My Princeton Experience

Nonie Darwish is the author of The Devil We Don’t Know; The Dark Side of Revolutions in the Middle East and President of FormerMuslimsUnited.org.


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.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

    An excellent article, Nonie.

    I wonder, have you ever given a lecture discussing these muslim groups and their supporters? I can just imagine them sitting in the audience and squirming while you lay bare their own tactics in front of them.

  • Rybbe

    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.
    Ms. Darwish, these words punctuate the feelings of many of us in America today. How is it that American feminists can find the time to write (and get published) stupid articles about the "freedom" of wearing a hijab and not one of them would deign speak out about the atrocities of female genital muitlation and the treatment of women under sharia law. Keep on plugging away at it, there are many of us here in America who are behind you. Thank you for your work.

    • Stephen D.

      Indeed Rybbe, here is a quote from our President in a speech he made in Cairo in 2009.
      "Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear."
      Notice the word he uses "DICTATING" Moreover, he sees it as his responsibility to "PUNISH" those that would impede this practice. Same speech: "Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion….the U.S. government has gone to court to… punish those who would deny it."
      So you see, when our own President is a willing participant to trampling over individual freedom of a Muslim woman for the "Right " of her husband to "Dictate" to her what she should wear what hope is there for his support groups to speak in opposition to him? I applaude Ms. Darwish for this article and her courageous work on speaking out.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

        Did O'Bummer mention the way the minority indigenous Christian population of Egypt are treated by the dominant arselifters in his speech? I somehow doubt it.

  • ribeve

    Willingly ignorant. There are so many examples of it in today's society. Just the fact that this information is generally known by the public and we turn our heads knowing full well we are the target, is twilight zone material.

  • Connie

    While speaking, Nonie Darwish was treated respectfully – a far cry from the way Ann Coulter was treated before her speech in Canada. I am waiting for the day when Spencer and Horowitz are also always treated with the great respect they deserve.

  • seels4truth

    Nonie Darwish is a great example of how one person can make a difference. I am reading her book "Now They Call Me Infidel" and her journey is remarkable. Yet the pseudo-intellectuals at Ivy league schools can't seem to understand what she says. It is this willful ignorance that demonstrates just how small minded the average Ivy league student is. Studying for A's in high school and exposed to far left professors in college these kids can't accept any truth other than the one they are taught. They can't see outside "the box" and any reality that contradicts their fantasyland must be false. Females treated poorly? Nope! must be a zionist lie. Anti-semitism in the Arab media? Nope! must be a zionist lie. After all, how many kids really watch Arab television? Maps showing Israel does not exist? Nope! just another zionist lie. Now, Israelis killing Arabs and using their blood to make matzos? Yes, that is true and everyone knows it.
    If this is the best that Princeton has to offer then perhaps we should question what being an "elite" school really means. I'll take Nonie Darwish, educated at the American University in Cairo, over Jason Jung any day!

    • Princeton '12

      Maybe you should actually read the article- Jason Jung, a fine student and journalist, merely reported what was said at the speech. He included quotations from students both for and against Ms. Darwish's positions, and presented the event in a fair and balanced manner. If you were at the event, and as previous commentators have noted, you would have seen that Ms. Darwish was treated with respect. As a Princeton student, I take offense at your "willful ignorance"; next time, do your research before making blanket statements.

  • connie

    THIS JUST IN:!!!!!!!: Michelle never goes to Muslim countries with Prez because Muslims are not allowed to take wives to business meetings in Muslim countries. (Laura always went with George!) Proof positive that our Prez is a Muslim – as if bowing to the Arab Prince wasn't enough proof

  • connie

    P.S. WOW!!!!! to previous post!!!!

  • http://historyscoper.angelfire.com/tlwislam.html Historyscoper

    Islam is about total submission, so Muslims will forever seek to silence non-Muslim speech while wanting theirs alone protected. The real question is why Muslims have any power at all in the U.S. today to get to first base with this. Get Shorty, final answer?
    http://go.to/islamhistory

  • Turbeaux

    If you still believe that Islam is a Religion of Peace™ being hijacked by a tiny minority of Muslims, then you need to read what Nonie Darwish, a Muslim apostate that escaped Islam and now lives in the West, has to say about what life was like living in the Islamic world.

    What I really like about Nonie Darwish’s presentations is she doesn’t talk about OBL and AQ. Instead, she vividly describes what everyday life is like for average Muslims living in the Islamic world today: the way women are mistreated and harshly oppressed, the honor killings, the cruelties of Sharia, the way all non-Muslims are persecuted and often harshly oppressed, the way small children are inculcated to hate Jews and all non-Muslims cradle to grave, the constant incitement to hate and to do violence against non-Muslims, the way that apostasy and the crime of criticizing Islam are treated by the death penalty throughout the Islamic world, etc. In other words, through her life experiences of living in the Islamic world, you can easily get a good picture of what life is like for every day Muslims and determine that Islam clearly is not the so-called Religion of Peace™ being hijacked by a small minority of radicals the way Muslims deceptively promote it over here in the West.

