Monday, August 31, 2015

An Excerpt from An August Interlude

An August Interlude, set in August 1929, takes Cyrus Skeen to a notorious “upper class” brothel, the Turf Club, and to the Catholic convent next door to it, the home of the Sisters of the Apostolic Faith. In this twelfth detective novel  set in San Francisco, Skeen is on a quest to clear the name of a valued friend accused of a horrendous murder five years go. In the Turf Club he meets Lachlan Figgis, its personable manager, and his alluring twin sister Lachina. In the convent he talks with Sister Mary Joseph, the Mother Superior. 

Chapter 6: Misery Loves Company

Well, thought Skeen as he walked up the street to the convent: All I had to do was endure Lachlan Figgis’s hospitality and his sister’s circumspect flirtations, to get an answer to a few questions. The brother and sister were an astonishingly peculiar couple.
He didn’t bother showing Figgis or his sister the photograph of Valda Redfern. He doubted they would have recognized her, if it was true that they didn’t follow the story past the finding of Willowman’s body the next day. He wondered if the newspapers had carried another photograph of her.
He also wondered what he would need to endure now when he visited the convent. Probably expressions of piety, humility, and sanctimony. And reproof. He strode stolidly and determinedly up the sidewalk past his roadster to the home of the Sisters of the Apostolic Faith.
Skeen mounted the brick steps two at a time. Just as he reached the extended portico, the bells of St. Joseph the Carpenter struck twelve. Before he could step into the cloister and knock on the single arched oaken door, from his left a column of nuns in twos came from a door on the far end. He stopped and watched the procession.
It was led by a handful of older nuns – one of them using a cane and being helped along by a much younger woman – with hunched backs and downcast eyes, arms crossed and hands hidden in the oversized sleeves. Next came some younger nuns in their thirties or forties. Following them like a passel of ducklings were the novices, or novitiates. Some of the girls were in their late teens.
One of the girls noticed him and braved a quick glance at him before resuming her humble mien.
The parade passed as quickly as the hobbling, and probably arthritic older nuns allowed. He guessed they were going to some sort of service. The column rounded a corner and disappeared.
There was a brass knocker on this door, too. Skeen lifted it and hammered it three times. After a moment, he heard a latch turn and the giant door creaked open. A little pinched-face woman of about sixty years, not in a habit, but in the drab garb of a housekeeper, looked at him with puckered lips and a furled, disapproving brow. “Yes?”
Skeen removed his trilby. “My name is Cyrus Skeen. I’m here to see Sister Mary Joseph. I believe she’s the Mother Superior.”
“Men aren’t permitted in the convent. And you need an appointment.”
“I think she’ll see me. It’s about Valda Redfern, a missing novitiate.” Skeen took out his wallet and showed her his private investigator’s license.
The woman studied it – longer than did Howard Li – with some comprehension of what it meant, blinking only once. Then she glanced up at him with an even more disapproving look. “Wait here outside. I'll ask if she can see you.”
The door slammed shut and the latch was turned. Skeen lit an Old Gold, twirled his trilby around on one finger, and paced back and forth on the stone walkway. Men weren’t permitted in the convent? No priests, either? Bishops? Cardinals?
He had just pitched the nearly finished Old Gold into a nearby rhododendron when he heard the latch turn again. The door opened and the housekeeper stood on the threshold, glowering at him. But she waved a hand at him. “This way, sir,” she commanded.
Skeen stepped inside. The woman slammed the door shut and turned the latch.
They were standing in what Skeen surmised was a visitor’s waiting area. There were some benches and chairs pressed against a bare cement wall. There was a table with some kind of literature on it, probably, Skeen guessed, about the Apostolic Faith order and the church.
But the first thing that struck him about the place was a dank, lifeless odor in the air. The hall they had entered had the same basic interior layout of that of the Turf Club, except that there were no amenities like couches or chairs or benches. No potted palms. And certainly no ash stands. Half the hall had been partitioned off with a series of unpainted plaster walls. He glanced up. There was a no mezzanine, just a series of unlit chandeliers. If there was anything else up there, it was hidden in darkness. No rotunda. He could not guess the layout of the rest of the building.
The housekeeper shuffled ahead of him. He hung back a few steps to look into an open space. He saw pews of raw, unfinished, unvarnished wood and a plain, unembellished altar. Nuns were sitting in them. An older nun was standing at a pulpit, leading them in prayer, in Latin. He guessed this was the convent’s chapel. It was nothing like the glittering French church on Bush Street he had had occasion to visit during the Enoch Paige case in May, Eglise Notre Dame des Malheurs
He felt a tug on his coat sleeve. He turned. The housekeeper was glaring furiously at him. She nodded with her head to continue following her.
Skeen shrugged and obeyed. A chant came from the chapel.
The housekeeper turned left at a detour, then into another long corridor. They came to the end of it. He supposed they were in the vicinity of where Lachlan Figgis’s office was in the Turf Club. A plain wooden sign on a plain wooden door read, “Sister Mary Joseph. Mother Superior. Please knock before entering.”
The housekeeper knocked once, then opened the door and went in. “Mr. Skeen, ma’am,” she announced.
A voice that sounded like crumpled up paper being squeezed into a ball as tightly as possible said, “Show him in, Hortense.”
Hortense stood aside. Skeen went in. The housekeeper waited to be dismissed.
“That will be all, Hortense. Thank you.”
Hortense sort of curtsied, left the room, and closed the door behind her.

