Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now They Call Me Infidel

by Nonie Darwish
Sentinel, 2006, 258 pages

Nonie Darwish was born in Egypt, but moved to the Gaza Strip in the 1950s when she was just five years old. Her father was a military man, given the task of recruiting and training Palestinians to conduct guerrilla-style raids into Israel to kill and harm as many as they could. She was just eight when the Israelis assassinated her father with a letter bomb.

Her history would seem to make her an unlikely champion for Israel. But her father's death wasn't the only event to shape her life.

For example, early on she tells of how, when her mother discovered their new maid was pregnant, she turned the maid out of the house, lest anyone think that some male member of their household caused the pregnancy. It wouldn't have been unreasonable for people to have started talking - raping maids was hardly unheard of.

But Darwish's mother knew that there was a very real chance that if the maid was fired and sent back to her family, her family would kill her. This type of "honor killing" was also hardly unheard of - families would sometimes deal with the shame of a daughter being pregnant outside of marriage by murdering her. They thought this would somehow restore honor to the family.

So Darwish's mother instead sent the maid to a government facility that took in pregnant girls. Several months later her mother inquired after the girl. She was shocked to find out that the girl was dead. She was told: "Her family took care of her disgrace."

So this then is Islam, or more precisely the Middle Eastern Islamic culture, revealed in gory detail by someone who knows. She addresses some of the culture's biggest problems including:

Polygamy - Though seldom practiced, the possibility of it lurks in every marriage as a threat every husband can use against his wife ("If you don't listen, I will take another wife"). It is also a hindrance to women's relationships with one another since "befriending a woman outside of your family... could bring temptation to one's husband."

Propaganda - Some of the lies being told by the governments of the Middle East to their citizens are beyond belief, but are still believed. Darwish notes that when Egypt and its allies were trounced after attacking Israel in 1967 the Arab media broadcast stories of American and British warplanes attacking "Egypt from aircraft carriers and bases in Libya." It didn't happen, but this Big Lie was used to explain away the defeat. The very last thing Egypt could admit was that the Israelis beat them all by themselves.

Missing moderates - Darwish notes that while there are many moderate Muslims they are a very silent majority. No one speaks up when Saudi Arabian textbooks teach that "apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath, while the swine are the Christians." Many may disapprove of this rhetoric, but very few dare to speak out against it.

Seeing these problems up close, day after day, turned Nonie Darwish from the daughter of a Muslim martyr into a woman who felt herself obliged to side with Israel, the enemy of her father. That is quite a transformation, and this is quite a book!

Now I've never thought myself an expert on the Middle East, but I do read the paper each day, so I thought I had at least a better than average understanding of the Arab/Israeli conflict. However this title, and a second I've read recently called Son of Hamas, have given me a whole different appreciation of just how thoroughly and completely the Middle East is messed up. I'd highly recommend reading both books: Son of Hamas to get a look at the inner working of a terrorist organization, and Now They Call Me Infidel to get a better understanding of the Middle East Islamic culture, and what it is like for people to live in it from day to day.

Discernment label
(For more on this, see "Discernment labels" in our articles section)

CONTENT: Nonie Darwish lived the first 30 years of her life in Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and is the daughter of a "shadid" or Muslim martyr. She makes the case, with stories from her own life, that radical Muslims are in charge in the Middle East, and are making inroads into the US as well. She acknowledges that there are many moderate Muslims, but argues that they are so intimidated by the radicals, that they aren't willing to speak up. And because the moderates won't stand up, the Islamic world continues to take a turn to the extreme.

CAUTION: The author turned her back on mosques, and started attending a Christian church, but readers should not look to her for any insight into our Christian faith. It is evident that she prefers Christianity to Islam, not because she understands that Jesus is "the Way and the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6) but rather because Christianity is more in accord with her personal moral code.

CONCLUSION: The author is a knowledgeable guide to understanding the Middle East culture and Islam. While the author is a talented writer, and the book does assume some familiarity with the Middle Eastern conflict, so it would be recommended for readers who either lived through, or were actually taught about, some of the events (like the Six Day War, the 1948 establishment of Israel) that the author describes.

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