June 23, 2011

Gay Girl in Damascus was fishing for a book deal before she, er, he got busted


Tom MacMaster

This story just keeps getting stranger and creepier by the day.

According to this post by Robert Mackey on The Lede blog of the New York Times, in May Tom MacMaster (a.k.a. Amina Abdallah Arraf, a.k.a. A Gay Girl in Damascus, now known to be the Scottish graduate student who staged the whole thing) had written to Minal Hajratwala, author of Leaving India, to ask her advice about how to get Amina’s “memoir” published. Tom subsequently sent Hajratwala a draft to get her opinion and to see if she would forward it to agents to help land a book deal. Hajratwala read the manuscript, thought that it was “rambling,” and decided not to forward it to agents.

Now, even though MacMaster has come out, as it were, as the author behind Gay Girl–writing on the blog in a long mea culpa about how “Amina came alive,” how it got away from him, and whining about how “sorry” he his for hurting people he cares about–he still seems not to have learned his lesson.

As Mackey reports, MacMaster is threatening to sue Hajratwala unless she takes down a pdf of the manuscript (titled ”A Thousand Sighs, and a Sigh: An Arab American Education”) that she’s linked to on her blog. Thankfully, Hajratwala is doing nothing of the sort. In fact, she went a bit further and has posted the threatening emails from MacMaster and their subsequent exchange, which went like this:

—- Original Message —-
From: Tom MacMaster ([email protected])
To: (name deleted)
Sent: Tue Jun 21 01:50:34 2011
Subject: Minal Hajratwala

Dear (name deleted),

I am contacting you regarding a client of yours, Minal Hajratwala. On her website, she has posted information regarding me as well as copyrighted materials. Please advise her to remove all of these forthwith as, otherwise, I will be seeking legal action against her.

Tom MacMaster

Hajratwala’s reply:

Dear Mr. MacMaster,

Since you have my email address, as is clear from your earlier email to me as “Amina,” you are welcome to correspond with me directly and say anything that you wish to say to me. My email address is also available through my website, which is where I am guessing you found my publicist’s email address in the first place, so the purpose of sending her this email is rather obscure to me.

I am sharing your email via my blog and with a few of journalists who have been covering your story. I will also be encouraging others to mirror my original blog post, including the PDF, in case for some reason my site needs to be taken down. In case a legal defense is needed, I feel quite confident that the blogosphere will volunteer its assistance.


Minal Hajratwala

MacMaster then responded to Hajratwala’s note by saying that “I do not wish to start a flame war with you. I am not seeking further publicity, positive or negative, and wish you no ill. Hence, my request to delete those materials so as to avoid potential legal troubles for both of us.”

Mackey asked MacMaster about his emails to Hajratwala and why he was pursing legal action against her. MacMaster cited a “potential copyright violation” and that he is “also considering potential libel cases here in the U.K. involving publications and Web sites that published false information regarding me (including fake quotes and a fake interview done by an individual claiming to be me)”

How he could be pissed at anyone for faking anything is pretty stunning. But what he faked–a young lesbian activist blogger, fighting for freedom in her country, abducted in service of that cause and becoming a symbol for a revolution–Hajratwala summed up quite well in another post:

Amina was an idealized projection, the white man’s fantasy of an oppressed yet courageous Arab women. Bright, reckless, courageous, American, fighting patriarchy and Islamic repression at once: She was the perfect superhero, the perfect wet dream.