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 tomorrow on FrontPage Magazine.
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?
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.
How can the ordinary Muslim society achieve democracy when Islamic clerics promote values such as slavery, beating of disobedient wives, lying, exaggeration and slander if it is for the benefit of Islam? Under the title of “Permissible Slander,” Sharia states: “Slander, though unlawful, is sometimes for a lawful purpose, the legitimating factor being that there is some aim countenanced by Sacred Law that is unattainable by other means.” (Reliance of the Traveler, r2.16 p. 737.) That means that the goal justifies the means, encouraging vengeance, hating and cursing of non-Muslims, especially Jews, taking the law into their hands, all of which contribute to fear and distrust between Muslim citizens.
Also, the human dilemma of finding a divine clear path that leads man to safety in God is not clear to the Muslim believer. The only guaranteed path to heaven for the Muslim is to die in the process of jihad against non-Muslims. Islam constantly resorts to threat, fear and horrific punishments to prevent followers from asking questions or thinking for themselves. Islamic scriptures encourage Muslims to believing in two opposite views or interpretations at the same time and depending on the situation, they will use the applicable view.
Islam has also burdened the Muslim individual with saving and protecting Mohammed’s honor and execute anyone who criticizes Mohammed, even if he or she repents. It is totally opposite to Christianity, where Jesus came to save humanity on the cross. Islam has neglected the concept of forgiveness and redemption and thus has increased a Muslim’s feelings of guilt and paranoia, becoming a burden rather than a healing to the Muslim individual. Instead of healing the guilt and pain, it has burdened him with vengeance, hate, fear and oppression and above all saving and protecting their prophet’s reputation with their lives, even today in the 21st century.
MT: Please explain how Jews and Israel constitute an “existential problem” for Islam.
ND: Few Muslims ever question why the prophet of Islam’s final words at his deathbed were not to command his followers to be holy and righteous or to make the world a better place, but were a commandment to kill the Jews wherever they went and to continue the genocide for him until Judgment Day.
One does not have to be a psychotherapist to find it extremely odd for a prophet of Allah to declare a whole group of people as illegal to exist under Islam. Nevertheless, Muslims today are unable to see the wickedness in such a commandment and how odd it is to continue fighting the unfinished business of Mohammed.
But what could ever drive a prophet to such a vendetta? A truthful analysis and answer to these questions will expose an existential dilemma at the heart of Islam. Rejection by the Jews became an intolerable obsession with Mohammed. Not only did the Jews reject to convert to Islam, but their prosperity made Mohammed extremely envious. The Jewish tribes were successful businessmen who earned their living legitimately, through agriculture, trade and tool making. On the other hand, Mohammed earned his living and wealth through warfare, attacks on Arab tribes and trade caravans and seizing their wealth and property. That did not look good for a man who claimed to be a prophet.
Mohammed accused the Jews of having broken a treaty and Allah himself agreed with Mohammed in the Koran. One Jewish tribe after another was subjected to siege, execution and confiscation of property. Islamic books documented in detail how he and his followers beheaded 600 to 900 Jewish men from one tribe. Mohammed was very keen on not slaughtering Jews without convincing his reluctant followers that all the decisions to kill the Jews were made jointly with the counsel of others. The bloody massacre took about two days to be completed. However, the mass genocide committed by Mohammed was reported in Muslim scriptures not as a sin or something to be ashamed of, but as justifiable deeds. Mohammed and his followers then seized the massacred men’s properties, businesses, homes and their women and children as slaves. Many of the women became sexual slaves of Muslim fighters and Mohammed himself had the first pick, Rayhana d. Amr b. Khunafa, and she remained as his sexual slave until she died.
One does not have to be an authority on human behavior to see how tormented Mohammed must have been after this massacre to empower and enrich himself and his religion. To reduce his torment he needed for everyone around him to participate in the genocide against the Jews, the only people whom he could not control. An enormous number of verses in the Koran encouraged fighting as an act of obedience and even worship of Allah, while those who refuse to fight and flee instead are condemned. Allah himself said in the Quran: "Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace” [9:14], meaning those who kill are innocent of any crime since it is Allah who is using their hands. The persistent message in Islamic scriptures is that Muslims, like their prophet, are destined for war and vengeance.
Muslims today must continue fighting the unfinished business of Mohammed and the cover-up of Islam’s bloody shame. What Mohammed did to the Jews of Medina has become the unspeakable cover-up of Islam – actions that no prophet, or human being for that matter, should commit against his worst enemy. No prophet documented in the history of man ever committed mass genocide except Mohammed. But Mohammed never got over his anger, humiliation and rejection by “the people of the book.” By asking his followers to continue the genocide for him until the Day of Judgment, he had expanded the shame to cover all Muslims and Islam itself. He was not going to sin and go down alone.
Mohammed’s failure with the Jews of Arabia became an unholy dark mark of shame in Islamic history and that shame, envy and anger continues to get the best of Muslims today. That has developed into Islam’s existential problem. To justify the genocide that Mohammed waged against the Jews, Muslims had two choices: (1) Either the Jews are evil, subhuman, apes, pigs and enemies of Allah, a common description of Jews in Islamic scriptures, or (2) Mohammed was a genocidal warlord and not fit to be a prophet of God, a choice that would mean the end of Islam. The choice for Mohammed and Muslims then and now was clearly the first, and any hint of the second must be severely punished. Jews must remain the evil eternal enemies of Islam if Islam is to remain legitimate. There is no third solution to save the core of Islam from collapsing; either Mohammed was evil or Jews were evil.
Thus, nothing shakes Islam’s confidence in itself like Judaism and the idea of making peace with the Jewish people. Making peace with the Jews is equivalent with treason to Mohammed and Islam itself. Whether it is the Arab Spring, the current revolution, the previous revolution, Arab kings or presidents, Islamists, Arab socialists, moderates or radicals, any new leadership that refuses confrontation with Israel and the West will be considered to be committing treason against Islam and will not last.
Islam’s fears of democracy, freedom of religion and human rights are closely tied to its fears of being exposed. Allowing freedom of religion will end Islam as we know it. Muslim nations go through one cycle of revolution after another, they spin and spin and come back to where they started. Islam must continue the slander, lies and hate propaganda against their number one enemy, the Jews and then the Christians and any non-Muslims, or else the Islamic existential problem will cause it to collapse.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 4/12/12)