Now They Call Me Infidel (Darwish)

Now They Call Me Infidel:  Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror
Nonie Darwish, 2006
Penguin Group USA
272 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781595230447 

When Nonie Darwish was a girl of eight, her father died while leading covert attacks on Israel. A high-ranking Egyptian military officer stationed with his family in Gaza, he was considered a "shahid," a martyr for jihad.

Yet at an early age, Darwish developed a skeptical eye about her own Muslim culture and upbringing. Why the love of violence and hatred of Jews and Christians? Why the tolerance of glaring social injustices? Why blame America and Israel for everything?

Today Darwish thrives as an American citizen, a Christian, a conservative Republican, and an advocate for Israel. To many, she is now an infidel. But she is risking her comfort and her safety to reveal the many politically incorrect truths about Muslim culture that she knows firsthand. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Cairo, Egypt
Education—B. A., American University, Cairo
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California, USA

Nonie Darwish is an Egyptian-American human rights activist, the founder of Arabs For Israel, and Director of Former Muslims United. She is the author of two books: Now They Call Me Infidel; Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror and Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law. Darwish's speech topics cover human rights, with emphasis on women's rights and minority rights in the Middle East.

Early years
Born in Egypt, in 1949, Darwish's family moved to Gaza in the 1950s when her father, Colonel Mustafa Hafez, was sent by Egypt's then-president Nasser to serve as commander of the Egyptian Army Intelligence in Gaza, which was under supervision of Egypt. In July 1956 when Nonie was eight years old, her father was killed by a mail bomb in an operation by the Israeli Defense Forces. The assassination was a response to Fedayeen's attacks, making Darwish's father a shahid.

During his speech announcing the nationalization of the Suez Canal, Nasser vowed that all of Egypt would take revenge for Hafez's death. Darwish claims that Nasser asked her and her siblings, "Which one of you will avenge your father's death by killing Jews?"

Darwish explains:

I always blamed Israel for my father's death, because that's what I was taught. I never looked at why Israel killed my father. They killed my father because the fedayeen were killing Israelis. They killed my father because when I was growing up, we had to recite poetry pledging jihad against Israel. We would have tears in our eyes, pledging that we wanted to die. I speak to people who think there was no terrorism against Israel before the '67 war. How can they deny it? My father died in it.

After the death of her father, her family moved back to Cairo, where she attended Catholic high school and then the American University in Cairo, earning a BA in Sociology/Anthropology. She then worked as an editor and translator for the Middle East News Agency, until emigrating to the United States in 1978 with her husband, ultimately receiving United States citizenship.

After arriving in the US, she became a Christian and began attending a non-denominational evangelical church. About a year after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Darwish began writing columns critical of Islamic extremism and the silence of moderate Muslims.

Asked what can be done to encourage more moderate Muslims to speak out, Darwish answers:

After 9/11 very few Americans of Arab and Muslim origin spoke out... Muslim groups in the U.S. try to silence us and intimidate American campuses who invite us to speak. I often tell Muslim students that Arab Americans who are speaking out against terrorism are not the problem, it’s the terrorists who are giving Islam a bad name. And what the West must do is ask the politically incorrect questions and we Americans of Arab and Muslim origin owe them honest answers.

Darwish is the current Director of Former Muslims United. In a letter sent from that organization to Muslim leaders, Darwish said:

We send this letter to you to be received by September 25, 2009. On that date 220 years ago in 1789, the U.S. Congress passed the Bill of Rights. This is a fitting date to put our pledge to the world...As founders of Former Muslims United, we now pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to achieve for former Muslims their unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We claim these rights as the foundation for our right to freedom from Shariah. We urge you to join us.

She often says, "Just because I am pro-Israel does not mean I am anti-Arab, its just that my culture is in desperate need for reformation which must come from within”.

She has spoken on numerous college campuses including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Oxford, Cornell, UCLA, NYU, Virginia Tech, UC Berkeley and several others. She has also spoken in the United States Congress, the House of Lords and the European Parliament.

Views on Islam
Darwish believes Islam is an authoritarian ideology that is attempting to impose on the world the norms of seventh-century culture of the Arabian Peninsula. She writes that Islam is a "sinister force" that must be resisted and contained. She remarks that it is hard to "comprehend that an entire religion and its culture believes God orders the killing of unbelievers." She claims that Islam and Sharia of forming a retrograde ideology that adds greatly to the world's stock of misery.

She claims the Qur'an is a text that is "violent, incendiary, and disrespectful" and says that barbarities such as brutalization of women, the persecution of homosexuals, honor killings, the beheading of apostates and the stoning of adulterers come directly out of the Qur'an.

Darwish is also a strong supporter of Israel, and has founded the group "Arabs for Israel", composed of ethnic Arabs and Muslims who respect and support the State of Israel, welcome a peaceful and diverse Middle East, reject suicide terrorism as a form of Jihad, and promote constructive self-criticism and reform in the Arab/Muslim world. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
(There are few mainstream press reviews online for this work. See Amazon and Barnes & Noble for helpful customer reviews.)

Now They Call Me Infidel is a book of great humanity, intelligence, and courage. If ever there is to be peace between Arabs and Israelis, it will have to be along the lines depicted by Nonie Darwish.
David Pryce-Jones - National Review

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Now They Call Me Infidel:

1. How was Nonie's childhood and adolescence different from that of other Muslim children? How did her privileged upbringing, as the daughter of a "shahid," shape her future views on Islamic culture and faith?

2. In what way did her father's death cause Nonie to question Islamic society, rather than accept the way things were? You would have expected her to insist on revenge for his death; why didn't she?

3. What was Nonie taught about Israel and the Jews when growing up?

4. Discuss the build-up of Jihad through the 1960s and 70s? To what does Darwish attribute the growth and spread of Islamic radicalism.

5. How was Egypt different from other countries in the Middle East? Why was it different?
6. Discuss Darwish's views of Islam and the Qur'an. How does Darwish describe the practices of Islam, especially Sharia? What is her response to young American-born Muslim women who whom she sees wearing the hajib and calling for Sharia?

7. Why, according to Darwish, do many of the Muslim-American families not attend their local mosques?

8. Why does Darwish see the moderate image of Islam as a tolerant faith—a position proffered by academic institutions like Columbia University—as misguided, even dangerous? Do you agree with her? Does the Western world need a more realistic view of Islam? Should it take a harsher stance against Islam's more radical elements, both within the US and outside its borders?

9. When the planes flew into the World Trade Center on 9/11, Darwish called her family and friends back in Egypt. Talk about their response to the attacks.

10. What roll does the dependence on petroleum play, according to Darwish, in America's ostrich-like attitude toward Saudi Arabia? Do you agree with her?

11. Have your views of Islam been altered by reading Now They Call Me Infidel? What have you learned? What in the book struck or even suprised you most? Do you agree with Darwish in her assessment of the dangers of Jihad? Or does she overstate her case?

12. Have you read other works about Islam that seem to support or perhaps contradict Darwish's book?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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