(Caliphate, by Tom Kratman, Baen, 2008, 502 pp., $7.99)
reviewed by Zeke Teflon
With ISIS running amok in Iraq and Syria, committing mass murder in brutal, horrific fashion, it’s relevant to review probably the most direct sci-fi treatment of what a Muslim fundamentalist takeover would mean: Tom Kratman’s Caliphate.
It’s in the form of a standard military/adventure sci-fi novel set a century in the future. But more than that it’s a political novel, concerned with a Muslim fundamentalist subjugation of Europe. Until recently, I’d have thought Kratman’s descriptions of the horrors inflicted by Islamic fanatics basically accurate but overdrawn. No more. Look no further than ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab, and the barbarities committed on a daily basis by the Saudi and Iranian regimes.
Kratman also rightly goes after politically correct multiculturalists/cultural relativists who decry “Islamophobia” as ISIS and Boko Haram commit mass murder, kidnappings, enslavement, and beheadings. He rightly decries the multiculturalists’ willful blindness to the horrors of Islam. For instance, they routinely dismiss reports of the disproportionate number of Muslims involved in sex crimes in Europe as “Islamophobia.” It’s undeniable that some right wingers grossly exaggerate this problem–for instance, while googling the matter I found a page headlined “100 Percent of Rapes in Norway Committed by Muslims”–but it’s also undeniable that the more socially conservative and misogynistic men are, the more likely they are to commit sexual abuse. And no one is more socially conservative and misogynistic than a Muslim fundamentalist. (For instance, on August 27, 2014, an AP story by Danica Kirka reports the beating, rape, and sexual trafficking of 1,400 children between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, England by, primarily, Pakistani Muslim men.)
One other praiseworthy aspect of Caliphate is that Kratman illustrates his description of the horrors of Islam with quotations from Muslim writers, whose own words condemn them.
Where Kratman goes off the rails is in ascribing head-in-the-sand multiculturalism to the entire American and European left. This is simply wrong. In the U.S., especially, most atheists (notably Sam Harris and Bill Maher, and in England Richard Dawkins) almost certainly reject this cultural relativism; and a good majority of atheists in the U.S. are on the left side of the political spectrum. (I base this on decades of observing and at times taking part in what passes for the atheist movement in the U.S.) A hell of a lot of us reject cultural relativism and self-flagellating multiculturalism. (For example, see The World’s Second Most Offensive Question.)
To his credit, though, Kratman is not entirely uncritical of the U.S. His description of the public reaction to further Muslim terror attacks and the subsequent fascist takeover of the U.S. is all too believable, as are his descriptions of atrocities committed by both Muslim and U.S. soldiers in the war he vividly describes. But strangely, given the overtly religious, theofascist nature of virtually the entire American extreme right, the American fascist government he outlines seems largely or entirely secular, though it’s hard to tell because of the sketchiness of the description; Kratman almost entirely ignores America’s Taliban–the authoritarian fundamentalists, conservative Catholics, and Mormons who want to turn the U.S. into a theocracy, the Christian equivalent of Iran. He seems to blithely assume that secularism will endure, even following a fascist takeover.
It’s also unfortunate that in the Afterword he equates the in-part unassimilable, authoritarian, misogynistic Muslims in Europe with Mexican and other Latino immigrants in the U.S. This is a terrible, inappropriate comparison. For over 20 years, I’ve lived in a neighborhood that’s roughly two-thirds Mexican, with a great many people here being first-generation immigrants. They’re not trying to impose a religious ideology on anyone. They’re not trying to set up religious courts. They’re not murdering people for religious reasons. They’re assimilating as quickly as they can. Overall, they’re hard working and do the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs simply to support their families. To equate them with authoritarian religious fanatics is highly offensive.
Still, despite its faults, Caliphate is worth reading.
Recommended, with reservations.
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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. He’s currently working on the sequel.