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Tandra Page 981, April 27, 2008

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There is no verifiable evidence the Prophet Muhammad ever existed. However, Occam’s Razor suggests there was, in most likelihood, a successful brigand leader operating in the Arabian Desert at about the time Muhammad is reputed to have started his “religion” who knew of Alexander The Great and used Alexander’s template in increasing the power and size of his savage band of looters and murderers. Which is to say, rather than simply robbing and executing his victims, he offered them the choice to join his group of thugs or have their head promptly removed from their bodies. Given such a choice, many desert nomads chose to join the brigands with the result Muhammad’s gang increased in number and so also did their options for the richer targets they could successfully attack and conquer. Since Muhammad had first choice upon all loot taken by his brigands, his personal wealth increased with the size of his gang. A pretty good setup if you happen to be an amoral thug. When Muhammad passed on to that great brothel in the sky, his lieutenants continued in his campaign with considerable success. They also fell to fighting among themselves over the leadership of the gang and possession of the loot left by their deceased leader as thugs of any persuasion are inclined to do, a civil war that continues to this day.

In Baghdad, some two hundred years after Muhammad’s expiration, political leaders were casting about for a method of increasing their power and extending their territory. They were aware of the limited success the Romans had achieved in stabilizing their holdings by making Christianity a state sponsored religion. If you were Christian, it was your duty to support Rome and, if you were Roman, it was your duty to recognize Christianity and God would reward you in the afterlife. This seemed a workable template to Baghdad, but it would serve no useful purpose for them to simply buy into the Christian Ideology. They needed something bigger and better.

Muhammad offered to their minds the bigger and better. Muhammad’s heirs were still wildly successful in extending their influence over an expanding and generally uncontested area under the banner of Muhammad’s pagan moon god of war. The idea arose to insist Muhammad’s pagan god was the same as the Christian God and also the One True God which Christians, Jews and other undesirables had willfully abandoned. To make the translation easier, and because they had no better ideas, the rulers of Baghdad appropriated many of the writings of Christians and Jews for their own ideology. To this they added the traditions gathered from the Muhammadans as referenced to the brigand leaders life. If there were inconsistencies, well Allah could change his mind as expediency required.

As stated above, the character of Muhammad was likely based upon the memory of an actual person in the same way as the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood are possibly inspired by actual historical figures, but the connection of the legend to the historical figures is so tenuous as to be generally unrecognizable. For all practical purpose, King Arthur is a totally fictional creation, and so is the Prophet Muhammad.

As a fictional creation fallen into the public domain, there is no good reason Muhammad cannot be used as a character in any piece of speculative fiction. I could introduce Muhammad into Tandra with an absolutely clear conscience if I so chose. It might be taken the Sage with the Golden Beard is a variation of Muhammad and the masked gathering constitute his followers. While there is visual evidence to suggest such, I have no intention of restricting the Flame Cult to the representation of one subhuman ideology no more that it was my intention in the early days of Tandra to limit the portrayal of snake oil religious con men to one set of corrupt tele-evangelists. With the Flame Cult, I am going for a larger target than one degenerate, if currently spectacular, example of institutionalized evil.

If you recognize Islamists in the illustrations of the Flame Cult gathering, I should remind you that the desire of evil men to hide their faces behind masks is not restricted to the advance guard of Islam. The hiding behind masks is an inclination of evil from members of the Klan through highway stick up men to the mugger in the back alley of your average city. If you wish to know the character of an ideology, just observe if its practitioners stand proudly in the daylight or if they prefer to hide in the shadows behind masks.

Next week; Tandra Page 982 titled “Shadow Client.”

See ya then.

May the sun always shine on your parade.