Skeen found himself in an office that was about the size of Lachlan Figgis’s office, but it was so sparsely furnished it may as well have been empty. There was a large desk, a bow window almost hidden by a black curtain behind the desk, some wooden filing cabinets, and armless chairs strewn about the room. There was no carpet on the wooden floor. There was a single colored picture under glass of Christ on a wall to the side of Sister Mary Joseph’s desk. It looked like it had been cut from a newspaper’s rotogravure section and cheaply framed.
There was a overly-ornate marble fireplace in one corner, with a large crucifix sitting on its mantle. A cradle-shaped rack holding firewood sat to the side, together with a black iron poker. But otherwise there was no statuary, not a single plant, no tapestries. Not even a plaster statue of St. Joseph. Nothing to absorb the sound of one’s voice in the vast room.
A weak overhead light in the middle of the room fought to dispel the gloom. The rest of the room was in darkness. He could see what there was in the black space in the rear.
Practically the only “luxuries” Skeen noted were a typewriter on a rolling stand next to the nun’s desk, a small desk lamp, and a candlestick telephone on her desk. That was all.
Sister Mary Joseph rose as he approached her desk. She was nearly as tall as Skeen, but seemed taller because of the headdress, which was a wimple that was just a black veil of voile attached to a cornette or kind of curved white crown of some scratchy fabric. A white coif completely enclosed her neck, ears, presumably the back of her head, and her hair. Skeen could detect no strands of it peeking out from anywhere in the gear.
There was a weak overhead light and a lamp on the desk, but the glare from the white guimpe that flowed down from her shoulders clear to her abdomen nearly blinded him. It looked so thoroughly starched that he imagined using it as a weapon, or as bullet-proof armor.
Her blouse and skirt looked like heavy black serge. A crucifix on a rope dangled from beneath the quimpe, and a rosary with another crucifix hung from her waist.
The woman exuded a strange, pungent, and unpleasant antiseptic odor that complimented the dank smell of the place. Perhaps Sister Mary Joseph bathed in ammonia, too, Skeen thought. Or in a tub of mothballs. She must be in her late forties or early fifties, he estimated. She was once a handsome woman. Not pretty, just handsome. She wore round rimless glasses. Her face was sallow, almost anemic looking. He was certain it did not see much sun or even fresh air. When she was not speaking, her mouth and thin lips were set in a prim bitterness. He did not imagine she smiled much, either.
The white fabric of the coif that enveloped her face was fixed high enough to reveal a one-inch scar on her forehead. It looked like an incision, or a burn. Skeen did not think this was the result of a violent encounter with an open door.
And all throughout their conversation, Sister Mary Joseph, Mother Superior and boss lady of all the other wrecked, humbled souls here, never once looked at him directly. Instead, she peered askance at him through her glasses with a glint of pious fanaticism, as though she suspected him of being guilty of the most horrendous sins. It was the look of doubt someone gave you if he was certain you were lying.
Skeen said, “Thank you for seeing me.”
Sister Mary Joseph nodded and said, “The only reason I’m seeing you, Mr. Skeen, is because you have some notoriety as a detective. We read the newspapers here. You were the one who got that atheist rogue acquitted last May, weren’t you?”
Skeen replied, “He wasn’t acquitted. The charges were dropped.”
Sister Mary Joseph frowned. “Regardless. He was the devil.”
Skeen said, “He was a kind of Prince of Darkness, ma’am.”
“Excuse me?”
“He was something like Hamlet, too morose at times, but with a happy ending.”
