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Forrest Gump's First Cousin and the Pope's Piecemeal War...

16/11/2015 11:17 GMT | Updated 15/11/2016 10:12 GMT

It wouldn't be a funny story if I did a talk at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on the day piecemeal war broke out, but that may come to pass.

I seem to have a funny habit (peculiar, not ha-ha) of being around just before or after some historic or cataclysmic event takes place. Rather like Forrest Gump's first cousin, loping through life's tapestry like it's a box of chocolates...

Back in 1988, I'd booked a flight from the land of Oz to L.A. a year ahead as part of a round-the-world trip I'd set my heart on taking: United Airlines flight 812, departing Sydney late August 1989. I reached Perth in October 1988 and, though then an undiagnosed Asperger in an era before knowledge of autism, the internet or mobile phones, I worked my way across the 'Lucky Country' for nearly a year, coping with change, stress, cane toads and life as a sometime 'slave' on a North Queensland banana plantation. If anyone had known I had autism at the time I might have been told not to take the trip, and in the case of some Aspergers that would have been the correct advice to give. But as I've since realized, I had just about the right combination of characteristics to cope. It's also possible the whole experience acted as an intense form of therapy which forced my brain to forge new neural pathways in order to deal with change and network socially.

But though I didn't then know who I really was, the meticulous nature of the focused Asperger was already at work, and from late 1988 the departure date and flight number of the 747 waiting several months and many miles ahead of me was virtually carved into my heart and mind.

812. Sydney-L.A. August 1989.

Late in February 1989, though, flight 811 from Los Angeles to Sydney (812's sister ship) lost a cargo door and several passengers over the Pacific. I saw a news report which said hinges on 812's cargo door had been checked and also found to be weakening. I saw the plane I was crossing Australia to reach, and did not change my itinerary, doubting that would be the day my number was destined to come up.

Later, I stayed at a backpacker hostel in Sydney which burnt down six weeks after I passed through. Six people died. Arson was proven.

Successfully reaching L.A. for the first time, I took a Greyhound bus on up the California coast to San Francisco, stopping over there for a day before heading out East via the Oakland Bay Bridge, which would buckle and break in the 1989 earthquake a few weeks later.

And haunting me round the world was the news of Pan Am flight 103's crash on Lockerbie, which took place not three months after I left my own small town, thirty miles away.

I remember walking by Manhattan's Twin Towers, September of 1989, passing people with placards demanding to know the truth about flight 103. I returned in 2000 and took the lift to the top of the South Tower. I also took photographs, now historic.

Some weeks before the 7/7 bombings in 2005, I happened to take the train from Ipswich to London Liverpool Street station. I saw the brash and lively capital just before it was scarred. One of the suicide bombers travelled toward the terminus not long after I did and no doubt saw the same.

Some coincidences I don't joke about.

It is true, indeed, that as my father taught me, "Allah the Merciful the Compassionate, weaves the threads of men's destinies into many strange tapestries."

He was born into the British Army, but in India, and studied at the Islamic University of Bangalore in 1943.

I've never seen Islam as a threat, and commented on its culture in The Legend of John Macnab. In The Afghan, written in 2006, Frederick Forsyth (known for his meticulous research), summed up the position of the Qur'an on jihad, terrorism and murder:

"Even jihad is the wrong word. Of course jihad exists, but it has rules. Either it is a personal struggle within oneself to become a better Muslim, but in that case it is completely non-aggressive. Or it means true holy war, armed struggle in the defence of Islam. That's what the terrorists claim they're about. But they choose to airbrush the rules out of the text.

"For one thing true jihad can only be declared by a legitimate Koranic authority of proven and accepted repute. Bin Laden and his acolytes are notorious for their lack of scholarship. Even if the West had indeed attacked, hurt, damaged, humiliated and demeaned Islam and thus all Muslims, there are still rules and the Koran is absolutely specific on these.

"It is forbidden to attack and kill those who have offered no offence and done nothing to hurt you. It is forbidden to kill women and children. It is forbidden to take hostages and it is forbidden to mistreat, torture or kill prisoners. The AQ [Al-Qaeda] terrorists and their followers do all four on a daily basis. And let us not forget that they have killed far more fellow-Muslims than Christians or Jews."

For fine detail on the specific Qur'an quotes, look to this link.

Al-Qaeda's fanatical successor, Islamic State (IS), has now attacked Paris. Perhaps, as the Pope has said, we are indeed falling into a "piecemeal World War III."

After this horror I consider IS no more than gangsters and fanatics, and think they should be wiped from the face of the earth. I wonder how the tapestry to do this will be woven, and whether I'll witness its beginnings at the MoD.

But I also hope we'll realize they really don't represent true Islam and find common cause with bright and moderate Muslim scholars. Those who actually read the Qur'an.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau and The Legend of John Macnab. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.

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