Interview: Nonie Darwish - Front Page Mag

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December 20, 2006


FP: Nonie Darwish, welcome to Frontpage Interview.


Darwish: My pleasure.


FP: Tell us some of the things you were taught as a child in the Arab Middle East.


Darwish: I was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt and the Gaza Strip. I attended Gaza elementary schools where I learned hatred, vengeance and retaliation. Peace was never as an option; it was considered a sign of defeat and weakness. Those who wanted peace and compromise were called traitors. Jews were described as monsters, apes and pigs and the enemies of God from the pulpits of mosques. When I asked: “why do we hate Jews?” The answer was: “aren’t you a Muslim?”


Shaming is very strong in Arab upbringing. We were told outrageous lies about Jews: "Don't take candy from strangers since it could be a Jew trying to poison you." We were also told that Israeli soldiers would kill pregnant Arab women just for fun, place bets on whether she was carrying a boy or a girl, and cut her open to see who won the bet.


My classmates would cry while reciting Jihadist poetry daily, wishing to die as martyrs. The teachers filled our hearts with fear of Jews, which made hatred come easy and terrorism tolerated. The propaganda of jihad, hatred and anti-Semitism was everywhere and not just in schools; it was in mosques, newspapers, movies, by politicians, in the arts and in many Jihadist songs over the radio. Mosque prayers often ended with cursing of the infidels (non-Muslims). Believe it or not, if you grow up with prayers like that, it can sound and feel normal ...


To my surprise, I started seeing Egyptians and other Arabs getting radicalized right here in US mosques. We were told that Saudi Arabia is building all these mosques, sending their clerics from the most radical Muslim backgrounds and even send the Friday sermons to such preachers directly from Saudi Arabia. When I asked why are we building more mosques than the need of the American Muslim community, I was told we are here to fill them with Americans; to bring Islam to America and change America’s constitution to the Qur’an. I heard some say “congratulations, Europe is now dominated by Muslims; may God bless America with Islam too.”


Muslims that I knew started to gradually behave and act more radical. They only befriended other Muslims and criticized me for befriending and marrying an American. They rejected me when I refused to cover my head; something I have never done before. Even my mother and grandmother never covered their heads or wore Islamic clothes all their lives in Egypt. Some even called Americans stupid or na├»ve for being such an open society. I then started seeing Muslim students becoming extremely active on college campuses while wearing their Islamic clothes with pride. I stared noticing a drift between Muslims and the rest of America, and an attitude of “us against them.” ...


Such preachers are often regarded as a joke and as extreme even by moderate Muslims in Egypt only to find themselves with new respectable status and freedoms they could only dream of under Muslim dictatorships. Such Muslim radical preachers should never have been allowed in America. But believe it or not they have discovered that only in America can they work the system to their advantage to demand this and that and if anyone criticizes them they learn the good old buzz words in America: racist, bigot and Islamophobia -- the choice words they learned quickly from some Muslim American organizations who claim to be moderate. These are expressions represent realities that are a way of life in the old country where racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism are the norm. In America these individuals are finally free to spread their hatred, rage and subversion and cause a rift between Muslims and the rest of America.