“I don’t think I appreciate your humor, Mr. Skeen,” Sister Mary Joseph scolded.
So much for her sense of irony. “That’s all right. I don’t think I’d have much of a career in vaudeville, either.”
“Then please confine yourself to the purpose of your visit, sir.”
 She sat down and folded her hands over some papers on a brown blotter and waited.
“May I sit down?”
“I’m not stopping you, Mr. Skeen.”
Skeen shrugged. He grabbed one of the armless chairs and sat it in front of the nun’s desk.
“Hortense gave me to believe that you mentioned a person by the name of Valda Redfern.”
“Yes,” said Skeen, sitting down. He reached inside his coat and pulled out a photograph of Valda Dilys had taken from the model’s portfolio. “To make sure we're speaking of the same person, is this the Valda Redfern who apparently was a member of this convent?” He handed the photograph over the desk to the nun.
The nun took the glossy image and studied it for a moment. Her mouth bent in distaste. It was a head shot of Valda in a strapless gown smiling a toothy, friendly, almost “come-hither” grin. Then she handed it back to Skeen and refolded her hands on the blotter. “Yes, that is the same person. That was Sister Clare Lawrence. What about her? She left this convent and abandoned Christ under the most disgraceful circumstances, and without any notice to me or to Father Brendan.”
“Father Brendan?”
“The pastor of St. Joseph the Carpenter church, with which this order is affiliated. It is just down the street.”
“I noticed it,” said Skeen. “It doesn’t look like a Catholic church.”
This remark surprised Sister Mary Joseph and opened up the conversation, and Skeen led it in virtually any direction he chose.
“It was once a Unitarian Universalist place of worship. I would never have called it a church. It did not have much of a flock and the people who ran it decided to sell it. Father Brendan’s predecessor bought it for a fraction of its worth. Before then his parish met in a less commodious church elsewhere in this district.”
“How long has your order occupied these premises?”
“For the last eight years. The order moved here from its convent in the Mission district. But it seemed it was built over what eventually became a sinkhole. The convent had to be demolished. We had to move, and applied to Father Brendan to have a new convent built here. He bought this building from its former owner, some sort of oil plutocrat who decided he did not like it enough to live in it.”
Skeen said, “It’s a fine looking building, ma’am.”
“That is your opinion, sir. When it was bought, it was renovated to remove all the temporal facilities that would appeal to people in the clutches of material wealth. According to Father Brendan, all the furniture, artworks, and other ostentatious and wicked items of comfort and convenience fetched a sum that helped to reimburse the parish for the price paid for the building.”
Skeen feigned concern. “I hope that didn’t include bathtubs and plumbing, ma’am.”
Sister Mary Joseph would neither confirm nor deny the idea. “I sense you are mocking the Apostolic order, Mr. Skeen,” she said. “But you must understand that we Sisters of the Apostolic Faith are in many respects much like Amish women. We place God’s wishes, the spiritual integrity of our order, and the community of Christ our Savior far above the needs and comforts of the flesh. We disdain any instrument, device or practice that relieves us of the stain and guilt of our original sin.
“Our moral code is apart from and opposed to that of the temporal world beyond our doors,” continued the Mother Superior, as though Skeen needed a better explanation.” Our sisters are taught to strive daily to minimize their individual needs, spiritually and physically. As daughters of God and brides of Christ, we are committed to asceticism and the hermit’s life in the midst of this modern Babylon.”

