November 7: Islam giveth, and Islam taketh away


They say the classics aren't relevant anymore, but today's story starts like this:

O PRINCE OF THE FAITHFUL, my story is wonderful; for these two bitches are my sisters...
But -- sorry hiphop fans -- it turns out the two bitches are just dogs. By now I should expect such transformations from "The Thousand and One Nights." As has often happened in the other readings from this volume, we have not only the presto/chango, but rooms full of gold, and also what seems to have been a key concern in the mentalité of the Arab World of the time, commercial shipping:
...I replied, Ye are welcome, O my sisters; for I have no one dearer to me than yourselves:—and I received them, and treated them with every kindness, and we remained happily together for the space of a year.

After this I resolved to fit out a vessel for a mercantile voyage.
Our narrator (or narrator within the narrator, or, possibly the narrator within the narrator within the narrator -- it's hard to tell sometimes with the "Thousand and One") then recounts her trip, where they come upon a people rich, but, unfortunately, turned to stone. Except for one guy, who quite conveniently turns out to be the Prince of the place, who was also a secret Muslim -- in this translation, "Muslimeh," or Canadian Muslim.

So naturally, they fall in love -- our Prince being, in these stony circumstances, something like the last man on earth, but with the added advantage of being rich. So they decide to head to Baghdad, where you can get a decent meal from people who aren't literally as dumb as rocks. And here's where Allah gets all capricious:
We continued our voyage with a favourable wind, and, quitting the sea of peril, entered the sea of security, across which we proceeded for some days, until we drew near the city of El-Basrah...but as soon as we had fallen asleep, my sisters took us up in our bed, both myself and the young man, and threw us into the sea. The youth, being unable to swim, was drowned; God recorded him among the company of the martyrs; while I was registered among those whose life was yet to be preserved.
In other words, God saved him long enough so that he could be drowned in the sea of security, where, I suppose to make it even more ironic, he sank like a stone. And what's worse is that it sounds like a clerical error -- "upon further review of your case, your application to live has not been granted because you have been recorded to be among the martyrs," etc.

Fortunately our heroine frees a Jinnyeh who transports her back home with all the loot intact and turns her sisters into dogs --
...She then said to me, I swear by that which was engraved upon the seal of Suleyman, that, if thou do not inflict three hundred lashes upon each of these bitches every day, I will come and transform thee in the like manner:—so I replied, I hear and obey:—and have continued ever since to inflict upon them these stripes, though pitying them while I do so.
Hmmm...I smell a PETA-neoconservative Islamophobe alliance in the works.

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