Wednesday, January 17, 2007

They Call Me Infidel

Last night I listened to Nonie Darwish speak.

She is brave, gracious, and passionate in her determination to do what she can to foster understanding and peace, while not flinching from respectfully demanding a reformation in the Muslim thinking that will not brook any criticism and honors terrorists.

Raised in Egypt, now an American citizen, she had just returned to the US from Egypt on Sept. 10th, 2001. She woke up the next morning to the horror of that day and knew that jihad had come to America. Her first reaction was to call her family and friends back home to comfort each other in the misery that the leader of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was Egyptian, from a well-educated family. Her friends said---you have become too Americanized---don't you know this was a Zionist conspiracy? Darwish told us that her friends were secular, non-practicing Muslims.

She was shocked, but knew that it had taken her years to shake off the hatred and ignorance with which she was raised. Darwish decided she must speak up, and has written a book, putting herself at personal risk, Now They Call Me Infidel. As an American woman of Muslim origin, Darwish said she speaks for democracy and women's rights in the Muslim world, a society where she said questioning the harsh interpretations of Islam is considered treasonous, and went on to say that ideologies that do not ask the hard questions are intellectually bankrupt and are a burden on their followers, that critics are not the problem, terrorists are. As a child, she never heard jihad described as an internal struggle, always as a violent war against nonbelievers---Jews, Christians and others. Those moderates who wanted peace were called traitors, and killed. As children, they were made to recite poetry daily of wishing to die as martyrs.

Despite all the propaganda, she said Palestinians don't line up on the Egyptian border looking for work, or the Jordanian or Syrian border---they line up at the Israeli border---22 oil rich Arab countries have neglected Gaza and the West Bank for years.

She castigated the Western media for portraying terrorists sympathetically as underdogs. They terrorize moderates who want peace, religious and ethnic minorities, and keep women in bondage---sharia law is a dictator's dream. Honor killings of girls who are raped, female mutilation and beatings, a civil sharia law that holds in every Muslim country where a woman's word in court is worth half of a man's. The real freedom fighters, Darwish says, are the 60% of Iraqis who voted, despite being targeted by terrorist snipers and worse.

Criminal sharia law is practiced for now only in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and had been under the Taliban in Afghanistan, but this is the virulent form of Islam that is being financed by these countries overseas, taught in mosques where sermons end in curses against the infidels among whom they live. As a Muslim, Darwish calls for an end to the hate speech, that if Islam is a religion of peace, then we must teach peace in Muslim schools and mosques, and says we are fighting an enemy of our own creation.

Darwish asked us to speak out on behalf of the truth, to challenge the assumptions of much of the Western media, to shine a light on the Arab media, much of which is filled with hateful propaganda, and to support efforts to help Muslim women who are routinely beaten and killed.

A very sobering speech, but it left me hopeful, because of her personal courage and dignity.

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