Silencing the Past
As Reviewed By CHERYL GATESWORTH
November 7, 2017 - Los Angeles, CA - PipeLineNews.org - I would like to recommend to our readers, Joe David’s "The Infidels,” a novel based upon the true life experiences of the author's mother, a teenager at the beginning of World War I, living in an Assyrian Christian community in Northern Persia, surrounded by hostile Muslim tribes.
The reader would do well to begin this book early in the day, as, once started, it is virtually impossible to put down. Set against a backdrop of unchecked Islamic predation, the resultant horrors are seen through the eyes of a young and sheltered teenage girl, who, being Christian was seen as an 'infidel' in the eyes of the Muslims, as was the entire Assyrian Christian community.
Most school children are - or used to be - taught that the spark that set off the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie [Duchess von Hohenberg] heirs to the Hapsburg Dynasty. In reality however, the Balkans had long been a scene of political turmoil, a situation much complicated by the ebbing power of the much feared Ottoman Turks who cast their lot in an alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany, hoping to regain or at least consolidate their power while the eyes of the world were diverted by the larger conflict, the Axis Powers’ war with England, France, and Russia.
"The Infidels" excels on many levels, not the least of which is its beautiful crafting, revealing the history of a conflagration and murderous acts still largely hidden from public view. Not least, the book is the story of an innocent and non-aggressive people who wanted only to live in peace but were reduced to dhimmi status - a subservient class of conquered peoples living under the yoke of Islam - as decreed by the Shari’a, Islamic law.
The genocide wrought by the Turks and the Kurds [circa 1915] was deliberate, thorough and ghoulishly brutal. In an effort to “cleanse” Turkey, untold millions of Christians were tortured, mutilated and murdered, girls and women were raped before also falling victim to the Muslim swords; property was either destroyed or carried off as war booty. Though historical records of the time have been intentionally destroyed by the Turks in an effort to “cleanse” history, it’s a well established fact that between 200 and 300,000 Assyrian Christians were killed in this short period of time.
The author's mother, the novel’s protagonist Judith Shamash, was shot and left for dead but was miraculously rescued by a British patrol which had ranged out from its headquarters in Baghdad where her life was saved in one of their hospitals.
Eventually she made her way to the United States where she married and had children. The trauma of that ordeal forms the basis for the larger story of the Assyrian Christian community forever shattered by the systematic cruelty sacralized by the holiest of Islam’s texts.
As the story opens, Judith Shamash lives with her loving and well to do family in a relatively isolated area. This and the presumed safety of living in the shadow of a Christian Russia and British occupied Baghdad nearby provided a false sense of safety.
Shamash’s life is carefree until she comes to the attention of the Muslim Persian Governor upon a meeting with her father. His lustful attraction leads to her eventual kidnapping by one of the governor's agents. While being held captive - sharing her confinement with the Muslim wife of her captor - she artfully makes her escape. At her insistence the heavily pregnant Muslim woman accompanies her, despite Judith knowing full well that her condition will slow them both down and make escape less likely. But she insists, a wonderfully contrasting portrait of Christian charity even for those of different beliefs.
Eventually, both of them return to the safety of Judith's home where her companion is welcomed as a member of the family. The story of her escape is as riveting as any crime thriller.
As storm clouds gathered, prior to the attack on the community, the family had spoken of going to America, then a beacon of hope to the oppressed of the world, where some family members had already arrived. Judith's mother was hesitant to leave her family in Northern Persia, but eventually the family deems it best, but by then it is too late… the Muslim hordes - with inhuman hatred worthy of the Nazi's SS - invade.
Judith is raped, shot and left for dead by the Kurdish sons of Allah. The rest of her community is killed, including members of her immediate family. Recovering from her wounds and all lone in a British hospital Judith reconnects with an aunt when the British place her name and the details of her life in a newspaper.
“Infidels,” is an evocative and troubling work; the story of Judith, an allegory for Christian persecution throughout the ages…writ small, and likely, the reader will find disturbing echoes in present day events.
©2017 Cheryl Gatesworth. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.