- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

In The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Prometheus, $28, 750 pages), Andrew G. Bostom, a professor of medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, produces a detailed treatment as to what classic Islamic war theory is and the fate of the people — known as dhimmis — who are forced to live in subjugated societies.

The book dates the first jihad within two years of Muhammad’s death in 632 AD. Abu Bakr, the first caliph, launched a jihad that expanded Islam throughout the entire Arabian peninsula and much of the former Roman empire. By 750 AD, Islamic invaders had overrun Iraq, Iran, parts of India, North Africa, Europe up to Narbonne and Poitiers and had begun the march across the Iberian peninsula they were to occupy for seven centuries.

Maps in red and green detail show which lands stayed Christian and which ones went Islamic. As the centuries progressed, more countries turned green. Only Spain managed to reverse the trend. Much ink is spent on the early 20th century jihad, by the Muslim Turks and Kurds, of the Christian Armenians.

The origins of jihad in the Koran and Hadith (commentary) are dissected, including the punishments meted out to inhabitants of conquered lands. Interspersed are lectures by more modern jihadists (Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rules, for example). One chilling 1970 speech began with, “Islam grew with blood.”

With numbing detail, Mr. Bostom shows how the idea of jihad as being an inner struggle as well as an outer one is a modern invention, good to pacify western societies, while the real agenda is world Islamic domination.

The book deals with the slavery-practicing districts of the Sudan, where jihad is still alive and well and its Christian and animist people have been enslaved since the late 19th century by Muslim overlords. This encyclopedic treatment of the nature of jihad is not mere history; it is today’s breaking news.

Journalists dream of turning their real-life experiences into novels, which is what David Aikman has done in Qi (Broadman and Holman, $22.99, 236 pages) with his six years spent in Hong Kong and Beijing as a correspondent for Time magazine.

This novel, set in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, concerns Qigong — pronounced “chee-gung”— an ancient Chinese breathing and exercise routine that gives practictioners supernatural health and strength. In “Qi,” it has turned into an occult faith pervading southern China and which aims, with the help of Mafia-like Chinese Triad gangs, to take over the whole country.

The hero is an American journalist, Richard Erdun, who is clueless about anything religious, but wants to get to the bottom of the kidnapping of a CIA agent in Guangzhou. During his investigation, he encounters an underground Chinese church. This, we find out, has been hiding the agent all along until the journalist is able to sneak him out in a hair-raising journey beginning in Guangzhou and ending in Manila.

“Qi” is the first part of a trilogy that follows Mr. Aikman’s career around the globe and is part of an effort by the Southern Baptist publisher to produce quality fiction. There’s no sermonizing here. The journalist remains unconverted, although his Filipina girlfriend does become a born-again Christian.

Best, in my opinion, are the small details about life in China, intricacies that only one who had lived there would know. Plus, there’s lots of spycraft hints: such as ways to make a phone call in China without being listened in on by the authorities, compelling details from someone with enormous knowledge of China.

If there’s such a thing as dragging a story out, these multi-millionnaire authors of theological fantasy have the method down. Having a 12-part series about the Second Coming under their belt, this duo has turned to three prequels explaining the rise of the anti-Christ.

In this second of the prequels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, The Regime: Evil Advances, Before They Were Left Behind, Book 2 (Tyndale House, $25.99, 391 pages), the man, Nicolae Carpathia, is shown progressing through his 20s as he becomes a mastermind of politics in his native Romania. By a mixture of personal brilliance and skullduggery, he secretly vanquishes an older opponent by having the man murdered just before an election.

“The Regime” has the least amount of religion in the entire series. Except for conversations with his “spirit guide,” who is a demon coaching Nicolae towards world domination, there is little talk of religion save in a conversation between Nicolae and his new mentor, Leon Fortunato. Leon, it turns out, has a similar demonic guide, helping the two men think alike.

Leon cites the example of Christ whose humility Nicolae must emulate if he is to win the adultation of the masses. Nicolae agrees to put on the act — at least in public — a ploy that stands him in good stead later on.

Here’s another effort by an evangelical publishing house to come out with superior nonfiction that is not heavily centered on faith: Karl Tobien, Dancing Under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, The Only American Woman to Survive Stalin’s Gulag (Waterbrook, $14.99, 384 pages).

Although the heroine, Margaret Tobien, does discover Christianity eventually, the book is more a Soviet prison memoir along the lines of Irina Ratushinskaya’s 1988 book “Grey is the Color of Hope.”

The story, told in the first person by Mr. Tobien speaking for his mother, begins in 1932 when Henry Ford sent 450 of his Detroit employees to live in Gorky to operate a new car factory. One couple, Carl and Elisabeth Werner, brought along their 11-year-old daughter, Margaret. But when Mr. Werner was arrested on charges of treason and never seen again by his family, his daughter and wife were left to fend for themselves.

The book does not make clear why Elisabeth and Margaret did not return at once to the States; perhaps they thought Mr. Werner would be freed. The narrative continues with accounts of life in World War II Russia, where a sack of potatoes means the difference between starvation and life, the extreme cold and the nightly bombing raids by the Germans.

In 1945, Margaret ended up in the Soviet gulag. The book follows her 10 years of imprisonment as a political prisoner under horrible conditions. These were the years under Stalin when millions perished.

The book, which concludes with a sprint from East Germany into West Germany, is a reminder that those terrible times aren’t so long ago, and could happen again, given man’s penchant for mischief.

Julia Duin is the religion writer at The Washington Times.


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