Thursday, October 12, 2006

Multiculturalism condemned

This comment from Palestinian writer Nonnie Darwish was sent to us by Felix who thought it would be of particular interest to NCF members:

I lived on the southern border of Israel for thirty years. I was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt, and I grew up in the Gaza strip, a time when President Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt was committed to defy the Arab world, destroy Israel and stand up against Western interests around the world. In the ‘50s my father headed the Egyptian military intelligence in Gaza and he headed the Fiday in operations against Israel. They made cross-border attacks into Israel and caused much damage, destruction and death to civilians. In response to the terror one night, Israeli commandos came into our heavily guarded home in Gaza City and they only found my mother and us children; my father on that night happened to be in Cairo. They left us unharmed. The Israeli soldiers did not hurt us or kill us, even though the Fidayin did kill Israeli women and children.

In Gaza elementary schools I learned hatred as a normal thing and I thought teaching hatred from teachers was also normal. Peace was never an option, it was a sign of defeat and weakness. As the film showed, they filled our hearts with fear. They didn’t go right away to hatred, they filled our hearts with fear for Jews. And that made hatred come easy. And then it made terrorism tolerated and even encouraged – who wouldn’t want to kill monsters? Expectations and pressure on Palestinians from surrounding Arab countries was extremely high. To fight, to fight Israel and never accept peace. I realised that when Arabs were controlling Gaza on the West Bank. Those who wanted peace among the Palestinians were called by Arab countries “traitors.”

My father was eventually killed by Israel in a targeted assassination in Gaza City in ’56. I was eight years old. In Nasser’s famous speech to nationalise the Suez Canal he hailed my father as a national hero [unclear]. He vowed to take revenge and he never mentioned the reason why Israel killed my father. He never mentioned the heavy toll of death and destruction that was caused by his blood hate, by his Fidayin. My siblings and I were asked by top government officials in Egypt after my father’s death, “which one of you will avenge your father’s blood by killing Jews?” they asked us. We looked at each other, myself and my siblings, we were speechless. We were mourning for our father’s death. We didn’t want to be told go kill Jews.

When the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands its infrastructure, economy, were neglected by the two – by all of the Arab world. They used the two regions simply as launching grounds for war on terror, against Israel. Is it any wonder why the Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza line up for work on the – not on the borders of Egypt, not on the borders of Saudi Arabia or Jordon, they line up to work on the very – on Israel, on the border with Israel, the very country the Arabs told them to terrorise.

While the West was helping finance the economy of the two regions, Arab money was spared to finance them. The West should never finance supporting or support Hamas. It has now become convenient to blame today’s worldwide Islamic terrorism on the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. But what about the terrorism against Israel, that I had witnessed as a child? And that happened before the ’67 war and before the occupation. It was the placement of the United Nations forces after the ’56 war that stopped the Fidayin.

After my father’s death my mother had to face life alone with five children in Cairo, in a culture that gave respect only to families headed by a man. Arab women are expected to sacrifice families by giving up their husbands and sons for martyrdom. Conditions had even gotten worse for Arab women, who are now expecting to give respect, stature to themselves only if they – or even themselves engaged in jihad. Not merely to celebrate their sons’ and husbands’ deaths, but they are encouraged to leave their own babies and go kill Jews. What kind of society have we become? What kind of society would give its mothers up, mothers of babies, to explode themselves to kill for the sake of killing [non-Muslims].

I lived for 30 years in the Middle East in despotic dictatorships and police state, police state under Nasser. I lived through the ’56 war, the ’67 war, and the ’73 war. And all in between. And I – but tyranny and wars don’t end up with Israel. Muslims were silenced and forced to look the other way when Muslims tortured and terrorised other Muslims. I witnessed honour killing of girls and I know personally a girl who was killed because she was raped at age 16. I noted, I witnessed oppression of women, Muslim women, female genital mutilation and polygamy. And the devastating effects on family dynamics. And here we see some Western countries who want to bring Shariah law and polygamy to the West. It took me many years to change and it wasn’t easy. I realised I was indoctrinated with propaganda of lies, hate and fear.

