• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

    Previously at:
    blogs.salon.com/0003494
    barthsnotes.wordpress.com

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

Joke PJ Media Article On Mahdi Provokes Apocalyptic Flurry

A couple of weeks ago, PJ Media carried what was apparently an attempt at humour by Canadian poet David Solway. Solway gave an account of having been given special access to “Arak Codex #190001”, a document recently “unearthed in a clay jar at an excavation works near the Arak nuclear site” and now at the “Inscriptions Department of the Malik National Museum of Iran in Tehran”. He explained that the document describes the attributes of the Twelfth Imam, or Mahdi, and he presented a supposed translation:

He is half black, half white. He is tall and strides with a lope. He possesses dead eyes and prominent ears. His background is both obscure and exotic. He is persuasively eloquent and is adept at saying one thing while doing another. His head swivels from side to side when addressing the multitudes, as if reading from prepared texts no doubt lowered from on high and inscribed by the Lord or one of his angels. He gives the distinct impression of being a man-child. He is supremely confident and exudes a certain boyish charm many find irresistible. He is devoted to popular sports involving holes and nets as emblems of ensnaring. He bows frequently in false humility, cajoling the high and mighty of the earth, yet brooks no objection to his will when dissent is offered. He is to be found in many different places from one day to another. He is surrounded by loyal minions, many of whom appear to be imbeciles, who do his bidding without question or scruple. He occupies the seat of power.

Further:

 …All his actions are directed toward igniting the flames that wait to engulf the world…. He is an undeclared enemy of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. He is a great friend to Islam in its march toward imposing a caliphate upon unsuspecting nations… He is the repository of sacred teachings and potent incantations, and is adept at uttering sonorous phrases that please as they befuddle…. He is no longer Hidden but exults among us in all his glory… He will inaugurate a new world order.

Solway’s purpose appears to have been satirical – he wanted to mock Shi’ite beliefs about the Mahdi (a subject I looked at here), and to attack Obama. The article was promoted by Robert Spencer as having been written with “tongue planted firmly in cheek”, although it should be remembered that Spencer has also, in all seriousness, endorsed a book which claims that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ.

Inevitably, however, Solway’s supposed quote from Arak Codex #190001 has now been taken up feverishly by various people who weren’t in on the joke. PJ Miller writes that he received a link to the original post “from a ‘prophecy website’ which sends out daily emails to its subscribers”; Before It’s News has a deadpan article entitled “Barack Obama Fulfills The Occult Signs of the Coming Islamic Mahdi” (“Coincidence? You decide.”); Prophecy Update News headlines the story as “PJ Media Claims The Twelfth Imam, Apocalypse Here“; and a certain Pastor Mike Taylor, in a rumination entitled “Which Messiah Will You Trust?“, allows that the codex may have been “planted”, but asks us to “notice the similarities of a president of these United States and the description of theAlMahdi [sic]”. Various posters at Free Republic appear to have got a bit carried away, too.

Solway is perhaps best known for concocting a fictitious Greek poet named Andreas Karavis.