Friday, September 21, 2012

Islam in SciFi 2: The Walking Dead

As far as I can tell from the stats on this blog, by far the most popular post I have done (so far) has been, Islam in SciFi: The Borg.  Based on such popularity, it looks like this approach deserves to be an ongoing series, which really makes sense. Christ used parables to talk about the Kingdom of Heaven. Similarly, we can draw out aspects of Islam and jihad by employing examples we all can relate to, straight from our haram pop-culture. Don't you just love the irony of it?

For this entry in my fledgling series on Islam in SciFi, I have chosen the hit AMC series, The Walking Dead, which starts its third season in mid-October, just a couple of weeks from now.   The Walking Dead is, of course, the most popular manifestation of the bizarre modern phenomenon of the 'Zombie Apocalypse' doomsday narrative. The theme dates at least as far back as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), but it was really George A. Romero and Night of the Living Dead in 1968 which brought the zombie mythos to life, so to speak.

Whereas the parallels between Islam and the Borg were many (leading me to issue a warning to Rick Berman and the Star Trek team to beware, lest they find themselves under a death fatwa for patterning the Borg cube after the Kaaba in Mecca), the Zombie Apocalypse, whether described by George A. Romero or Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead graphic novels), offers a completely different terrain for us to consider, with many of the lessons and parallels pertaining to the remnant of humanity who struggle to survive.

Devout Adherents of 'The Religion of Peace'
But first of all, we have to confront the zombies, or as they're called in the AMC series, the 'Walkers'. Am I saying that Muslims are like zombies? No. At least most of them aren't. But I do think we can make the case that, just as I discussed in my post on the Borg, when humanity is confronted with an implacable foe, a nemesis which cannot be negotiated with, then battle is the only option, and victory the only desirable outcome. In the case of the Walkers, their motivations are brutally simple: if they smell, see or hear you, they're going to try to catch and eat you. That is the extent of their existence. For the survivors in The Walking Dead, their battle is initially just for survival. 

At the end of the first season of The Walking Dead we were treated to a little zombie science. Rick and Laurie and the rest of the survivors made it to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, where the last surviving scientist showed them a real time brain scan of someone who was bitten by a Walker, died and then was reanimated as a zombie. (The victim was the scientist's wife. This is a deeply dramatic show.) The brain scan showed the victim's normal synaptic activity. Then, as she weakened and neared death, the brain showed less and less activity. At death it went completely dark. Then, upon reanimation due to the zombie plague, only a deep red minimal activity was seen at the base of the brain, the most primitive, primal nerve center.

A Zombie Herd in The Walking Dead
The point was made. Walkers are no longer fully human. They no longer possess a conscious mind as we know it. They are reanimated corpses which are driven by an animal-like hunger which they cannot control. They have no memory of their former life (though we have seen glimpses of the briefest recognition in one victim right at the beginning of being reanimated), and they have no trace of a human conscience. They are being propelled by dark, blood-red impulses at the base of the brain. 

This is similar to the condition of a Borg drone. When a person is assimilated into the Borg collective, the individual ceases to exist and is controlled by the collective mind. In the case of zombies, there is barely any mind there, but because all the zombies have the same instinctual drive to feed on flesh, they act somewhat like a collective. They even travel in herds. We were treated to the spectacle of a huge, shuffling herd of Walkers limping down the highway at the start of Season 2. The onslaught of a much larger — and more highly motivated — herd during the Season 2 finale was the stuff of nightmares.

For a different, and in many ways much more frightening, take on the zombie apocalypse, consider the movies 28 Days Later, and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later. In these films, the "rage virus" is unleashed, transforming the infected into manic, jacked-up predators, who are swift, vicious and just as merciless as the shuffling Walkers. This scenario is similar to the plague in I Am Legend, Will Smith's contribution to the zombie mythos. It is also similar to Muslim riots occurring all over the globe now.

Obviously, for the zombie apocalypse survivors to, well, survive, they have to kill zombies. The horror of the zombie genre, and its disturbing popularity in our post-modern, post-Christian world, is largely the perversion of seeing how humans become themselves less and less human, as they are forced to kill an endless mass of infected fellow humans. There is barely even a glimpse of an authentic Christian voice in any of these zombie tales. There is at least the struggling human conscience, but Christ is largely absent from the zombie genre. The zombie apocalypse is a post-Christian phenomenon, and we are seeing a real-world depiction of it now on the nightly news.

A Herd of Muslim Protestors last week

Amazing how the images out of the Islamic world mirror these nightmarish zombie fictions. But the comparisons go far beyond the obvious visuals.

The point in considering all this is to draw the comparison with the Islamic worldview, the worldview of Jihad, where Muhammad is the al insan al kamil, the perfect man and most beautiful pattern of conduct. From this primary principle are traced all the horrendous excesses of the shari'ah, which derive straight from the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Muhammad: Infidels (kuffir) are the most vile of created beings, Jews are equated with pigs and monkeys, non-Muslims must convert to Islam, submit to Islam's authority, or be killed, amputations for thieves, stoning for adulterers, and more and more blood and carnage.

