Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Review: The Tragedy of the Korosko

Islamic fanatics board a passenger vessel, terrorize and capture its passengers.

The Achille Loro in 1985?

No, the Korosko, a stern-wheeled paddle boat traveling up the Nile River in 1895. The Tragedy of the Korosko: A Tale of the Desert is one of Arthur Conan Doyle's works of historical fiction. In this story, 3 American and 10 European passengers are on board the Nile river boat to explore various ancient Egyptian ruins. However, their holiday turns into a fight for freedom and struggle for survival when they are captured by a raiding party of Dervishes.

As they are carried away into the desert the Dervish camels become exhausted and their supplies dwindle. the Dervish leader, Emir Abderrahman, demands either the prisoners convert to Islam--or be executed. The prisoners stall for time by debating religion with the Dervish imam until the survivors are rescued by the elements of the Anglo-Egyptian Camel Corps.

Arthur Conan Doyle, best known today for his Sherlock Holmes stories, was a prolific writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries of other stories and non-fiction works:

The story was written in 1898, during or shortly after the author and his first wife traveled through Egypt to help alleviate her tuberculosis. While this book can be found on, it is very rarely mentioned. Of the 2 reviews listed on, one rater gives the story 4-stars and the other 3-stars.

Unlike other book reviews, I won't comment on Sir Arthur's literary style. (He was knighted in 1902). Keep in mind his works aren't written in today's thriller/cinematic method.
This book came to my attention in a round-about way. On 14 August 2006, two European journalists, working for FOX News were kidnapped in Gaza. To ease their ordeal they converted to Islam--at gunpoint.

A few days later Mark Steyn commented on this story and compared it to the fictional hostages of the Korosko. Steyn's concern was that giving in to the kidnappers demands of converting to Islam gives our enemies the impression their religious-political ideology is superior to ours. The two journalists were released about a couple weeks later. What the former hostages, and many other media-types, don't seem to understand is that according to Sharia Law, once someone converts to Islam they cannot convert to another religion or renounce Islam. That's considered apostasy--a crime punishable by death under Sharia.

During his short trip through Egypt, Sir Arthur keenly observed Islamist behavior that remains unchanged today.

"There is no iconoclast in the world like an extreme Mohammedan...A statue is an irreligious object in their eyes. What do these fellows care for the sentiment of Europe? The more they could offend it, the more delighted they would be. Down would go the Sphinx, the Colossi, the Statues of Abou-Simbel..." (pg 16-17).

While the Sphinx is still with us, the Buddhas of Bamyan are not, thanks to the Taliban.

And then there's this chilling description from page 92:

"The fire that smoldered in his [Emir Abderrahman's] arrogant eyes shone back at him from a hundred others. Here were to be read the strength and danger of the Mahdi movement; here in these convulsed faces, in that fringe of waving arms, in these frantic, red-hot souls, who asked nothing better than a bloody death, if their own hands might be bloody when they met it."
This description can fit any of the terrorists involved in attacks from US Embassy bombings in East Africa (7 August 1998) to Mumbai (26-29 November 2008).

Sir Arthur also noticed the uncompromising nature of an islamist. When asked about his religious beliefs, Monsieur Fardet tells the Emir " France we look upon all religions as good." (Page 40).

To which the Emir replies, through a translator:

"The chief says that none but a blaspheming dog and son of a dog would say that all religions are one as good as another. He says that if you are indeed a friend of the Khalifa, you will accept the Koran and become a true believer upon the spot." (Page 40).
So much for multicultural harmony.

The only differences between the Dervishes of 1895 and the jihadists of today are: The Dervishes were only able to take captives on the fringes of their desert realm, while today's terrorists form an international network with global reach--sadly, as demonstrated by the September 11th attacks.

Some readers may be put off by the author's apparent jingoistic point of view. I however, found Sir Arthur's observation of Britain's role as the "World's Policeman" rings true for the United States.

On page 17, two British and an American passenger discuss world affairs:

"If a Kurd breaks loose in Asia Minor, the world wants to know why Great Britain does not keep him in order. If there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or Jehad in the Soudan, it is still Great Britain who has to set it right. And all to the accompaniment of curses such as the policeman gets when he seizes a ruffian among his pals."

Sound familiar?

Merely substitute "the United States" for "Great Britain" and this describes the position America inherited from the United Kingdom since the end of World War II.
Which is something Sir Arthur seems to have foreseen. On the following page one of the British passengers turns to the American and says:

"And it will happen to you also."

The Tragedy of the Korosko is a 5-star book for anyone interested in getting an historical perspective of the jihadist movement that still plagues us today.

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