi chrysalis and don the sequins of a butterfly.
And that’s when I had an idea. Why should he settle for second best? Why can’t a poor cross-dressing Yemeni jihadist achieve something better? Why can’t he have a shot at the brass ring? The answer – with a lot of hard work on his part, and a little help from the rest of us, there’s no reason at all. He may not win American Idol, but he can certainly become the most-not-killed pop star ever.
Write to me about how you didn’t kill al-Wahishi. Tell your friends to write. Tell them that if they’d wanted to vote for him on American Idol but didn’t get around to it, now’s their chance for redemption. I’ll compile all your stories, and send them to Rolling Stone. Together, we can help realize his dream.