A “festival” of slaughter, or sacrifice, halal style, not necessarily limited to livestock by bleeding them to death, but is often practiced on infidels
Here are some excerpts from The Black Stone, a detective novel set in 1930 San Francisco, in which the hero, Cyrus Skeen, discovers the bizarre, brutal, and murderous nature of Islam. The volume of information available to us today about Islam did not exist in 1930. But what he was able to find caused him, his wife, Dilys, and Mickey Kane, a top rank newspaper reporter, to make disbelieving, defamatory, and wonderfully blasphemous remarks about Islam. Skeen is investigating the horrendous murders of a young Jewish girl and a newspaper reporter who had stolen the “Black Stone” of the Kaaba. He is pursued and murdered by members of The Muslim Brotherhood. Skeen encounters an agent of the Brotherhood, and deals with him in his typical no-nonsense style. He discovers another murder in his own office building. Enjoy the excerpts.
Cover Illustration: Leader of Ikhwan Sultan bin bajad Al-Otaibi, who allied himself and his tribe with the Sauds to conquer the Arabian Peninsula. The Sauds did not wage war against the Ottomans, but sat out WWI sipping tea with the British. The Sauds are erroneously depicted in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia as following Lawrence to attack and slaughter a Turkish column.
"You go ahead," said Skeen when they returned two hours later. They stood outside their bedroom door. "I want to look up something. It's something Professor Lerner mentioned. It won’t take a moment."
"Don't be long, Cyrus. You look tired in spite of your energy."
In his study, he consulted his several sets of encyclopedias for information on Islam. None was to be found in the Funk & Wagnall's, nor in the Collier's. There was some information on mosques and something called the Kaaba in Mecca in the twenty-volume New International Encyclopedia. All the articles he was able to find referred to Moslems as "Mohammedans."
He was up until two o'clock. He closed the last volume, yawned and stretched his arms. He had acquired some basic information about Islam from the articles, but not nearly enough to satisfy his appetite or his curiosity. He would be taking the roaster back out tomorrow after all, to the library and some book shops. He switched off the desk lamp and went to the bedroom…..
"Did you know," Skeen asked casually over breakfast the next morning, "that Mohammedans, when they go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, must walk counter-clockwise around the Kaaba seven times, and run between some hills looking for water, and perform a schedule of other rituals, all designed to make them feel like silly, worthless asses?"
"Kaaba?" asked Dilys, who was paying only half attention to her husband. "Sounds like a Greek dish, smothered in the finest feta cheese sauce, and best served with ouzo." She was reading the morning Observer-World. She had fixed a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Skeen had just poured himself a second coffee and was on his first cigarette of the day. He was reading from notes he had made last night in his study and had passed the newspaper over to Dilys.
"The Kaaba," read Skeen, "is a cube-like structure smack in the middle of an open-air mosque about the size of Kezar Stadium, about forty-four feet high and fifty in length. Other scholars reverse the dimensions. It is built of granite on the outside, marble on the inside. It sits on a spot, according to Mohammedan lore, that Allah designated that Adam and Eve should build a temple, or an altar." Skeen paused. "Of course, that story must have been concocted after the Kaaba had been a pagan shrine for an undetermined number of centuries, housing scores of other deities. Allah's own genealogical antecedents seem to be rooted in a moon god of fecundity."
Dilys looked up from the newspaper. She said, wearing an incredulous but amused frown, "You're making that up."
Skeen chuckled. "No, I'm not. It's all in the encyclopedia…"
Skeen smiled wickedly. "Great material for a stand-up comedy monologue at the Fantasma Theater." He went on. "The Kaaba is skirted by an enormous black silk table cloth, with Koranic verses embroidered in gold, high enough out of reach of light-fingered pilgrims." He paused. "Presumably, the roof is bare, but somehow water-proofed. All in all, the Kaaba that exists today is just one of several that have been built, destroyed, collapsed by floods, damaged in war, redesigned, and gussied up ever since it probably began as a stone shanty erected by heathens thousands of years ago, housing wart-nosed witches they probably called vestal virgins, visited by decrepit old priests who performed Masonic-like rites over bowls of foul-smelling incense."
Dilys chuckled. "I can just picture it now. Thousands of the heathen votary doing a syncopated conga around the place to a mad drum beat. Some cranky old priest on the roof with a megaphone acts as a cheerleader, prompting them to shout en masse some obscene imprecation in Arabic, or whatever they spoke back then."
"A very fine parody, darling," said Skeen, "worthy of Cecil B. DeMille's talents." He continued reading. "Today, observers write, about one hundred thousand pilgrims perform the Hajj annually."
Dilys looked up from the newspaper again. "Hodge? As in hodge-podge?"
Skeen shrugged. "I suppose so. Or perhaps it it's 'Hadge,' as in 'badge.' There was no pronunciation guide in the encyclopedia." He frowned. "As for Mecca, historians and cartographers aren’t even sure the place existed when the alleged prophet, Mohammad, or Muhammad, is said to have graced the Kaaba with his presence and laid the Black Stone. They think it might have been a backwater town, a kind of camel stop, noted by Ptolemy, called Macoraba. Which, in turn, raises a question mark over the existence of Mohammad himself. It's all quite hilarious." Skeen put aside his notes. "And that's all I was able to glean from my sources here." He finished his coffee. "I'll be going downtown today to find more books on Islam. Care to come along…?"