Copyright © 2015 by Edward Cline

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Sharia-ism is Here Revisited

Review: Sharia-ism is Here Revisited
I won’t attempt to top Marion DS Dreyfus’s fine August 8th review on IPT of Joy Brighton’s Sharia-ism is Here: The Battle to Control Women and Everyone Else . I reviewed Brighton’s book on Rule of Reason  on May 6th, 2014 and on Family Security Matters on May 10th. An excerpt of the review also appeared on the Counter Jihad Report on May 12th, 2014.

Dreyfus’s review was reprinted on several other blog sites, most notably on The National Writers Syndicate site on August 8th, 2015. Her review is tellingly illustrated with a photograph of ISIS sex slaves being paraded in a cage on the back of a pickup truck.

Further, much of the material covered in Brighton’s nonpareil book has been cited in my own Jihad: Islam’s Reign of Terror and in A Handbook on Islam.

What follows is a reprint of my May 6th review for those who may have missed it.

No, that's not the actual title. Sharia-ism is Here: The Battle to Control Women and Everyone Else might have been called that but doubtless Joy Brighton, the author, would have encountered brand or trademark infringement problems with the publisher of the popular and successful For Dummies series, John Wiley & Sons. I also suspect that Wiley & Sons would have been horrified by the idea of publishing such an "Islamophobic" book anyway. It has published Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies, both of which, to judge by their Amazon descriptions, are treacly, inoffensive, sanitized guides to a highly "misunderstood" and "misperceived" religion-cum-ideology.

Brighton's opus is a generously illustrated and annotated book intended as a "show n' tell book for national security, civil right and women's right activists and lobbyists in America." It is meant to be read by, and serve as, a handy reference guide for anyone who is aware of the peril posed by Islam as it is practiced around the world, in the West, and especially in the U.S., but who really hasn't digested the scale of the threat or any of its details. And it isn't just about Islam's crusade to control women. It truly is about Islam's designs on everyone.

Before citing the book's plenitude of virtues, however, there is one issue I must raise. Page 131, for example, under the heading, "Conversion to Islam or Sharia-ism in America? How do we help youth understand the difference?" highlights the conversion percentages of Americans to Islam. At the bottom of the page is an "Insight Box," which reads:

How many of these American Converts have been converted to Islam the religion? How many are knowingly or unknowingly slowly being converted to Sharia-ism, the political movement of Radical Islam? How do we help young potential converts understand the difference and draw the line between Islam and Sharia-ism?

One point of disagreement between Sharia-ism is Here: The Battle to Control Women and me is that I do not draw a line between Islam and what Brighton calls "Sharia-ism."  Brighton writes in her Introduction:

You are holding in your hands a chronicle of the surprising inroads that Shariah, the guiding principles of Radical Islam, has made in America during the critical years of 2008-2013.

Radical Islam, also known as Political or Sharia Islam, has expanded onto every continent, and with it Sharia-ism, the political movement of Radical Islam, whose goal of totalitarian control of every nation and people is incompatible with Western values of individual liberties and inalienable rights. Sharia-ism is about politics, not religion.

