Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Islam in SciFi: 'The Borg'

I recently watched one of the Star Trek motion pictures, First Contact (1996), which I hadn't seen in quite some time. It features the Star Trek: The Next Generation characters, and pits them against the evil Borg, who are trying to take over (assimilate) the human race. 

The movie is still very entertaining after fifteen years, its special effects at the service of a witty and engaging story, but what I wish to consider is the nature and symbolic importance of the unique menace introduced into the Star Trek universe by the STTNG series (and if one uses these abbreviations, you may infer he is at some level, a 'Trekker'), featured in this film in a more personal and sinister context than was ever done in the TV series: the Borg.

Short for CYBORG (which is short for 'Cybernetic Organism'), the Borg 'collective' is unlike the Klingons or Romulans, adversaries of Star Trek: The Original Series of the 1960s (STTOS). The Klingons, you may recall, symbolized the old Soviet Union, with some of the STTOS episodes offering insightful commentary on geopolitics and the Cold War (e.g., 'Balance of Power' and others), whereas the Romulans could perhaps be seen as Communist China, fleshing out a dangerous galaxy of expansionist civilizations whose cultures are distinctly war-like, glorifying battle and conquest, contesting with the peaceful (yet powerfully armed) United Federation of Planets of which our Star Trek characters are essentially naval armed services representatives.

Whereas the Klingons and Romulans are like us, in that they are distinct persons with differing personalities working together to advance their particular value systems and cultures, the Borg are a uniform, homogenized collective controlled by an 'uber-mind'; they exist as a 'hive' of drones, those words specifically used in the STTNG series (and in the Star Trek: Voyager series) and film to describe the collective and its Borg members. 

The Borg exist simply to expand their dominance. They have no culture, no arts, no personal life. (One could adapt the Ayatollah Khomeini's infamous dictum about Islam here: "There is no fun in The Borg!") They cannot think for themselves. They stiffly stride around like futuristic zombies. As they conquer different races and worlds, they kill whom they must, but what they strive to do is 'assimilate' others by getting close enough to inject self-replicating nanobots into the victim's bloodstream, who is then quickly transformed into a drone himself, and then surgically outfitted with cyber attachments to increase his warfare and technological capabilities. The drone's mind is subsumed into that of the collective, which we learn is organized and controlled by the Borg Queen, who seems to be the only Borg with a personality as such; she even declares "I am the Borg," indicating her role and power both.

With this brief background, we may notice a few key parallels between the Borg, and the looming sinister menace of the early 21st century, Islam.

The Borg always first engage the civilizations they have targeted for assimilation with an invitation. They encroach upon the target civilization's territory with one of their huge cubes, and immediately invite them to be assimilated, offer to raise them to perfection, and warn them ominously that, "Resistance is futile." If the target civilization declines the invitation, the Borg attack, and because of their sheer numbers, advanced technology, and singleminded determination, usually win, and assimilate the survivors of their genocidal assault into the 'hive', the collective.

This pattern is shockingly similar to the practice of Jihad and the Dhimma, as waged by Muhammad himself and his early followers from the Medinan period onward, and emulated for nearly fourteen centuries by devout Muslims. Just as Muhammad did (and he is the perfect example for Muslims, the 'ideal man'), jihadists invite the non-Muslims in whatever territory they are expanding into, to embrace Islam. If the infidels (kuffir, a term which has connotations of being unclean, and even sub-human) refuse to convert to Islam, the Muslims may make war upon them and kill them, unless the infidels acknowledge the superiority of Islam and submit to its temporal rule over their lives and property, paying the humiliating and crippling jizya tax. This 'Third Choice' is perhaps the only real difference between the Borg and Islam. The Borg are not quite so "generous."

As a side note, it is extremely interesting that the Star Trek creators designed the Borg ships to be shaped as cubes (with green-colored phaser weapons—green was Muhammad's favorite color), for the most important site on earth for a Muslim is the Kaaba in Mecca, where every Muslim must face when he/she prays, and to where every able-bodied adult Muslim must make pilgrimage at least once in their life. 'Kaaba', of course, merely means 'cube'. Did the Star Trek team deliberately pattern the Borg on the historical nemesis of Western Civilization? (Perhaps someone should warn Rick Berman and the Star Trek creative team that they may find themselves under a death fatwa should this 'secret' ever be deciphered by the more zealous adherents of the Religion of PeaceTM.)

For Muslims, including those who convert to Islam, if they take it seriously, and embrace such key dogmas as following the Sunnah (or 'Way') of Muhammad, and if they do this diligently, putting aside any internal, personal doubts or reservations, they become like the Borg drones; they inevitably 'submit' (the meaning of 'Islam') and deaden their own God-given conscience for an uber-conscience imposed upon them from without by the Ulema, the Muslim jurists who interpret the Koran and the life and sayings of Muhammad so as to form the Muslim ethos. This is why the Mujahideen can justify killing innocent civilians, women and children, and even other Muslims, in their jihad attacks. Such 'victims', by their living a Western way of life, or cooperating with the United States, are not innocent but guilty, and Muslims who side with the US or live according to Western mores, are de facto apostates, and thus guilty as well.