Skeen returned early in the afternoon with a bag full of books on Islam he had purchased in two Market Street bookshops. He repaired immediately to his study. Aside from three recent books on current events in the Middle East, he had bought The Qur'an, by Mirza Abul Fazi, which featured the text in Arabic and English, and The Holy Qur'an, by Maulana Muhammad Ali, which featured annotations on the English text. The two other books were Whither Jerusalem? by Hortense Abigail Pickett, a traveler in the Mideast who taught at Oxford University, about the Jewish-Arab conflicts beginning in the late 19th century, and two books by H. St. J. B. Philby, The heart of Arabia: a record of travel and exploration, from 1922, and Arabia of the Wahhabis., from 1928, both books published in London by Constable.
Dilys came into the study around midday and espied the pile of books on Skeen's desk. "Well," she said, sitting on the edge of the desk, "I guess I won’t be seeing much of you today…."
Skeen said, "I've been dipping in the Koran. It's worse than the Bible in many respects. Utterly schizophrenic in parts. One moment you're being urged to behave like St. Francis, and be kind to all animals, even Jews and other infidels. The next it's inveighing against Jews and other infidels, calling for their extermination. It's beginning to read like a manual for a career in sadomasochism, authored apparently by a person currently incarcerated in Sing Sing, and provided with a liberal and lifetime supply of cannabis or some other hallucinatory pharmaceutical product. You know, one of those serial killer convicts who finds religion."
Dilys said, "Surely you're exaggerating."
Skeen shook his head. "Remember that my sole encounters with Islam in the past were two of Mr. Winston Churchill's books about his experiences in the Sudan and the Northern Frontier in which he describes Moslems, or Mohammedans, or Muslims and their practices and fanaticism, then my declining an invitation to join the Ancient Arabic Order of the Noble Shrine last year – can you picture me wearing a red fez decorated with mystical symbols? – "
Skeen obliged. "In the one Philby book I discovered the Saudi Ikhwan – "
"The icky one?" asked Dilys, pausing to scrutinize her husband's face for a moment.
"The Ikhwan," repeated Skeen, spelling the term. "Plural for Moslem 'brothers.' Tribal allies of this Saudi king. They're Wahhabists, sticklers for pure Islam."
Again, Dilys looked incredulous. "Wahhabists? As in the Wabash River? Or should it be the Swanee?"
"No, not quite. I'm not sure of how to pronounce it, either. Say! I think I'll use that phrase of yours the next time anyone asks me about the Ikhwan."
"The icky ones."
Dilys shrugged. "I thought that was what you said. You're welcome to it."
"According to Philby and Picket, they're first-class throat cutters. Very similar to the Thugees of India." Skeen chuckled. "That would be a sight. Allah versus Kali. More interesting than both Dempsey-Tunney fights. Kali, you see, would have twice the punching power."
"She'd have four arms. She could deliver a double sucker punch. I wouldn't put my money on Allah."
"I'm not a betting woman…."
Kane made a face. "But, what's with this blasphemer stuff? What do you think that's all about?"
Skeen took a deep draught on his cigarette. "I have a hypothesis, but first, I put the question to you: What kinds of people would resort to murder in the name of their religion?"
Kane shrugged. "Klansmen? Really wicked Bible Belters? Evil Evangelicals? Babbling Baptists? Recidivist Revivalists?" He paused to wag a finger. "And it wasn't just murder, Skeen. Dwyer was tortured while he was strapped to that chair. There were cigarette burns and knife cuts all over his torso, and on his face. There was a cigarette butt in one of his eye sockets." He paused again. "And his hands had been cut off, too. I saw the police photos. Getz saw them, too, but didn't mention any of that in his article, just the head in the wash basin. He said Bauer, our editor-in-chief, said there was a limit to describing murders for the public."
Kane finished his sandwich last, and went for another coffee. When he returned, he asked Skeen, "So, fill me in on these Mummers."
Skeen chuckled. "Mohammedans. Or Moslems. You can look up all the variations at the library." He lit a cigarette and briefly described Islam and its fundamental tenets and rules.
Kane looked incredulous, but he believed what Skeen had told him. "What a bunch of crackers!" he said. "Do these guys also speak in tongues, and roll on the ground, and foam at the mouth?"
"They probably speak Arabic, for starters. At least, that's what the Koran is written in, although there's evidence it was originally penned in Aramaic. They pray five times a day, on their hands and knees, and bang their foreheads on the ground or floor. As for foaming at the mouth, that seems to happen when they're on the warpath, or beating their wives, or cutting men's throats."
"And this Catawba in Mecca, these pilgrims run around it seven times and kiss something called the Black Stone? Is that anything like the Blarney Stone? You kiss it and you're given the gift of gab?"
