by Nonie Darwish.
Sentinel, Penguin Books, 2006, 258 pp
A Review by Shirley W. Madany
From our first encounter with Nonie Darwish, through her articles and web site, we felt that she was someone special. We were attracted by her open and obvious love for America. That web site disappeared, only to reappear as www.arabsforisrael.com, with its unique opening statement:
To Muslims and Arabs across the globe:Reject hate, embrace love. Bring out the best in Islam by showing your compassion, gratitude and forgiveness. Make the holy land truly holy by giving Israel and the Jewish people the respect they deserve in their tiny little country. This is not a crisis over land. It is a crisis of the soul; a crisis in our faith, judgement and self confidence. Israel should not be regarded as an enemy, but as a blessing to our neighborhood. We need not fear peace, but embrace it.
These are remarkable words to be coming from the daughter of a “shahid” (a martyr for jihad) who was assassinated while serving as a high-ranking Egyptian military officer stationed in Gaza specifically to be of assistance to the Palestinians.
The September 2001 attack on the twin towers in New York was life-changing for many people. From that moment on Nonie Darwish felt compelled to take a stand. It led her to write her life story “Now They Call Me Infidel” which is a pure gift to all of us. She also stepped out into public life with all its demands of speaking engagements, and the disapproval she was bound to experience.
After reading her book with eagerness, I would suggest that it is the perfect book for supplemental reading by all High School students. Let them hear about Islam from someone who has experienced it fully from birth and has turned to Christianity and America for a better life. Let them sense her loyalty and love for her new country. As she describes it—“Many immigrants come to this great nation in search of material gain, which is fine; however, the biggest prize I gained was my religious freedom and learning to love. For me it was nothing short of cataclysmic. I had turned from a culture of hatred to one of love.”
In her book she describes her impressions of America. We Americans need to see our country through someone else’s eyes, so that we can withstand the propaganda that insinuates that we are the culprit and instigator of all the troubles of the world. It is eye-opening to read through the chapter “A New Beginning in America” and find out why the following words are in italics; and learn just how much our culture differs from the Muslim culture in Egypt. This is specially applicable to the difficult life programmed for women. She considers “friendliness and helpfulness”,” courtesy”, “diversity and multiculturalism”, “self-sufficiency, pride in labor”, “generous, honest, and open”, “informality”, “women’s relationships”, and “child rearing”.
Gradually, to Ms. Darwish’s horror, she discovers that her beloved land of refuge, her America which means so much to her, is being attacked from within. She is painfully aware of those old patterns of hatred, as they eminate from mosque after mosque.
She lashes out at terrorists who are invading the Western countries: “America’s Islamic enemies and critics—even those who love living in the United States – are nothing more than pirates. That’s what Islamic terrorists are – pirates. Instead of building their own society as a model of what Islam should be, they leave it in ruins and look to conquer hard-working successful lands…..They cannot stand to live in a Muslim culture, and they have their eyes set on beautiful and welcoming democracies, not to blend in, but to rob those democracies of their soul and ruin the value system and culture that made them great….” p. 185. You need to get hold of this book and sense the depth of Ms. Darwish’s feeling as she begs you to save our precious country from the onslaught she sees coming.
She describes her shock at the Arab world’s response to 9/11. They dared to rejoice over the tragedy. When she phoned family members and close friends, whose opinions she had formerly trusted, she could not believe that many thought America deserved to suffer.
The last chapter is “Jihad Comes to America”. Nonie dismisses the popular and over-used definition of jihad as merely spiritual pursuit: “there is only one meaning for jihad, and that is: a religious holy war against infidels.” p. 201. She remarks that she is shocked by the radicalism she encounters on the American campus. “I am stunned to see them choose to revive the worst of Islamic culture in America rather than be part of America and demonstrate the best of Islamic culture.”
On page 159 there is a moving description of Nonie’s introduction to Christian worship when she and her husband and family attended a church and “listened to a message of compassion, love, acceptance, tolerance, and prayer for all humanity.” There had been some violence in the Middle East and the pastor prayed for everyone—“Muslims, Jews, and Christians. It was very different message from the prayers to ‘destroy the infidels’ that I grew up with….I learned the most important command in scripture was ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Nonie had found what she was hungering for: “In this church, that day, my soul was revived and nourished with the love of a tolerant and forgiving God.” Knowingly she was willing to be called an infidel.
After a remarkable experience of visiting Israel Nonie explains: “I now fully understand why the United States supports Israel and rightfully so. My love of America now extends to Israel.” Hence the name of her new web site!
We salute another brave woman, and heartily recommend that you read this extremely important book.