On March 24, I gave a lecture at Princeton University sponsored by the Whig-Clio Society, the Tory and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, CAMERA. I was previously scheduled to speak in November, but that appearance was canceled after pressure from the Muslim groups on campus.
My experience at Princeton was positive and similar to many campuses that I have visited through the years. I often receive emails from students who tell me they left with a lot to think about. After my speech, I always try to pick Muslims from the audience in the Q and A period since I enjoy challenging questions. The audience is sharply divided, representative of today’s sharp divisions in American society. The majority came to learn about the topic, in this case: “Human and Women’s Rights Under Sharia.” That group is very concerned about those who are demanding Sharia in the West and the implications of such an oppressive law on freedoms and the Bill of Rights. This group is usually quiet, often give me a standing ovation and wait in line to ask ask questions and thank me. I often get one or two Muslim students who whisper to me: “I agree with what you say”. At the Princeton event, there was a UN representative who came from NY especially to hear me and thanked me for my presentation afterward. There was also a professor from a nearby college who also thanked me and invited me to speak at his campus.
There is also always a group in the audience that consists of members of the Muslim Student Association, who are more concerned to discredit me than hear me, regardless of how carefully I document what I say or how many times I state that I am not hear to offend the good and peace loving Muslims, but to speak about the ideology of political and legal Islam. To this group, the way Sharia law and hate speech is practiced in the Muslim world today is irrelevant. They belittle it as untrue and deny any connection between hate education and violent jihad. Any exposure of human rights violations is quickly attributed to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Speakers who are concerned like myself are accused of “offending Muslims” personally. It does not matter how many TV video clips cursing and condemning Jews and non-Muslims on Arab TV exist, their response is always: “I never saw such a thing on Arab TV,” and that Islam is a religion of peace. Such clips are not to be judged as offensive to Jews, Christians or women. Exposing them to the West makes Muslims the victims. It is Muslims who become “the offended group” when Muslim hate speech is exposed.
Then there is a third group who are the defenders of the “offended groups.” These are well-intentioned Americans who care about spreading harmony and understanding between the student body regardless of what is happening in the outside world. To those students the world revolves around campus life and if Muslims and others get along on campus then the rest of the world should get along to. What is going on in far away 54 Muslim countries is thus irrelevant. To them images of little children being taught to curse, hate and commit violence in the name of Islam is debatable and explainable. The attitude is: “Who are we in America to judge what is going on under Sharia law in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran or Pakistan?” To this group it is easier to blame the messenger who is accused of exaggeration, lying or being hateful. That messenger has rocked the boat for the “offended groups.” Never mind that this offended group at Princeton has called me Nazi, Ku Klux Klan, etc.
In an article by Jason Jung, the Daily Princetonian, on March 25, entitled “Darwish criticizes Islamic Law,” I was accused of watering down my speech, which is not true. My speech is the same. Mr. Jung quoted Saud Al-Thani, president of the Muslim Students Association, who said: “I found many examples of inaccuracy. She talked about the book of law as something that is fixed, when political leaders in the Muslim world do not follow exactly the same laws as their predecessors. Law is flexible.”
Mr. Jung did not follow up by asking Al-Thani for one example of the “inaccuracy” I gave. Also Al-Thani believes that Islamic law is flexible and changing. I would have liked a follow up question asking where did Al-Thani see the change in Sharia law? What Islamic law books exactly document such flexibility and change? A law by nature is a statute; it is either voided or replaced by another law. I presume that Al-Thani means that some Muslim governments look the other way in the degree of application of the law, but that does not mean that it is not a threat on the head of every citizen of the Muslim State that might take the life of a person in a whim.
For example, leaving Islam is punishable by death in all schools of Sharia, no exception, and we have all seen the Afghani man, a couple of years ago who was on trial and sentenced to death for leaving Islam. How does Al-Thani see the law of apostasy being flexible in Muslim countries? Can he give me one example of one Muslim country where the rights of Muslims to openly leave their religion are protected and where a former Muslim can live in relative safety while openly practicing a different religion?
In the article, Al-Thani said that he lived in Qatar for nine years, and that he hadn’t seen the videos I featured. I did not create such videos, they are all taken from main stream Arab TV channels in Egypt, Saudi, Syria, Jordan, etc. Princeton students are smart kids, and to deny a well documented phenomenon on the basis that “I have never seen it” is remarkable.
The Arab world today can no longer hide its intense incitement to hate and jihad. It is all over the Internet and has grave consequences on Christian, Jewish and other minorities in the Middle East. It would have been more credible for the Muslim Student Association to actively stand against such an epidemic of cruel insightful and hateful jihadist propaganda on Arab TV. Where are their condemnation letters to Arab TV stations, to Muslim Imams, to Al Azhar Islamic University, telling them to end the hate and incitement? Where are their demonstrations against the stoning and flogging of women in the name of Islam happening today? Instead, the MSA chooses silence and to demonize speakers like myself who love their culture of origin and want to rid it of such atrocities and human tragedy. Again, the MSA, like the Muslim Brotherhood, wants to silence speech instead of facing reality. Supporters of the “offended group” continue playing the game of political correctness to accommodate certain groups. They do not want to rock the boat on the perfect life on campus with facts outside in far away places.
The article also mentioned Ahsan Barkatullah, a Muslim originally from Bangladesh, who commented about the TV clips I showed and said: “Does an isolated quote mean anything? Why doesn’t she give us statistics on what percentage of children in Arab countries have seen those type of clips? I never saw any of that.”
Again, denial on the basis of “I never saw it” or the unbelievable request of giving statistics of how many Arab children watch those hateful programs on TV. I would like to invite Barkatullah to watch Nahoul and Farfour on Arab TV. He also added, “Ms. Darwish does not have a Ph.D … When she makes comments, she has no authority.” He then added: “I’m not saying you need a Ph.D., but a person like me has personal experience as well. Doesn’t that mean I am the authority?” My response to this is: One does not need a Ph.D. to understand the meaning of “Kill apostates and adulterers,” especially after seeing 5,000 reported honor killings annually in the Muslim world. One does not need a Ph.D. to fear for his/her life from Sharia, which encourages vigilante street justice against adulterers and apostates. Tell that to Salman Rushdie or Ayan Hirsi Ali.
Barkatullah also stated: “Religion is like literature, you can interpret it in a hundred different ways.” This is exactly what scares me about Muslim scriptures, where moderate Muslims ignore the violent commandments, contradictions and vagueness. They say these scriptures are “misunderstood.” At the same time, the problem is that many Muslims take such violent commandments at face value. That leaves apostates and the victims of Islamic jihad at the mercy of Sharia enforcers who eagerly take matters into their own hands.
We can continue the defensiveness, denial and blame game, but we can also accept the challenge, grow and change. Human rights are not negotiable even in the name of God. They are sacred and, in my view, more divine than scriptures. It is a sad day in America when obvious violations to human and women’s rights are ignored — and speaking out against them is considered hate speech.