November 20, 2006
Not talking back to Nonie Darwish
[ UPDATE: An email to the Brown Hillel rabbi. ]
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Forty years ago the leaders of a revolutionary movement which had already killed millions of people in its quest for utopia gave a talk at a university, and students and faculty listened with respect. Then they verbally demolished the speakers, not by shouting them down or insulting them, but with repeated knowledgeable soft-spoken questions which exposed the weaknesses in the speakers' arguments.
Last week at Brown University, the cutting edge of the Ivy League, a speaker was canceled. Muslim students were too afraid of her to attend her talk and try - if they disagreed - to expose any weakness in her arguments. Unfortunately, this kind of cowardice and repression is is all too prevalent in Muslim organizations, especially on campuses. But in this case the Brown chapter of Hillel - the international Jewish campus organization - and the Brown women's center joined with the Muslim student organization in refusing her a forum. The Hillel Rabbi supported that decision.
Adam Brodsky of the NY Post has the story. I am posting the entire article, since the Post website doesn't keep articles up very long.
November 19, 2006 -- MUSLIMS are often accused of not speaking out sufficiently against terrorism. Nonie Darwish knows one reason why: Their fellow Muslims won't let them.
Darwish, who comes from Egypt and was born and raised a Muslim, was set to tell students at Brown University about the twisted hatred and radicalism she grew to despise in her own culture. A campus Jewish group, Hillel, had contacted her to speak there Thursday.
But the event was just called off.
Muslim students had complained that Darwish was "too controversial." They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.
Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel "Palestinian Solidarity Week." But Hillel said her "offensive" statements about Islam "alarmed" the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn't want to upset its "beautiful relationship" with the Muslim community. Plus, Brown's women's center backed out of co-sponsoring the event, even though it shares Darwish's concerns about the treatment of women. Reportedly, part of the problem was that Darwish had no plans to condemn Israel for shooting Arab women used by terrorists as human shields, or for insufficiently protecting Israeli Arab wives from their husbands.
In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.
"Speaking out for human rights, women's rights, equality or even peace with Israel is a taboo that can have serious consequences" in the Arab world, Darwish says. In part to drive home that point, she wrote a book, just out. Its title says it all: "Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror."
Darwish argues that her own community - in the Middle East and in America - is hostile to criticism, even from Muslims. After 9/11, she says, many in Egypt refused to believe that Muslims were responsible. Instead, they blamed "the Zionist conspiracy." From her childhood in the '50s, she's seen seething animosity toward Jews, Israel, America and non-believers generally pervert her culture. "I asked myself, as a Muslim Arab child, was I ever taught peace? The answer is no. We learned just the opposite: honor and pride can only come from jihad and martyrdom." In elementary schools in Gaza, where she lived until age 8, Darwish learned "vengeance and retaliation. Peace," she says, "was considered a sign of defeat and weakness."
An event in 1996 inflamed her longstanding frustration with her community. Her brother suffered a stroke while in Gaza, and his Egyptian friends and relatives all agreed: To save his life, he needed to go to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, not to Cairo. Even though they had spent their lives demeaning Israelis - and boasting of Arab supremacy. Hadassah saved her brother's life; understandably, her appreciation for Jews and Israelis grew. Today Darwish preaches not only the almost embarrassing lengths to which Jews go to seek dialogue and peace, but also their cultural, political, scientific and economic contributions.
Such notions from anyone in the Arab Muslim world are indeed rare. But Darwish isn't just anyone: Her father was killed by Israelis. Yet she doesn't blame the Jewish state - for her father was Lt. Col. Mustafa Hafaz, an Egyptian who headed one of the modern world's first terrorist groups, the anti-Israel fedayeen in Gaza. Hafaz's terrorists killed hundreds, maybe thousands, of Israelis in cross-border attacks. Of course the Israelis fought back. Darwish realized that Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdul Nasser, who controlled Gaza, had sent her father to a certain death. Hafaz became a shahid - a martyr for jihad - and that bought Darwish's family great status. She'd rather have had her father alive.
Darwish's message is invaluable for our age. Too few Arabs and Muslims share her desire for peace with Israel, equality and cultural reform; too few speak - in their living rooms or mosques - about the need to root out radicals from among them. When one Muslim voice does raise such sentiments, it deserves to be heard. Too bad the young Muslims (and their Jewish enablers) at Brown won't hear it.
And if those values can't be espoused in America - land of tolerance and free speech - well, what hope is there for meaningful cultural change?
The person who sent me this item added:
This was the result of a very outspoken new Brown Sanctioned Muslim cleric who instilled anger and fear that such a speaker would undermine dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim groups, and that such a speaker might result in "physical harm to his students who attended this speech". This in combination with a Hillel Director Serena Eisenberg who choose NOT to encourage her students to stand up, but instead wanted to enpower her students to make their own choices. The result? In the spirit of respectfulness and cooperation and dialogue, these students choose to cancel Nonie. They choose silence thanks to the leadership of the Hillel Director.
This controversy has already created a stir, because the main page of the Brown Hillel website carries a letter from Rabbi Eisenberg defending her decision. The letter is one vague feel-good sentence after another, and it's hard to figure out just what happened and what her position is. She applauds Darwish and praises Brown Hillel for supporting Israel advocacy on campus and bringing in controversial speakers. But then she casts Darwish as too controversial, because her writings criticize Islam, and Jewish students would be offended if the Muslim student group brought in a Jewish speaker who demeaned Judaism. Then she praises the Brown administration for helping to bring Darwish to Brown. Does that mean Darwish is going to speak after all?
BTW is this the same Brown Administration which capriciously suspended the campus Christian organization this year?
I have some questions, not just for Rabbi Eisenberg but for all Brown student and faculty:
1) Does the Brown Muslim student group have the same compunctions about bringing in a Jewish speaker who criticizes Judaism?
2) If they planned to bring one in and the Jewish students protested, would the Muslim students defer to them?
3) Has a Jew ever been silenced on a college campus for misrepresenting or denigrating Judaism?
4) Is the problem just that Darwish criticizes Islam, or that she compares it unfavorably to Judaism? For example, this appreciation of the self-reflection demanded during the High Holidays, contrasted with the shame/honor imperative of the Islam she grew up with. Is it that Darwish criticizes the Arab Middle East, or that she defends Israel?
5) Is it an acceptable stance at a university supposedly committed to the free flow of ideas for either group to have veto power over the others' invited speakers? Whatever happened to reasoned disagreement? If Darwish is saying things that aren't true or are unfair, let the Muslim students attend her speech and respectfully ask her tough questions.
If you can't see Darwish at Brown, thanks to YouTube you can see her speak elsewhere, for example: a pro-Israel rally this summer . . .
. . . . on MSNBC . . . .
. . . . on FOX News . . .
Judith | 11/20/06 at 10:43 PM | Categories: - Wackademia
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» Feedback for Hillel on Nonie Darwish from Kesher Talk
A friend sent an email to the Brown Hillel rabbi who supported the disinvite to Nonie Darwish. I agree with the content of the email, but I have two caveats. One is that the recipient is a rabbi and should... [Read More]
Tracked on November 21, 2006 11:48 AM
I heard Ms. Darwish on the Mark Belling show in Milwaukee last month. I can't figure out exactly what is "controversial" or "offensive" to non-Muslims about her ideas--maybe pointing out that the Arab Muslim culture is dysfunctional all on its own takes away some of the soothing power of white/American guilt?
radishthegreat | November 21, 2006 10:33 AM