The concept of guilt and innocence in Islam, is tightly connected to the concept of Allah's sovereignty. Infidels are guilty precisely because they are infidels. Similarly, since, in Islam, the whole earth belongs to Allah, and therefore to the Ummah (i.e., the Muslim community), Muslims have both a right, and a compelling, divine duty to conquer lands not under Muslim control, to return that land to Allah's control. Thus to a Muslim, they are always the victims, and all their wars are defensive, not offensive. They are striving to liberate the world from the wrongful tyranny of non-Muslims. 

Granted, the Borg do not have this precise nuance regarding sovereignty, guilt and innocence, but they are possessed of an innate belief of being the perfect life form, which provides them with similar motivation to bring all sentient life forms into their Ummah of perfection. This fully corresponds to Islam's assertion that Muslims are the best of people, the winners, while Jews are descended from apes and swine, and all infidels are the worst of created beings, and are the losers in this life and the next.

These superficial similarities are interesting enough, but in the latter third of the film, we see a 'fascinating' (with all due deference to Mr. Spock) exchange between the Borg Queen and Commander Data, who is impervious to assimilation because he is an android, with such powerful encryption codes that he would have to willingly submit in order to ally himself with the Borg. The Borg Queen (portrayed with a creepy sensuality by Alice Krige) seeks to tempt Data by fitting him with the very thing he has always lacked, and always longed for: human skin. (Truly, Data is a futuristic Pinnochio figure, who in many ways is quite human.) His reaction to the Queen blowing softly across his newly enfleshed forearm hairs is a powerful depiction of carnal temptation. 

This use of temptation to convert is a tactic employed again and again by Islamic rulers, as evinced in the stories of the Neomartyrs under the Ottoman Muslims from the 15th to the 19th centuries, and even to our own time (see my previous post). The Christian is offered wealth, women, prestige, and luxury, if he will but renounce Christ and embrace Islam. (Some of the Neomartyrs did succumb to initial temptations, or were in other cases tricked into becoming Muslims, later repenting and confessing Christ, thus expunging their former apostasy and securing their martyrdom and salvation.)

Dramatically, Captain Jean Luc Picard offers himself to the Borg Queen if she will let Data go. Picard himself was captured by the Borg some years before, but was recaptured by the Federation and set free from the Borg's control and fully restored. He comes to realize, in a stunning epiphany, that the Borg Queen did not fully assimilate him as the Borg did with other humans, but was seeking to bend him to voluntarily join the collective, so he could be used to deceive, manipulate and control the Federation. In the midst of Data's temptation, Picard faces and utterly defeats his own nightmares concerning his prior experience with the Borg.

At the climax of the film, Data reveals he was himself merely deceiving the Borg Queen (note the irony, for Muhammad said, "War is deceit"), and he and Picard destroy her and the drones, saving the day and the entire human race, past and future. Their devotion to a humanity worth saving is our final key point in our consideration of the Borg.

The Star Trek universe posits a humanity that has value; it holds an anthropology that is innately advocating the extraordinariness of human existence. This is not a Christian anthropology (for, like all science fiction, Star Trek presupposes an evolutionist cosmogeny), but for our consideration, it makes two very powerful statements: (1) humanity, in all its diversity, with all its flaws, has unique, intrinsic value, and is worth defending, even unto the utter annihilation of an intractable foe; and (2) there are such things as intractable foes which must be completely defeated.

Regarding anthropologies: the Christian and Judaic faiths affirm that God created man in His own image.  In Christ we are raised up to be children of God, and co-heirs of the Kingdom of God with Christ, even reigning with Him if we remain faithful to the end. Hell is precisely our rejection of God and His love. As God's love is poured out on all, it will illumine and bless those who have loved Him and longed to live for and with Him, while it will burn those who have denied Him and hated or ignored God and neighbor.

Islam rejects such claims, believing that man was formed from a clot of blood, and his earthly role and only hope is to be a slave of Allah, and his eternal destiny is either a lusty, carnal paradise if Allah spares him (or if he is a jihadist killed while fighting in the way of Allah), or eternal damnation with Allah personally supervising his endless torture. There is no personal, intimate union of God with man in Islam, just fear of a capricious, vile creator, one of whose 99 names in the Koran is "the Best Deceiver."

Thus the horrific threat of Islamic fundamentalist movements like Wahhabism, Salafism and others, including those who seek to institute sharia law in the United States. These movements, by returning to the example of the warlord, pedophile, false-prophet Muhammad and his bloody Sunnah as the model for all Muslims for all time, and by elevating their rigid, brutal Islamic law as wholly above human reason, understanding and compassion, kill their God-given human conscience, and voluntarily buy into a satanic delusion, becoming the very intractable foe that our PC-infected culture is so loath to confront. 

In the Star Trek universe, some individuals were set free from the Borg collective (e.g., Picard, Seven-of-Nine from Star Trek Voyager), but the Borg itself was wholly irredeemable, and could not be trusted, negotiated with, placated nor appeased. So it is with Islam. More than a "Clash of Civilizations," Islam is a full frontal assault on human nature, human dignity, and on the dignity of God. If we allow Islam to co-opt Orthodox Christianity by assenting to the Same-God heresy, then we are blatantly guilty of blaspheming God, by ascribing to the Holy Trinity characteristics belonging to Satan. That is one intractable foe which must be confronted and repudiated at every turn. The false religion and ideology of Islam can only be destroyed by the Truth and Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Cube has to go.