Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Nonie Darwish, the co-founder of FormerMuslimsUnited.com and the author of Cruel and Usual Punishment.
FP: Nonie Darwish, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today a bit about the Muslim voices for change that are increasing through the Islamic world. There is an unprecedented defiance taking place behind the Islamic Curtain.
Can you tell us what is transpiring?
Darwish: As you know, Jamie, I lived for 30 years in the cocoon of the Muslim world and I can see a huge change going on inside the Muslim world. More and more people are challenging the status quo.
After 9⁄11 and with constant recurring explosive Islamic terrorism, it has become harder for the Muslim establishment to keep the lid on Muslims questioning their system, religion and holy wars. Criticism of Islam is coming at them from every direction, putting Muslim clerics in a quagmire unable to honestly answer questions. Muslim scholars were never trained to answer questions critical of Islam or engage in hostile debate. But now, suddenly, they are challenged to the core like never before, not by Western critics, but by brave hosts of Arabic language shows from unidentified locations in the West and hosted by former Muslims and/or Egyptian Christian Copts.
Father Zakareya Botros rocks the Arab world with his show “Howard Al Hak” or “Honest Debate” when callers from various parts of the Muslim world call in renouncing Islam. Former Muslim turned Christian, Rachid Hmami, originally from Morocco, has a popular show “Fil Samim”, or “from the core”. Hmami, who is the son of a Muslim cleric, is eloquent, respectful with a calm and peaceful demeanor – a characteristic in sharp contrast to the angry loud and cursing image of many Muslim clerics.
The Muslim leadership is suddenly under a lot of pressure to answer taboo questions rarely ever asked before; taboo topics such as questioning the validity of the Qur’an, the life and marriage of Mohammad, his violent wars and assassinations, the fact that there is no minimum age for marriage of women in Islam and about ridiculous Fatwas regarding breast feeding of adult males by Muslim women and Muhammad’s urine as a cure. Muslim callers to these Arabic shows have proved beyond doubt how many Muslims have no clue as to what is written in their scriptures and religious laws.
Many Muslims are demanding answers from their religious leaders and for them to vigorously defend such criticism of Islam. However, not one Muslim cleric has answered the questions on people’s minds. Their response is more yelling, threatening, hate speech, paranoid accusations and propaganda of misinformation. This led Hmami and Father Zakaria, for instance, to personally challenge Muslim leaders to a debate. A well-known Muslim cleric was exposed to have lied when he accepted the challenge to debate on TV, but privately, on recorded phone call with Hmami, the Muslim cleric was evasive, lied and declined the invitation to the debate, giving ridiculous excuses.
FP: Where do we stand with the apostate issue?
Darwish: For the first time in Egyptian Islamic history, a number of apostates have come out publicly demanding their right choose to leave Islam and practice Christianity. Their demand was legally rejected and fatwas of death issued against them. Maher al-Gohari, Mohammed Higazi, and prominent feminist attorney Naglaa Al Imam, are among a few courageous ones. From the number of callers to the shows who claim they left Islam, I believe the number of apostates inside the Muslim world to be significant but are mostly silent. The main power of Islam and its clerics lie in the Muslim death sentence for apostasy and blasphemy. A number of apostates living in the West have greatly impacted the Muslim world. Among those are Wafa Sultan, the Italian/Egyptian Magdi Allam who was baptized by the Pope, Ibn Warraq and myself, and many others such as several former graduates of the Islamic Al Azhar University living today in the West.
I have received a recently released Arabic poem claimed to have been written by Taha Hussein, the prominent Egyptian father of Arabic literature 1889-1973. The highly intellectual and well written poem is extremely critical of the God of Islam and admits the apostasy of its writer. Hussein was once prosecuted with the accusation of insulting Islam. Challenges to Islam are coming from intellectuals, artists and journalists across the Muslim world, such as the Egyptian Sayed El Qemany; they must walk a fine line lest they get accused of apostasy or blasphemy.
While this trend challenging Islam is significant when compared to recent history, we must caution from being over optimistic for a reformation in Islam since the new trend is still in its infancy and has not yet established itself legitimately to become part of the mainstream. The reaction to such a challenge is intense and often violently lashing out in the form of acts of threat and terror. Some Muslim people of influence have admitted recently that terrorism is a Muslim commandment. On January of 2006, a member of Egyptian Parliament, “Ragab Hilal Hamida’, said from the floor of the Egyptian Parliament that “the Quran directly commands us to commit terrorism, so why are we afraid of it?”
What is without denial is that Islam today is in turmoil and going through growing pains, tearing Muslim society apart. My fear is that while Islam is in the process of finding itself it might bring down others with it.