What happens when a Muslim buys into the Islamic worldview and accepts Muhammad as his example, submitting himself to the shari'ah, is that the Muslim submits his (or her) conscience to the uber-conscience of the Ummah. Such a Muslim ultimately commits moral suicide, deadening his conscience to the point that murder is justifiable; condemning non-Muslims, deceiving them, and if possible waging war against them is not only permissible but obligatory. Because Muslims who have submitted to the Jihadi worldview believe that Allah has ordained everything and Islam is superior, they have lost virtually every last trace of a normal human conscience. They are instead propelled by dark red impulses at the base of the brain. The Jihadi is like a slightly more intelligent, more functional zombie.

We might dare to specify it a bit more clearly: the Jihadi is a moral zombie.

For many infernal reasons, the fourteen-century-old Islamic zombie plague is once again spreading. We have seen an explosion of jihad plots in the last few years. As recently documented on JihadWatch, a partial list includes:

A devout follower of Muhammad
. . . the activities of Muslims such as Naser Abdo, the would-be second Fort Hood jihad mass murderer; and Khalid Aldawsari, the would-be jihad mass murderer in Lubbock, Texas; and Muhammad Hussain, the would-be jihad bomber in Baltimore; and Mohamed Mohamud, the would-be jihad bomber in Portland; and Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square jihad mass-murderer; and Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the Arkansas military recruiting station jihad murderer; and Naveed Haq, the jihad mass murderer at the Jewish Community Center in Seattle; and Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, the would-be jihad mass murderer in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh, who hatched a jihad plot to blow up a Manhattan synagogue; and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas airplane jihad bomber; and many others like them who have plotted and/or committed mass murder in the name of Islam and motivated by its texts and teachings -- all in the U.S. in the last couple of years.
Whether jihad plots, or zombie plotlines, the challenge is the same: how does one survive a brewing apocalypse?

For an Orthodox Christian, we strive to forgive and even to love our enemies. And in doing so, we may see some of them come to the truth of the Gospel. The teaching of St Seraphim of Sarov comes to mind: "Acquire the Spirit of Peace, and a thousand will be saved around you." Some may have the calling to be a true missionary: The New Martyr Fr. Daniel Sysoev (†2009) converted over eighty Muslims to Orthodoxy, including some hard-core Wahabbis. St Kosmas of Aitolia (called "Equal to the Apostles") in the 18th century went about Greece and Albania, teaching, establishing schools, and preaching in the center of towns until he was martyred by the Turkish Muslims, who could not stand that he was strengthening the faith of the oppressed Orthodox Christians. It is these luminous examples who show us the better way of dealing with the Walking Dead. For regardless of how far gone a jihadi may seem, he or she is still a human person created in the image of God. Unlike the Walking Dead, a Muslim can repent, renounce their false religion and satanic prophet, and embrace Jesus Christ, and be raised to newness of life. This hope of the awakening and conversion of every soul is at the core of our faith.

At the same time, we note those Christians who defended themselves, their lands, their families and peoples against invading Muslim forces. We are reminded of the holy and righteous example of Tsar Martyr Lazar of Serbia, whose heroic stand against the Ottomans at the Battle of Kosovo weakened the Muslims enough so that they could not penetrate into Europe, and had to pull back and regroup, before trying again at the Gates of Vienna three centuries later. Tsar Lazar and his army attended the Divine Liturgy the morning of battle, receiving Holy Communion, and before heading out to meet the enemy, proclaimed their faith and loyalty, "For the Holy Cross, and Glorious Freedom!"  If you have no choice but to fight the zombies, this is the Christian way to prepare.

The most confounding (to the modern mind) Christian witness is that of a whole Christian population which refuses to submit to Islam, refuses to deny Christ, but lays its life down en masse. The other-worldly faith of the 100,000 Holy Martyrs of Tbilisi, Georgia (†1227) is such a witness and example.

[After the bloody and terrifying invasion,] the sultan ordered that the icons of the Theotokos and our Savior be carried out of Sioni Cathedral and placed at the center of the bridge across the Mtkvari River. The invaders goaded the people to the bridge, ordering them to cross it and spit on the holy icons. Those who betrayed the Christian Faith and mocked the icons were spared their lives, while the Orthodox confessors were beheaded. 
One hundred thousand Georgians sacrificed their lives to venerate the holy icons. One hundred thousand severed heads and headless bodies were carried by the bloody current down the Mtkvari River. (The Lives of the Georgian Saints, Archpriest Zakaria Machidatze, St Herman of Alaska Press, Platina CA, pp 403, 404.)
All these saints, peaceful or warriors, were slain by the walking dead. The Warrior Saint Tsar Lazar, the Missionary Martyr Fr Daniel Sysoev of Moscow, the Peaceful Preacher St Kosmas of Aitolia, and the hundred-thousand ordinary men, women and children of Tbilisi; they were all martyred by their Muslim oppressors. In each case, they sought the Lord, grew in the Lord, acquired the Holy Spirit, and ascended their cross, attaining a glorious resurrection. The walking dead could not touch their souls, and these saints of God reveal to us how to walk in light. This is eternal life. May we be found worthy to follow in their footsteps, and conquer not only the walking dead, but the devil himself!