November 10, 2007
Nonie Darwish at YAF: “Islam is…. a totalitarian state”
The featured speaker at the Young America’s Foundation luncheon today was human rights activist Nonie Darwish, author of Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror .
Ms. Darwish opened by telling the story of how her father was assassinated by Mossad agents in Egypt. Her father was a high level officer in the Egyptian Army in charge of operations in the Sinai against Israel during the early 1950s.
She recounted how difficult it was for her mother to do simple tasks such as drive a car since there was no man of the house. How in her mother’s generation over 90% of Egyptian women underwent the horrible procedure of genital mutilation. Clearly, the place of women in Muslim countries is as second class citizen.
When she was 20 she went to visit her Christian friend’s house on a Friday and the two couldn’t help but hear the sermon being delivered at the mosque next door being broadcast on loudspeakers. The sermon ended with a prayer imploring Allah to curse the infidels and Jews. Because she was with her Christian friend, the cursing shamed her.
Growing up in such a culture, though, hearing this common curse on infidels didn’t seem like such a big deal. In fact, the curse, coming at the end of prayers or sermons, almost become a holy saying.
To this day Christians and other minorities are persecuted throughout the Middle East.
After moving to America well into her adulthood she went to a mosque where the imam preached a sermon on how newcomers were not to assimilate into American society and how Islam would one day dominate in the U.S.
“Don’t assimilate,” she was told by the man delivering the sermon, “Islam will become the dominate religion.”
Immigration and non-assimilation are a silent and non-violent jihad. But the end goals of the establishment of sharia law remain among some in the Muslim community even when violent struggle is shunned.
She was also urged to begin wearing Islamic clothes as a sign to her neighbors that she was Muslim. She never went back to that mosque and refused to wear the headscarf.
Speaking of the low birthrate amongst native Europeans and the large number of immigrants from Muslim countries, Darwish said, “They already feel that they’ve conquered Europe, now they have their eyes on America.”
On 9/11 she witnessed the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. When she learned that Mohammed Atta was Egyptian, and remembering that Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman — in jail for his part in the 1993 WTC bombings — was also from her homeland, she called friends in Egypt. What could possibly be so wrong in her culture that would lead to such despicable acts?
But her friends rejected the notion that Arabs could be responsible for 9/11. It must have been the Jews. The saddest part? Her friends, like Nonie, were middle class Egyptians, not radicals or even overly religious. They were moderates and liberals. Good people corrupted by growing up in a culture which lacked any self criticism and which blamed the Jews or the West for any and all of its problems.
The same antisemitism found in Egypt is found throughout the Middle East, she says. And when Arabs speak to Western outlets, they do not speak with the same amount of antisemitic and anti-American rhetoric.
“We Arabs are fighting an imaginary Jew of our own making,” said Darwish.
The Jew is blamed for everything in the Middle East, but never Arab leaders. A problem tied to antisemitism but also, claimed Darwish, because sharia exempts the “Caliph” –or leader of the Islamic nation — from the normal consequences of violating Islamic law.
Even though there has not been a Caliph in the Muslim world for over 80 years, Arabs are accustomed to taking corrupt leaders for granted. And today’s Muslim dictators think of themselves as Caliphs, exempt from the law.
This illustrates a major problem in the Islamic world. Muslims are taught that it’s okay to lie if the lie helps Muslims against the infidels or if it helps unite Muslims. It leads to a society in which lies are told to one another in order to save face with the West.
Darwish also spoke about objections to the term “Islamofascism”. The term “Islmofascism” was coined by moderate Muslims in Algeria used to describe the fanatics who were slaughtering them. The vast majority of the victims of Islamofascism are Muslims. Over 150,000 Muslims have been killed in Algeria alone in the war between moderates and those who wish to impose Sharia law.
She also argued that Islam is more than a “religion” since sharia is not just about how to live ones life, but is a legal system which covers the totality of social relations. For instance, the punishment for apostasy under Islamic law extends to death.
Can Islam be reformed asked one of the YAF students? Darwish is hopeful that it can and that many Muslims wish, privately, to reform Islam. Then how come there are not more voices crying for reform in the Middle East? Her explanation was as simple as it was disturbing. Because those calling for reform are often labeled “traitors” or “apostates” .
“Many of the true freedom fighters in the Middle east are sitting in Arab jails,” she said.
Even in “moderate” countries such as Egypt where there are no formal criminal penalties, those who criticize or leave Islam face mob justice.
Another theme of the talk was the oppression of women in Islamic countries. She recalled how her families maid had become pregnant after being raped. She was murdered by her father and her brother because she had brought shame on her family……by being the victim of rape!
“Islam is more than a religion, it is a totalitarian state,” she said as she reminded listeners of the oppression found in nearly all Islamic countries.
Speaking of the death penalty for apostasy under Sharia law, Darwish said, “Sharia must guarantee that there is no defection across th Berlin wall of Islam.”
The entire speech was moving and it was the first time during the conference that I felt like my standing ovation was done enthusiastically, and not merely because others were doing the same. I was truly moved by her speech. Both by compassion for those living under the oppressive conditions in Islamic lands and contempt for the American left for becoming apologists for political Islam.
“Doesn’t the Left,” she said, “understand that in the Middle East we are the liberals?”
But the most moving part of the luncheon came during the question and answer period. A young girl wearing the headscarf which made her stand out as a Muslm got up to the microphone to ask Ms. Darwish a question.
Oh no, I said to myself. I knew the girl was Palestinian because she had told me so earlier in the day as we walked together in the halls. Darwish is very much committed to a peace in the Middle East which includes a secular, liberal, & Jewish state of Israel. Here it comes, I thought.
Instead the young girl recounted how her parents did not approve of her assimilation into America society. She told how her parents were making her leave the U.S. and that she had received threats from fellow Muslims here because of her pro-American views.
The girl was only seventeen. What should she do?
Darwish replied that she should do what her parents ask for now, fearing for the girl’s safety. Growing up in Egypt Darwish knows what it is like for Muslim girls to go against their parents. She then encouraged the girl to come back to America as soon as she turned 18 and offered her personal assistance to help her in any way she could.
Can you imagine being forced to leave America and go live in the Middle East because you had embraced liberty and freedom? The girl said she was a committed Muslim, and her wearing of the headscarf (voluntarily, I presume) seemed to be an outward sign of that commitment. Yet, even though she continues to embrace Islam, that wasn’t enough for her parents. Apparently embracing an Islam which allows for freedom of concience was just too much for her parent’s.
A standing ovation, this time not for Nonie Darwish, but for this brave young girl. A touching moment. She cried. Others cried. I cried.
A moving event. I’m glad to have been here today. I’m also appreciative of the time Ms. Darwish gave me after the talk, one-on-one.
I’m off to go see John Ashcroft speak, then I get to have dinner with him. I was never a big Ashcroft fan, but never understood the irrational hatred of him by those on the Left. Check back later and I might have something on Ashcroft’s speech later tonight.