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Students describe John Walker as bumbling zealot:

John Walker bumbled his way through his first trip to the Middle East, unwittingly insulting other Muslims and repeatedly getting into trouble with authorities, say those who encountered the Marin teen-ager in Yemen. …

Josh Mortensen, another student, said from Cairo that Walker asked peers to call him Suleiman, affected a “bogus” Arabic accent and wore traditional Muslim garb unlike that of most Yemenis. Other foreign students at the school mockingly nicknamed him “Yusuf Islam,” the name pop singer Cat Stevens took when he became a Muslim and rejected his music career. …

Islamic experts said that in his naivete, Walker, a baptized Roman Catholic who converted to Islam at 16, fell into a trap so common that Mohammed himself predicted it.

“A person who might have been living a typical happy-go-lucky life and then he really gets very much attracted to the teaching of Islam and its ideal, but then he wants to change overnight – that’s what the prophet actually was teaching against,” said Jamal Badawi of the Islamic Information Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “He said, ‘Go gently.”‘

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