Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Muslim Convert to Christianity: 'Tolerating Intolerance is Not a Virtue’

Catholic Online
By Ed West

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

Ed West meets the extraordinary Egyptian convert warning Europeans not to abandon their Judeo-Christian heritage.

(Pictured: Nonie Darwish, Muslim Convert to Christianity) 'The West is no longer proud of the Judeo-Christian culture and democracy. It does not believe in its own beliefs. Tolerating intolerance is not a sign of virtue, but gross negligence. The West hates itself and it's very sad'.

LONDON, UK (Catholic Herald) - Slight of build and dressed in the stylish manner of the European-influenced Arab middle class, Nonie Darwish could be any wealthy Levantine in Paris or west London.

But behind the veneer of Egyptian elegance is a one-woman anti-jihad machine, a Christian convert from Islam, founder of a group called Former Muslims United and author of two books highly critical of Sharia law, Arab policy towards Israel and Islamists' ambitions for global conquest.

Darwish is often compared to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch feminist, but whereas Ali is an atheist who stands up for Europe's "Enlightenment values" against Islam, Darwish is a Christian who believes "that Judeo-Christian culture produces healthier, happier and more just societies, whereas Islamic culture produces tyrannical regimes and oppression".

As a result her life is in danger. Is there any specific death threat, I ask, when we meet in central London.

"I'm not aware of a fatwa, but my life is in danger," she says with a shrug. "Just like anyone who speaks about the nature of Islam."

And Islamic fundamentalists have every reason to hate her. She is regularly attacked on the front pages of Egyptian newspapers, where she is called a "traitor". She campaigns against Sharia law and against those who threaten apostates. She is a regular on the lecture circuit, where she criticises Arab foreign policy.

And perhaps even more irritating for many back home, she is the founder of the oxymoronic-sounding group Arabs for Israel, and has written two books with subtitles that need little explanation: Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror, and the recently published Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Sharia Law.

And what makes the story so more amazing is that she is the daughter of the godfather of the Palestinian resistance movement.

Born and raised in Cairo, she grew up in Gaza, where her father, Lt General Mustafa Hafez, was head of the Egyptian army's intelligence in Gaza, and founder of the Fedayeen, the paramilitary force that killed over 400 Israelis in the early 1950s. Although, as she points out, with a look of fierce loyalty: "At that point the Fedeyeen did not do suicide bombings."

But in 1956, when Nonie was just eight, the Israeli Defence Force killed her father, who was proclaimed a martyr by President Nasser, who then asked his children: "Which one of you will avenge your father's death by killing Jews?"

Darwish explains that she always blamed Israel for his death and grew up pledging jihad against Egypt's neighbour.

But she also lived in two different worlds. Being from an educated, middle-class family, she attended a British Catholic school and an American university, and got to experience the last days of cosmopolitan, secular Egypt, just as President Nasser's disastrous Arab nationalism drove out the ancient communities of Greeks, Italians, Armenians and Jews.

"The British were able to separate mosque and state. We got used to that, and it took us two decades to go back to our roots," she says. "When the British were in Egypt for 70 years we had incredible reforms for human rights, minorities were protected, and there was a feminist movement protected by the British. In 1919 Egyptian feminist Hoda Shaarawi visited Europe and when she returned to Alexandria and arrived at the railway station, she threw off her headscarf, along with 20 other women from the upper class. It was a huge event, and that was why my grandmother and mother never wore a hijab. And I have to say, thank you, Great Britain, for protecting those women, and for stopping them going to jail or being killed."

After university she worked as an editor and translator for the respected Middle East News Agency, before emigrating to the United States in 1978. She married an American and converted to Christianity, and now attends an Evangelical church, and yet she still remained hostile to Israel until an extraordinary incident 40 years after the death of her father.

"My brother in 1995, living in Gaza, had a stroke and was unconscious. Someone said to his family: 'If you want him to live, send him to Israel.' They [Arabs] prefer Israeli hospitals. You know, even Arabs don't believe their own hatred. In times of troubles Arabs will trust Jews. "They saved my brother's life, they were very kind to his family. And I started changing my views after that."

She now states firmly that "the Palestinian Arabs are the victims of the Arab world" and "if Israel withdraws from the West Bank, it is finished". "I just wrote an article called 'Arab-made misery'. It is the Arab League's policy to never absorb the Palestinians, because then there will be no pressure." She also cites the disastrous rule of Hamas in the land ...


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