Life and death in the Islamic Republic of America.
May 26, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 35 • By JOEL SCHWARTZ
But Rakkim is more than someone with superhuman skills in armed combat. He is appealingly cynical, something of a Bogart figure. (His interactions with his girlfriend and later wife call to mind the byplay between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in their movies.) Most significantly, Rakkim is the quintessential moderate Muslim. Whether or not massive numbers of moderate Muslims exist in real life, a truly impressive specimen inhabits the Assassin novels.
Rakkim is tolerant. His best friend is a Roman Catholic policeman. (Only 70 percent of the Islamic republic's citizens are Muslim, and the remaining 30 percent are almost entirely Catholic.) Rakkim also works closely with a family of Jewish scientific geniuses who live underground to avoid persecution. Furthermore, Rakkim is monogamous: Occasionally he tells acquaintances that he has only one wife because one is all he can handle.
Most of all, Rakkim is horrified by violence in the name of religion: "I believe we have to act as if God is watching," he says. "As if God cares. I believe we have to act as if Paradise awaits the good and the brave, and that the hottest fires of hell await those who do evil in God's name." The as-ifs may explain why Rakkim is said by the narrator to be "a Muslim in name only." On the other hand, he also says the following of himself: "I believe that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is his messenger. That is all I am certain of. I remain a Muslim. Not a good Muslim, but a believer all the same."
By contrast, the principal villain is a Muslim who does evil in God's name: The fabulously rich Hassan Muhammad--also known as the Old One--who is "far beyond a hundred, very far, possessed of a God-given vitality enhanced by organ transplants and the best science money could buy." How old is the Old One? In the early 1970s his donations to politicians and journalists led to the massive increase of Muslim immigration to Europe: "The slow-motion conquest of Europe, the nearly bloodless transformation into an Islamic continent, had been perhaps his greatest victory."
More recently, it was "the Old One who fine-tuned bin Laden's clumsy plan" for September 11. Subsequently, it was the Old One's money, "filtered through numerous fronts, that had financed the academic think tanks and jihadi legal defense teams" that opposed the war on terror. Furthermore, the Old One worsened the carnage of Hurricane Katrina by having "a dozen small explosive charges placed under the levees of the Ninth Ward." In short, the Old One is a walking conspiracy theory. Today's left pins less blame on Halliburton than -Ferrigno assigns to the Old One.
In the Assassin novels the Old One conspires to overthrow the comparatively moderate leadership of the Islamic republic. In his self-conception
Like any work of dystopian fiction, the Assassin novels should be judged less by their predictions than by their assessments of the weaknesses of our world. Having already shown how Ferrigno faults contemporary America, I'll conclude by briefly discussing his critique of Islamicized politics.
In Ferrigno's portrayal, Islamic rule decreases security, freedom, prosperity, and innovation. The Islamic republic is comparatively moderate, but there are limits to that moderation because moderates don't hold sway in many localities.
In an ironic reversal of today's culture wars, Ferrigno goes out of his way to inform us that San Francisco--now known as New Fallujah--is perhaps the worst fundamentalist hotbed: "Harlots and homosexuals, witches and Jews dangled from the high beams" of the Bridge of Skulls--formerly known as the Golden Gate.