Sharia-ism is about total control, not simply destruction or terrorism. (p. 6)

Both of Brighton's terms, Sharia-ism and Radical Islam, violate Ockham's Razor of economy of concepts by arbitrarily divorcing Islam and Sharia. The dichotomy is fallacious and inadvertently grants Islam an unsought-after epistemological and ideological victory. Brighton is not the only authority to commit this error. Seen as a virulent ideology, Islam and Sharia are one and the same. They are inherently complementary and co-dependent. I do not think Islam, "moderate" or otherwise, is a benign belief system, because it is fundamentally political, nihilist, and totalitarian in means and ends. Sharia is Islam, and Islam is nothing without Sharia. Without the primitive, anti-conceptual, rote-learned code of Sharia, Islam is little better, and perhaps even worse, than your random whacky California cult, or Scientology, Wiccanism, or Pyramid-Worship.

Further, were it not an ideology, why have its proponents, spokesmen, and activists focused so much on its political status? Catholics, Protestants, Jews and members of other creeds are not waging campaigns to force government,  businesses, and other social organizations to accommodate their beliefs and practices. The promulgators of Islam, however, such as CAIR and the various Muslim organizations in this country, seek accommodations to Islam in virtually every sphere of American life, from demanding foot baths in various venues (schools, office buildings, airports), removing "offensive" crucifixes and other non-Islamic religious icons from classrooms, insisting on halal restaurant menus, to praying en masse on public streets, to inveigling their way into government jobs and appointments.

By way of contrast, I am not aware of a movement in the Catholic Church to compel, by statute, non-Catholics to genuflect when passing a Catholic church on the street, or else pay a fine.

And, perhaps more importantly in the context of politicizing Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and other faiths do not campaign to silence critics and criticism of those faiths. Islam, however, yearns to suppress all criticism of its practices and tenets. As Brighton herself points out in her book, the term "Islamophobia" was coined by the Muslim Brotherhood to stigmatize any and all criticism of Islam, the term implying racial, ethnic, or religious bigotry.

Finally, even were one to portray Islam as a mere patriarchic theocracy, one is still talking politics, for a theocracy implies the governing moral structure of a country. Ergo, it is a political system, and specifically a totalitarian one, because it prescribes the course of one's life from head to foot, from sunrise to sunset, in thought, in action, and in one's social associations.

I make no allowances for Islam, or cut it any slack by calling it a "private" belief system as I might the Catholic or Jewish. Privacy is not Islam's leitmotif; on the contrary, it is unabashedly and necessarily public. Conformance to its bizarre catalogue of dictats is audited. Straying from the ritualistic and behavioral drill can result in death (e.g., honor killings, and for apostasy). To refer to "radical Islam" is to commit a redundancy. Islam is "radical" in the sense that must obviate all other alternatives and choices, else it is nothing. Force or the threat of force is Sharia's telling hand. Islam is Sharia, and vice versa.

"Passive," non-violent Muslims face a decision: a continuation of their submission to Islam, or total repudiation, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali decided on. There is no dignified or respectable "middle ground"; one cannot be half-free and free at the same time. That is a delusion. See some of my columns on Islam and its inherently totalitarian and irrational nature here, here, here, and here.

Those objections having been made, Sharia-ism is Here draws on a galaxy of authorities on Islam such as Nonie Darwish, Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Walid Phares, Diana West, and Melanie Phillips, to name but a few whose names appear in the Acknowledgements and throughout the text.  

There are fifteen chapters in the book, under such titles as "What is Sharia-ism and Shariah Islamic Law?"; "Sharia-ism: Concepts and Vocabulary"; two chapters, titled "Two-Armed Leadership of Sharia-ism," one dealing with Shariah clerics in American mosques and home-grown radicalization, another with the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S.; "Creeping Sharia-ism," which exposes the strategy of imposing Sharia in small steps, which is what we are seeing now; and "Shariah Lawfare," which demonstrates how Islamic law is insinuating itself into the American judicial system on all levels, and not with much resistance from our courts.

(See a recent Jihad Watch article on a legislative initiative in Florida to banish foreign or Sharia law from the state's judiciary. It is just one of several initiatives discussed by Brighton in Chapter 14, "U.S. Representatives and Governors take action: Congressional Hearings and New State Laws.")