    As a matter of fact, with the single exception of those Muslims apostatizing and trying to escape the mental prison of Islam, sort of like Soviet dissidents in the old Soviet Union trying to escape the prison of communism, all immigration from the Islamic world should be banned and reversed immediately, as that sort of radical totalitarian ideology that harshly oppresses women and all non-Muslims, that incites cradle to grave hate and violence against Jews and all non-Muslims, and that holds the threat of the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy over the heads of Muslims should not be welcomed with open arms in the West.

  • SFLBIB

    Re: "Why do Muslims become 'the offended group' when Muslim hate speech and violence is [sic] exposed?"

    Because when you increase the sensitivity, you increase the false alarm rate. Tolerance uber alles ultimately means you have to tolerate evil.

  • Tonweisha Jackson

    Do you check your articles for grammar? Also, I'm not a Muslim, but you say that the people interviewed just deny the negative sentiment towards Christians and Muslims but you never provide any substantive examples yourself.

    • 9-11 Infidel

      Sounds like you don't know much about Islam. You should read her book. If you were a regular here you would have read all of Nonie's articles and many other articles with copious substantive examples. And like someone else has already said, Nonie's article was indeed rather specific. And you whine about grammar? What a slug.

      • Princeton

        haha, oh the irony of saying if you don't know much about Islam…read her book. That's like saying "sounds like you don't know much about Christianity. You should read the Ku Klux Klan manuel." Absolutely absurd.

  • cxt

    Interesting…….T. Jackson (above) spends their time casting doubt on claimed poor grammer—-sans any concrete examples….BUT bellyaches about the author not providing concrete examples……..

    The article BTW was rather specific

  • fred jones

    whatever you think about the princeton audience it doesn't make much sense to blame the reporter for the opinions of the crowd. Unless someone has some credible accusation that Jason Jung intentionally interviewed or quoted people that he knew to be hostile to Darwish, then attacking him makes no sense. Since nobody has made that accusation much less substantiated it with even a single shred of evidence, you should probably leave him alone. he probably got assigned the story by an editor. its actually not a bad story if any of you took the time to read it.

    • Jans

      Why did such a brilliant "journalist" fail to ask the obvious follow-up questions and require that those he interviewed at least provide facts to back up their assertions? Isn't that covered in Journalism 101?

  • Len Powder

    "Hate speech" is most abused term in the English language. It got that way from being repeated incessantly by the Left. The phrase is dereft of meaning and justification more often than not. It is the Left's main weapon against truth and justice. We cannot afford to ascribe to these words any significance whatever. The words are meanigless, useless and irrelevant. We need to stop taking them seriously and move forward with presenting the truth regardless of what fabricated charges the Left invents to intimidate and silence us. The Left is composed of propagandists, hypocrites and liars. Jesus called the Pharisees 'dead bones' and 'sepulchers'. This is how we should refer to Leftists and Islamists. The Truth is their greatest enemy. They know this and for this reason they want to suppress it.

  • stephan

    thank you Ms. Darwish, very sincere and informative

  • 9-11 Infidel

    Nonie Darwish is a jihadi warrior against facism. Loved the book. Read it twice.

  • Ted Hirsh

    Nonie needs a television show or a regular column in a major news publication.

  • jac maclean

    Offence is the collateral damage of the free speech. No offence, no free speech.

  • behonest

    Islamic law is derived from legalistic NON-BINDING OPINIONS. These opinions change over time, and are continually developed upon by the current 'ulema. The laws that you selectively read and improperly self translated from "Journey of a Traveler" represent a 7th century jurists' interpretation of NON BINDING legal opinion (i.e the jurist did not intend his views to be mis-interpreted by a non Islamic scholar and over generalized to represent the entire Muslim community). It is also worth noting that Darwish seems to feel that Islamic law is something all Muslims agree upon, when in fact many schools of law exist, each with it's own methodology of deriving law. Thus there are so many laws that have changed, which is why many of the laws mentioned do not apply (and are not implemented) by many Muslims today! Sure, you find extreme cases in Saudi Arabia (which Muslims are in a dialogue about) but look at many countries in the Islamic world and how they implement Sharia on the ground level. It is a strikingly different portrayal than the one Darwish is painting.

    But to indulge in your simple "challenge" of finding one law that changed in the last 1400 years, let's take the concept of slavery. While slavery was not as big of an issue as it was in the U.S., there was a time when slavery was widespread in the Islamic World. At the time, Sharia did not explicitly forbid slavery. Now, slavery does not exist in many Islamic countries and the consensus amongst the jurists is that slavery is in fact anti Islamic.

    • timeklek

      'Still, the breaking of a NON-BINDING OPINION Law, just might get you KILLED.
      The "change over time" and continuous developing by the current 'ulema; kind of reminded me of flexibility given muslims, to quote the Peaceful Mecca verses to western dhimmis, when it is known full well' those verses are Abrogated by the Sword Verses of Medina…
      CYA defence is built right into the ROP.