Elevate Difference

Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror

An outstanding, courageous, and straight-from-the-heart book by a very remarkable woman, _Now They Call Me Infidel _gives an inside view of the sociopolitical and religious facets of Middle Eastern countries. Nonie Darwish is the daughter of Colonel Mustafa Hafaz, a high ranking Egyptian intelligence officer who was killed and hailed as a "Shahid," the highest honor bestowed on a Muslim that can be achieved by being killed during Jihad against the enemies of Islam. Darwish recounts her early experiences of being told outrageous lies, like Jewish rabbis kill Arab children to take their blood for baking cookies. She recalls being in schools filling the minds of the children with dread and terror when they hear the word "Jew" and being made to sing anti-Jewish poetry. Her education at school and her mosque bred fear, anger, and extreme intolerance towards other religions.

Darwish, who lived in Egypt for thirty years, explains that the major problem of the country is extreme poverty, which she feels is shielded in the cloak of religion. Her description of the mistreatment of Jews and other minorities (Coptic Christians, Armenians, etc.) is heart breaking. Jews were hung and branded as traitors, and they were forced to leave the country. She also identifies the Muslim marriage and divorce laws as oppressive to and fostering distrust between Muslim women, as the Islamic law allows a husband to have four wives. Darwish believes that religion is used by political and religious leaders to divert the attention from the other grave problems in Egypt.

After coming to United States, which she now considers to be her homeland, Darwish was astonished at the cultural gulf between U.S. and Egypt. She admired the way Americans accept different religious affiliations and this social equality made her ponder the degree to which Egyptian society oppressed and manipulated its citizens. She started questioning her upbringing, and the anti-Jewish propaganda she had been fed.

After 9/11, Nonnie thought it was her duty to speak out against religious fanaticism; she started to speak out and write against terrorism. Her point of view and non-defensive attitude earned her great appreciation from some, and she founded the website Arabs for Israel to provide a forum for Arabs and Muslims to express their support for Israel. On her tours, she was subjected to insults from Muslims who consider her a traitor, and many universities cancelled her presentations after Muslim students demanded that she not speak. She was shocked and embarrassed to find out that educated American Muslims think Israel should not exist and has become concerned that radical Muslim’s power is increasing in college campuses. Nonie Darwish's opinion on the problem of religious extremism is a must read.

Written by: Sunitha Jayan, May 22nd 2008

I agree that this author hates on Muslims to the extreme.I do have to point out that there is some truth in what she's saying, though, and there's something to be learned from her reflections on her own upbringing/family and the way she views the world, conflating "some" with "all". Poverty is a major problem. Jews have been mistreated. Muslim countries do have laws that are unfair to women. Religion is used to divert attention from other social issues. A question to ask, though, is whether or not this also happens in other cultures, not just in countries where Islam is the primary religion. Because it does. And if the problems exist in the US or Europe or China (and they DO, they just have a different face), then scapegoating Muslims isn't the answer.I see this Darwish as having a lot of internalized self-loathing, a statement that she would no doubt reject. And I wonder what it is that she's NOT telling us about her background that might give us a clue as to why she's so opposed to where she came from. That's the social worker in me talking, though. :)

Sarah: The last line of your post seems to have the intention of shaming particular feminist viewpoints into silence. FR prefers transparency, even if a view is potentially unpopular. There are many kinds of feminisms, and the purpose of this blog is commentary and interaction about these differing perspectives. Our writers are representative of the spectrum of feminisms. FR encourages debate.

Have you read any of Darwish's articles, or seen her interviews in the movie "Obsession?" It is undeniably hate speech. I saw Ms. Darwish speak at the University of Cincinnati on 11/14/08 and was outraged with all of her racist generalizations against Islam.Here are a few examples:"80% of the people in the Middle East believe 9/11 was concocted by the Jews."A student asked her for her source of this information, but she ignored him, and continued speaking."Being Muslim is a contract of submission to the state. If you wish to leave, you must be killed."She refused to explain how it was that she is still alive after converting to Christianity."When a woman marries a Muslim man, she is making known her submission to the man."During the Q&A Session, a white woman stood up and asked Darwish to look her Muslim husband in the eye and tell him that he did not treat her with the utmost respect, and that his father did not do the same for his wife. Darwish replied that she was only speaking about Muslims in the Middle East. The man stated that he grew up in Turkey, and Darwish ignored this and continued on to the next question.Muslim students on college campuses do not protest her presentations because they view her as a traitor, or because they are radical Muslims. They protest her for their own safety. Darwish is spreading dangerous generalizations and causing students to feel unsafe on their own campus.Don't get me wrong; I'm pro-Israel. If someone was making the same comments about Jews, or any other religion or nationality I would protest it as well.I expected more from the Feminist Review.