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The “Arab Spring.” The mainstream media clung to this phrase last year in their giddy haste to promote what they saw as a flowering of freedom-loving, democratic uprisings across the Arab world, for which they were eager to credit President Obama’s famed Cairo speech as partial inspiration. Instead, it unfolded with freedom-hating Islamic fundamentalists seizing political dominance, and the Arab Spring came to look more a Muslim Winter. What went wrong?
Bestselling writer and speaker Nonie Darwish is author of the compelling autobiography Now They Call Me Infidel, about growing up in Egypt and her break from Islam, and Cruel and Usual Punishment, an exposé of the stark reality of sharia. Her new book, The Devil We Don’t Know: The Dark Side of Revolutions in the Middle East, explains what really lies behind the Arab Spring movement, and it exposes Islam as the belief system that will inevitably doom those revolutions.
This is the first of a two-part interview. Part two will appear in Frontpage’s Monday, April 16, issue.
Mark Tapson: Nonie, you note in your introduction that you have written The Devil We Don’t Know not merely to criticize Islam but as a challenge, a plea to Muslims. What are you asking of them with this book?
Nonie Darwish: The purpose of writing The Devil We Don’t Know is not to shame Muslims or criticize Islam for the fun of it. The purpose is to expose the dark side of Islam and its laws that obstruct political, social and individual development, causing the Islamic political system to fall into a continual dysfunctional cycle of tyrannies and revolutions.
Muslims need to understand that the reason Islam is highly criticized is because it has assumed the role of government and a warlike confrontational and oppressive draconian legal system, and thus Islam has opened itself to criticism. But unfortunately Muslims, as a group, ignore or are unaware of such an important reason for why Islam is highly criticized. What Muslims need to understand is that the worldwide rejection, fear and criticism of Islam is not an unjustified phobia.
The number one enemy of Islam as it is practiced today is the truth, and thus my plea to Muslims is to understand that being open to an honest dialogue is best for everyone. Muslims who truly love their religion need to lay down their pride, shame and guns and honestly acknowledge the challenges of Islam today, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of the world. Acknowledging historical atrocities and evolving into a better faith in tune to human rights are values that apply to everyone, every religion and ideology, if they are to stand the test of time. Islam and Muslims are no exception. It is Islam’s turn today to look within, seeking forgiveness and redemption as a first step towards healing the wounds with the rest of the non-Muslim world. The whole world will stand in support of a brave movement of cleansing Islam, especially its written books, from the factors that contribute to its dysfunctional system. There is nothing to fear for Muslims to let go of their fears and be willing to face reality, admit their imperfections and their need to change course. That will be the most positive, constructive and honorable thing Muslims can do today.
These are the questions that Muslim revolutionaries today must face: are Muslims confident and secure enough in their faith and its survival without resorting to enforcing it through the government and legal system under penalty of death? Why do Muslims not dare remove Sharia from their constitutions? Why do they dread letting go of total control of every aspect of a Muslim’s life and the institutions that govern him? What is behind their insecurity and feelings of inadequacy? What is it that forces them to rely on government and not the freedom of the Muslim individual to choose?
MT: You write that the West misunderstood the Arab Spring revolutions by assuming that Middle East dictators like Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, and others were secular. What were they really, and how were they perceived by the Islamic fundamentalists?
ND: The West describes Mubarak, Assad, Hussein and other regimes as secular when in reality they were not. It is true that many of these dictators did come from a military background and their wives do not wear Islamic clothes, but at the same time many of them, in their youth, had been members of the Muslim Brotherhood; for example, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar El Sadat. Many of the so-called secular dictators govern under constitutions that state that Sharia is the primary law of the land. No Muslim leader in the Middle East can get away with a true secular rule, or even survive one day in office if he rejects Islamic law. It was during Mubarak’s rule in 1991 that Egypt signed the Cairo Declaration for Human Rights, which declared that Sharia supersedes any other law. So even though Sharia is not applied one hundred percent in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan or Tunisia, it is officially the law of the land. Mubarak, like all Muslim leaders, had to appease the Islamists to avoid their wrath.
In fact, according to Sharia, a Muslim head of state must rule by Islamic law and preserve Islam in its original form or he must be removed from office. Islamic law leaves no choice for any Muslim leader but to accept, at least officially, that Sharia is the law of the land or else be ousted by a mob of Islamists who are commanded by Sharia itself to remove any leader who is not a true Muslim. Because of that law Muslim leaders must play a game of appearing Islamic and anti-West while trying to get along with the rest of the world. It’s a game with life-and-death consequences and that is why Anwar Sadat was killed for violating Sharia when he signed a peace treaty with Israel.
MT: One of the new book’s chapter titles is “A Muslim’s Burden: How Islam Fails the Individual.” How does Islam fail the individual?
ND: The reason Western civilization achieved its goals of democracy and freedom was because they had the right moral foundations at the individual level that produced the constitutions and democratic governments of the West. On the other hand, Muslim culture failed to equip the individual with the moral foundation for democracy. The Islamic state has failed the Muslim individual, his morality and his humanity. For centuries, the Muslim mind believed in values contrary to those espoused in the rest of the world.
After 17 years in the Egyptian educational system I was never taught values such as the brotherhood of man, respect for human rights, pursuing peace and harmony in our relationships with people outside of our faith and treating our neighbors, including neighboring countries as we wished to be treated. Such values are never taught in Islamic culture, not even in a non-religious social setting. It was all about jihad, martyrdom, paranoia, conspiracy theories and hatred of the other. And the sad thing is that Muslims as a group have never found anything unusual or bad about this.
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