Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Hole

Last week provided a too perfect for fiction chance to compare the two sides in the current conflict. While the organisers of the March for [ ] thrashed about desperatly trying to find a way to protest against barking without mentioning dogs, elsewhere in London there was no such equivocation. At the Old Bailey, prosecuters recounted how Muslims talked about trying to poison football fans and blow up holidaying families. Listening to desperate flip-flopping on the one hand, and joyous blood lust on the other, it was hard not to let one thought dominate all others: we could lose this thing.

Robert Ferrigno has been thinking along the same lines. His new novel 'Prayers for the Assasin' is set in an Islamic States of America in 2042. How and why the US collapsed is revealed over the course of the book. Yep, it's that cliche of the future history genre, the 'dark secret that must be hidden', but the main interest is not the hunt for the secret - it's obvious from almost the first page - so much as the brilliant description of an Islamic America. Ferrigno has clearly studied Islam in depth, and so he describes not only what an Islamic America could be like, so much as what it very probably would be like.

Of course, this book has its flaws. Sometimes the story seems to teeter on the edge of becoming a generic chase thriller. Similarly, one of the bad guys is a cliched smoothie sociopath, a Hannibal Al-Lector. The biggest problem however - as with much else in life - is PC, albeit of the gender rather than racial sort. The demands of the publishing world for the proverbial 'strong, female characters' means that Ferrigno is forced to introduce an absurd distinction in his Islamic society between fundementalists and supposed 'moderns', with 'modern' women free to, well, carry on as normal. In so far as Islam is anything but normal in its treatment of women, this undercuts the whole vision, but at least it allows the deeply annoying female lead to indulge in enough acts of derring-do to satisfy the editors while Ferrigno manages to slip in enough hints of how fundementalist women are treated to get the message out. Indeed, one of the most chilling scenes in the whole book is when a thuggish religious policeman is inspecting a fundementalist female-only cyber cafe.

Ultimatly, what gives this work its power is that Ferrigno is no mere 'Nuke Mecca' ranter. On the contary, Ferrigno bends over backwards to be fair to Islam, for example the first of only two references to Islam's weird hatred of Man's Best Friend is where the protagonist has to step round 'dog product' while walking through a dhimmi area. Equally, while the word 'dhimmitude' never appears in the text, Ferrigno is unsparing in his description of the reality of the state-not-to-be-named. That's the point, of course. Ferrigno is content simply to let details speak for themselves - the essential lunacy of Islam needs no embellishment (which is why the Al-Beeb will never refer either to dhimmitude or the hatred of dogs).

What really worries Ferrigno is summed in his acknowledgements when he quotes Simone de Beauvoir on the atheistic implications of her work 'One can abolish water, but one cannot abolish thirst'. It's not just metaphysics, Ferrigno is alive to the way Islam provides a sense of community - one of the most memorable moments in the book is the description of the protagonists caught up in the rush to morning prayer, with all manner of people moving as one to the mosques. It's this sense of belonging, of identity, that explains a least as much of the lure of Islamolunacy as the mystical nonsense.

Above all else, Islam offers answers. Admittedly, rubbish answers, but this is ground deserted by most of the West's self-proclaimed so-fist-ikates, the people who pride themselves on their ability to 'raise questions', 'challenge orthodoxies' and similiar idiocies. Maybe these people's constant ranting about 'fascists' arises from a haunting guilt that all this just isn't good enough. We know what they don't believe in, but what do they actually stand for ?

In this respect, the March for [ ] was the reification of everything that's wrong in mainstream Western Culture. Sure, some may object to Ferrigno's implicit belief that a secular, post-modern West can not win against Islam, but what do they offer ? Simply yapping about 'freedom' isn't enough. Even Ayn Rand recognised the essentially vacuous nature of much Libertarianism - Objectivism was her attempt to produce a rational basis for this sphere of ideology. Few since has faced up the challenge. If our intellectual classes are going to spend their time whining about fascists and sneering at tradition, then the onus is on them to come up with a real 'ideology of freedom'. That's not going to be easy in a country where even nominally right-wing MPs vote for Walking Licences, but at least in Robert Ferrigno we now have an author not afraid to give us a glimpse of the price of failure, and for that we should all be suitably grateful.

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