One goal of the "stealth," cultural jihad in this country by organizations like CAIR, the Muslim Lawyers Association, the Muslim Bar Association of New York, and Muslim Advocates, is to persuade, or browbeat, our judiciary into removing the "foreign" designation from Sharia, and to see it "integrated" into American law as they are now doing in Britain – step by stealthy step. A Telegraph (London) article of March 22nd by John Bingham, "Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs," reports:

Islamic law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills.

Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether. The documents, which would be recognized by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs.

Anyone married in a church, or in a civil ceremony, could be excluded from succession under Sharia principles, which recognize only Muslim weddings for inheritance purposes.

Notice how piddly and surreptitious the issues are: Inheritances and wills. Nothing to worry about. The cases will be handled by the British equivalent of American family courts or civil law courts handling suits and torts. It's just some people fussing and feuding over money and custody. None of our business.

The same thing is being attempted here in the U.S. Brighton devotes several pages to the organization American Laws for American Courts (ALAC).

America has unique values of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems; this is particularly true in regard to Shariah Islamic Law, included among them, but not limited to the following, are these values and rights: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, due process, right to privacy, and the right to keep and bear arms.

The goal of the American Laws for American Courts is a clear and unequivocal application of what should be the goal of all state courts: No U.S. citizen or resident should be denied the liberties, rights, and privileges guaranteed in our constitutional republic.

ALAC is a neutral law. it is designed to protect the U.S. Constitutional rights of Americans against any foreign law from any country which challenges their rights. (pp. 224-225)

Some ALAC-style laws were overturned in a few states because they mentioned Islam or Sharia. ALAC then created a draft model law that would not be "country, culture, religion, or ethnic specific." This model seems to have been successful in many states, because neither CAIR nor a  dhimmified appellate court could concoct a charge of "Islamophobia" or "discrimination," although the unnamed subject is specifically Islam.

Another hopeful sign is the passage in several states of "anti-libel-tourism" laws that reject foreign suits against Americans accused of libel. The Committee to Protect Journalists features a brief history of those laws, which stemmed from the suit against Rachel Ehrenfeld for publishing a book in 2003 in the U.S., Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, in which she accused billionaire Saudi businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz of channeling funds to terrorist groups.  Ehrenfeld was subsequently sued by Mahfouz in London, but not in the U.S., because the First Amendment protected her. As a consequence, New York passed the appropriately named Libel Terrorism Protection Act in May 2008. It refuses to recognize foreign law, in this instance, Britain's bizarre defamation statutes, and in particular suits brought by super-rich Muslims in other countries.  

Chapter 13, "Failure of U.S. leaders to address the threat of Sharia-ism," inadvertently underscores my objection to separating the cream from the milk, that is, making an erroneous distinction between Islam and Sharia law. Islam is one whole cow.

American politicians are fearful of criticizing Islam because it's a "religion," and they don’t wish to be accused of attacking any religion. This prevents them and now our law-enforcement and intelligence agencies from honestly and effectively addressing the threat posed by Islam. The redaction of all mention of Islam and Muslims from FBI training documents, and the recent dissolution of New York City's crack mosque and Muslim suspect surveillance program by the new socialist mayor of New York (at the behest of Muslim "civil rights" activists) simply blind-sides the country by hamstringing those charged with protecting it from terrorism.

A lengthier review of Joy Brighton's book would not do justice to it. Her book is an all-in-one instructive guide to what Islam is, what danger it poses to our country, and what we have and have not done to combat its corrosive "cultural jihad" against this country. It names culprits, and it names courageous individuals who have sounded the alarm (often to deaf ears), and lists all the rogues and scoundrels. I think the book is so comprehensive and well done (albeit with my stated reservations above) that a fund should be started to send free copies of it every member of Congress, and also to members of the state legislatures.

There's no vigorish in being a dummy when it comes to betting against Islam. I recommend Brighton's book because it can alert Americans to the cards – or knives – that are regularly hidden up Islam's sleeve.