Read some newspapers, national periodicals, or internet news sites trumpeted by “trusted” media outlets and the casual reader could very well come away with the notion that America is being overwhelmed by religious extremists of the Christian variety. Witness judges who tack copies of the Ten Commandments on their courtroom walls, or pastors and priests with the temerity to speak of the Constitution’s guarantee of an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the right to life movement in the same breath, and then sit back and wait for the hoots of derision to explode from the pens of editorialists and the mouths of talking heads. Or witness how a public school down south would dare to conduct a graduation ceremony with a cross lurking auspiciously somewhere in the background. Gasp! Shriek! (Hold on a moment while I wail and tear out my hair at the unimaginable apostasy and affront to secular humanism). And forget about trying to teach creationism alongside the current scientific dogma of evolution. If it were attempted I’m sure some offended citizen would speed dial the ACLU hotline and an advocate would be filing an injunction faster than you could say Genesis.
Now, I’m sure some of you are sitting there scratching your heads with eyes wide and rolling in disbelief and mumbling to yourself that you thought this site was about books. Well, it is about books and literature. I’m just pointing out that in my opinion, more than a few intellectuals, academics and a goodly number of journalists seem to savage prominent displays of Judeo-Christian faith while giving an entirely different brand of religiosity a pass, if you will. Call it a casualty of our PC (politically correct) culture.
And what is this brand of religiosity to which I refer? Is it science as humanity’s newest god and its narrow-minded exclusiveness of its practitioners who espouse science and the attainment of knowledge above all else? Is it secular humanism and its quest for moral fulfillment through reasoning, ethics and justice absent God or religion? Yes, and no, but neither is actually the topic of today’s blog post. What I’m referring to is the brand of Islam currently being exported by Iran.
Before I go any further, I would like to fill in a little background as to what prompted this blog post and consequently, the reading and review of Joel Rosenberg’s The Twelfth Imam. There’s a growing sense in cultures around the world that the apocalypse is right around the corner. Secular humanists are not immune to the alarmism with shouts of man’s imminent demise through global warming and global cooling, streaking meteors, massive earthquakes and tsunamis. Merely pick a natural disaster and apply. We Christians have our books of the Bible that speak of the end times, most specifically, the Book of Revelations, though I refute this May 21, 6:00 pm fad making its rounds as unscriptural and unsupported by the Bible (No one knows the day or hour: Matthew 24:36) . Islam is no different. They have their apocalyptic messiah as well.
If you have been paying any attention the past thirty years to world events, and specifically, the Middle East (aside from the first and second wars in Iraq), you may have noticed that the fundamentalist regime of Iran is not friendly to western culture in the least. As a matter of fact, the official line is one of direct hostility exemplified by boisterous proclamations of its desire to annihilate Israel, and of course, America. And for good measure throw in the regime’s dedication to the financing, arming and training of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the resident despot of Syria, Bashir Assad.
The current figurehead for anti-western sentiment is embodied in Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A fiery orator with populist leanings, Ahmadinejad makes no bones about his desire to hasten the return of Shiite Islam’s messiah, the Mahdi, also known as the 12th Imam. In fact, in Ahmadinejad’s first speech to the United Nations, he took to the global stage in New York City and prayed out loud for the hasty return of the hidden imam. The underpinnings of this messianic yearning for the Mahdi is that he is expected to return before the Day of Judgment to lead the righteous against the forces of evil. Now whom does Ahmadinejad consider the forces of evil to be?
To answer this I suggest letting Joel Rosenberg entertain you with his latest splendidly researched and thought-provoking thriller, The Twelfth Imam. Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling author, takes the reader inside the messianic Mahdi movement of Shiite dominated Iran. The main character of the novel, David Shirazi, is an Iranian-American of Shiite extraction that is initially recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda cells in Europe and Pakistan. Rumblings from within Iran of a mysterious religious cleric claiming to be the messiah, coupled with the regime’s relentless and secretive pursuit of nuclear power prompt Shirazi’s reassignment: Infiltrate Iran and gather information on Iran’s nuclear facilities and disrupt its nuclear weapons program before it’s too late.
There was a lot to like about this book. It was entertaining, relevant to current events and did a fabulous job of simplifying the complex and mystical aspects of Shiite end-times theology. Rosenberg also demonstrated a deft touch in extrapolating on the geo-political import of Shiite eschatology, an area this blogger and reviewer was woefully deficient. In sum, this novel was one of the best fiction/suspense political thrillers I’ve had the joy to read this year. Pick up a copy and enjoy.