May 24, 2008


Assassin's Trilogy: Life and death in the Islamic Republic of America (Joel Schwartz, May 26, 2008, Weekly Standard)

With the publication of Sins of the Assassin, Robert Ferrigno is now two-thirds of the way toward completing a series of thrillers--with plenty of graphic violence, and some graphic sex--that also comprise a serious work of dystopian fiction. [...]

Both Prayers and Sins tell the story of a battle between a Muslim hero and a Muslim villain. It was clever of Ferrigno to make his hero a Muslim: How can his books be deemed "Islamophobic" if they celebrate a Muslim hero? (Needless to say, some readers nevertheless find the books Islamophobic, but their complaint would surely be greater if the books pitted a Christian or Jewish hero against a Muslim villain.) The hero in question is Rakkim Epps, formerly a member of the Fedayeen, "a small, elite force of genetically enhanced holy warriors." In particular, he was a member of the still-more-elite shadow warriors (troops trained to infiltrate the Bible Belt). Shadow warriors are typically discovered and killed within two-and-a-half years of their first mission; yet so great is Rakkim's prowess that he survived six years before leaving his post.

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."

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2008 9:43 AM

I've still not changed my mind.
"Prayers" was a good read, even tho' future world edifice on which is was built is as improbable as Superman flying FTL.
In "Sins" the sex is completely gratuitious, the villain is even less a Muslim than Rakkim as well as being some aged Superman with an intellect far surpassing any human who ever lived. It's just a horrible book and I'm amazed that anybody could ever accept the future history edifice "Assasins" is built on as even possible?
You want Muslim angst? Read "The Faithfull Spy"
You want possible/probable future history scenario? Read "Caliphate"

Posted by: Mike at May 24, 2008 8:18 PM

No one expects you to change your mind--you can't like a book with a Muslim hero...yadda, yadda, yadda...

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2008 11:11 PM

That's the most insulting thing you've ever said to me.
I enjoyed "Prayers", a comic book w/o pictures. And, I'd probably have enjoyed "sins" had not the sex been so unecessary, & the "Old One" villain being as unbelievable as the "future history" on which the whole thing is predicated.
BTW, by any standard, Rakkim is a lapsed Muslim,not a moderate Muslim.
BTW, can you explain any Islamic belief which denies fatalism and predestination while championing "free will"? Of course not!
He has a friend who's a Catholic Priest. Good Muslim, doesn't kill the the "unbeliever".
Good dog, doesn't bite the mailman.
How condesending!
I challenge anybody, without your prejudices, to deny "Caliphate" is a much more likely "future history" and that the hero of "Faithful Spy" is a much more believable lapsed Muslim.
Let me know when "Mookie" returns to Iraq after fearfully hiding out in Iran!

Posted by: Mike at May 27, 2008 10:28 PM

I hate Islam..blah...blah...blah...

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2008 9:06 AM