Skeen chuckled again. Kane was just as amusing as was Dilys. "It's the Kaaba, and I don’t know of any purpose in kissing the Stone, other than to prove you have a rock fetish, are not a little addled, and wish to be in the company of a multitude of fools."
"Do you think any of these Catawbans live here?"
Skeen shook his head. "It's doubtful."
"That Hajj pilgrimage you described: It sounds like one long college fraternity initiation." Kane sighed. "Well, I think I'll read up on this gang, too. Library, here I come." He put out his Lucky Strike. "But where can you take it from here? What can you do about it? I mean, suppose it wasn't a genuine Catawban who killed the Lerner girl and Dwyer, but someone who wants everyone to think it was…?"
The hallway on the thirteenth floor was usually quiet. This evening, there were more visitors than usual. The line of frosted glass doors identified an insurance office, a dentist, a personal injury law office, and, at the very end, a literary agency. Skeen was only acquainted with the tenants. He had never exchanged more than ten words with any one of them.
As he approached the elevators, three people stepped into the cab. The elevator operator closed the doors immediately. A woman came out of the law office, shouting "Hold it, please!" but she was too late. She pressed a button and stood waiting. As Skeen approached, she turned to look to her left. Hearing Skeen, she glanced at him and said, "There's something wrong with that man down there. He must be having a conniption fit."
Skeen sighed. It was probably Mr. Schupe, whom he had left at the elevator to wait for a ride. He must have been sicker than he realized.
He crooked his head to look past the woman. He saw a man in a blue suit on his hands and knees on a gray spread of cloth, bowing and muttering to himself, and performing other supplicating motions with his hands. Then he bowed completely and banged his head on the floor three times. His overcoat, shoes and socks lay to the side of the cloth.
"What the hell?" he thought at first. Then he realized what was happening and what the man was doing. What startled him were the red streaks on the side of the man's face he could see.
He raced back down to his office, causing Clara to jump out of her chair. Dropping his briefcase on her desk, he rushed to his office, quickly unlocked a desk drawer, and took out a Colt revolver.
Checking the cylinders and thumbing off the safety as he ran back out past an alarmed Clara, he saw that the man was still performing his ritual. The woman at the elevator frowned and spotted Skeen's revolver. She screamed.
The man at the end of the hallway looked up to face Skeen, who had slowed to a quick walk, the Colt at his side, ready.
The man's face was a swarthy tan and pockmarked. He had black hair, a black moustache, and black marble eyes. The eyes glared back at Skeen.
His face also bore the scabs of many scratches, on the cheeks and neck and around the eyes, evidence of recent wounds that were healing too slowly.
Skeen raised the Colt. "Hands up, mister!"
Instead, the man rose to his full height and spat on the floor with contempt. His face wrinkled into one of unmistakable malice. He reached into his coat and drew out a bloodstained dagger. Raising it high in the air, he cried, "Alluha Akbar!" and charged Skeen, his bare feet slapping on the marble tile.
Skeen fired and hit one of the man's left kneecap.
The man cried once and instantly collapsed to the floor. But he raised himself to one knee and tried to hobble towards Skeen, his dagger raised again over his head.
Skeen fired at the man's dagger wrist. The wrist jerked back and the dagger flew out of his hand and landed with a clatter in front of the insurance office door.
With his other hand, the man clasped his injured wrist. But he still tried to move towards Skeen, shouting indecipherable imprecations at the top of his lungs, staring up at Skeen with indescribable hatred.
"Oh, be quiet!" said Skeen, who thumbed on the safety, gripped the Colt by the barrel, and pistol-whipped the man on his skull.
The man's eyes closed and he fell unconscious, his forehead striking the tile in front of him. White froth oozed from his lips….
It was a one-room office. Skeen saw a desk, bookcases, and tables with piles of manuscripts. In the rear were a coffee table and two plush armchairs on a modish carpet. Next to a couch was a stand holding a coffee urn. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed.
Judith Juliette was a thin, fiftyish woman with black hair that was turning silver. She and Skeen had exchanged the usual morning and evening greetings when they encountered each other in the hallway or in the building lobby.
Now she lay on the floor in back of her desk, her mouth open with a curled up sheet of paper clenched between her teeth. She had apparently been gagged with a woolen scarf, which now covered her eyes. Her throat had been cut, as well as her wrists, and her face had been beaten to a pulp. Her blouse had been ripped open, and her bra removed. Slashes and gashes were all that were left of her breasts and chest. She had not been raped. Her skirt still covered her legs. Skeen bent and moved the scarf from the woman's eyes. They had not been gouged out, but stared back up at him in frozen agony. He gently closed them.
Skeen rose and fought an urge to be sick.
Instead, he bent and pulled the sheet of paper from the woman's mouth and opened it. In primitive lower case letters, it read: ded ju bitsh. alluha akber. It had been scrawled on the back of a blank memo.
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64/62 BC – 12 BC), Roman statesman, general, and architect, Louvre, Paris; resembles Cyrus Skeen, according to Dilys, his wife, who owns a copy of the bust.