FP: While you caution over-optimism, what effects do you think this defiance might have? What are the possibilities?
Darwish: Such defiance to bring about much needed change in the Muslim world will, hopefully, bring its intended goals of respect for human rights, women’s rights, democracy and the end of Islamic violent jihad and the hate-filled educational system against non-Muslims. But before we celebrate the beginning of the trend towards Islamic reformation, we must realize how huge the magnitude of such change will be. It will take decades if not more. The outcome is not guaranteed, and it will come at a heavy price in violence, civil unrest, oil embargoes, and sadly with lots of innocent victims both inside the Muslim world and also in the West. And I mean this in the context of terror attacks.
Some view Islamic terrorism as a sign of power, which in many aspects it is, but it is also a sign of a desperate culture trying to shut off the shining light of freedom in the world surrounding it.
The reason for such a grim process is because 1.2 billion Muslims around the world are starting to wake up bit by bit to realize that they have been spoonfed total lies and fabrications for centuries about their own religion as well as the world outside of Islam. The greatest taqiyya (holy lie), and perhaps one of the greatest in history, is the one perpetrated on the average Muslim man and woman by their religious leaders, the men of Allah they are supposed to trust. Such an awakening will result in gradual but steady violence – which is already starting to bubble up in many Muslim countries.
The nations affected by the Islamic crisis will not only be Muslim, but also Western nations which took huge numbers of Muslim immigrants. Israel and the West, as usual, will be blamed for Muslim internal civil unrest and thus will suffer from terror attempts and shooting at them as a means to end Muslim internal civil unrest. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two nations that produced the 9⁄11 terrorist, are already under internal threat and violence coming from terror groups such as ‘Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ and ‘the Muslim Brotherhood’ who cannot wait to destroy the regimes in both nations.
I am worried about what will happen in the coming decades to the world while Islam is undergoing possible reform and change. The Muslim world right now is a disaster waiting to happen. They are living above a volcano that can explode any time. The status quo in Muslim countries cannot continue and Muslims are discovering they have been in massive tyranny and terror for 1400 years. Muslims are leaving Islam in large numbers and more will leave if the apostasy death penalty is lifted. Tyranny cannot last for ever, not even under Sharia Law.
Where this trend will take Islam is unpredictable, but change is certain. It can take the Muslim world to a great reformation but it can also take them and the rest of the world to a horrible confrontation and a period of decline and downfall. Islam, like communism, will probably never disappear, but eventually if Islam does not reform, it will be discredited as a religion.
FP: What can Westerners do to help inflict cracks into the Islamic Curtain?
Darwish: The first thing is get out of the way when Islam is about to explode, and it will. Muslim countries need not be rescued and they need to fall on their own and grow on their own. Do not try to help or hurt if a civil war happens in Saudi Arabia or Egypt. If we cannot have oil for a while, then let it be. When we try to help a Muslim country from self -destruction, due to Muslim on Muslim atrocities, like what happened to Kuwait by Iraq, we take away their ability to recognize their internal issues, see their true enemies and why they are in trouble.
The West must realize that it is not doing itself or the Muslim world a favor by political correctness – which actually has a negative effect on Muslims trying to reform their system. Western PC is telling them we just love you the way you are, terrorism, hate speech, good and bad, we still love you. The West must demand reciprocity and equal treatment from Muslim countries. If they build mosques in the US then we must have the right to build a Church in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. By accepting a one way cultural impact from Islam, we are welcoming a disaster waiting to happen.
Western governments so far have been ignoring Muslim critics and reformers who fully understand the problem and have been only strictly dealing with Muslim groups, such as CAIR and others whose goals are in fact as Islamist as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is time for Western officials to give respect to Muslim critics, reformists and former Muslims.
And finally, Western victims of Islamic terror need to file a huge class action suit against Saudi Arabia and all countries that produced terrorists who are the product of their hateful jihadist educational system. They cannot claim innocence.
FP: What are your primary concerns today? What is on your mind and what worries you the most in terms of the topic we are discussing here today?
Darwish: My fear concerns the safety and security of America and Western democracy. This threat is real and we must never underestimate it. While Muslim/Arab countries are undergoing major change, internal civil unrest and violence, there will be horrific acts of violence against Israel and Western nations in the near future. Remember in the Gulf war when Saddam was desperate, he started shooting at Israel. The same thing happened in Gaza when Hamas and Fatah were fighting; they also started shooting at Israel. When Israel shoots back for self protection, that is when Muslims end their massacres between themselves
I am also concerned about the many innocent beautiful people of the Middle East – who are after all my people. The violence has already started there and I fear for the Christian minorities as well.
FP: Nonie Darwish, thank you for joining us. Thank you for being such a courageous and noble freedom fighter.
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