But one experience in particular changed my outlook on Israel. It showed Israel’s compassion and competence. Ten years ago my brother suffered a stroke in Gaza City and was not expected to survive, he was unconscious. The Egyptians around him asked, where do we take him now? Cairo Hospital, or Hadassah Hospital? Each and every one around him said, if you want him to live, take him to Hadassah. In time of crisis I truly believe that Arabs trust Jews. They trust – they trust their expertise and compassion. I thank the Israeli government, doctors and nurses of Hadassah for choosing the higher moral ground and for doing the right thing.

I hear some today say – and some even Jewish people say, if only the State of Israel was not established in 1948. We would see the Jews in the Middle East live in harmony and peace with Muslims. But how can the people who believe in this explain why Christians, Armenians, Greeks and other minorities have also been driven out and discriminated against in the Middle East after the World War II and after the departure of the colonials, colonial powers, the British and French. If Israel was the cause, how come all others have left, even the Coptic Christians of Egypt, who are the original Egyptians before Islam even came to Egypt. They are being persecuted and are leaving Egypt in droves, in large numbers.

In Arab culture, multiculturalism and diversity is not a value as it is in the West. As a matter of fact, it’s a source of shame. We learn that non-Muslims are desecration, their existence on Muslim land is a desecration, a kind of occupation, just by mere existence. Jews and Christians cannot safely practise their religion in Muslim Middle East countries. On April 20 the Times of London reported that Muslim students in London are being taught to despise unbelievers, meaning non-Muslims as filth. When I heard this, I remembered immediately the word [negas] which we in the Arab world called the Copts of Egypt. [Blue born], we called them.

Meanwhile multiculturalism in the West has become a disease. We have taken it too far. And turned it into exactly what it was not supposed to accomplish. We are in the West tolerating intolerance. We are tolerating hatred. We are tolerating people who hate us and who live among us. Muslims in the West demand tolerance, though. And no profiling and not to be judged by the actions of the terrorists. But Muslims do not apply the same principles themselves to the West. When one Danish cartoonist offends them, they blame all of Denmark and even demand an apology from the Danish government, they even blame the West. There was a contest, in retaliation in Iran, there was a contest to get Holocaust cartoons. And what does the Holocaust have to do with the Danish cartoonist? I don’t know.

The golden rule of treat others the way you want to be treated does not apply when it comes to radical Islam. They feel it’s within their right to offend other religions in Muslim land. But they don’t see the dumbest thing. Some Muslim critics say that the film encourages hatred of Muslims. When I was in Canada speaking, there was a few articles by Canadians and by the Muslim society in Canada. They said that it’s very offensive. They got us Arab critics and reformists and critics of terrorism as the problem. But we’re not the problem, we are speaking the truth. And are calling for reformation for the welfare, for the welfare of everybody. It is the terrorists and their many defenders who are giving Islam a bad name. It’s not the reformists who are hurting Islam’s image. It is the terrorists, and that’s what I’ve told some of the Muslims in the audience. They expect us after 9/11, Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, to stick our heads in the sand and defend the indefensible. Will our denial bring sympathy and appreciation of Muslims? We must be in the front lines of the war on terror to be credible. If we want to be credible, Muslims will be more respected when we look after our own moral conduct. And not when we pretend that the problem of Islamic terrorism does not exist.

First, the Holocaust denial and now jihad denial. Where is our credibility? Most goers– good Muslims, the moderate Muslims, must require better from their teachers. They must reform their mosques. Many Muslims in America and many Muslims don’t go to mosques because of the hate speech that they encounter when they go there. They must ask reformation from our teachers, from our politicians, from our media. Reformation will not come easy, Muslims themselves must fight for it. Enough is enough. Terrorism is the warfare of desperate people. Arabs should not be desperate. They need to be grateful for many blessings, land from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf and huge wealth from oil. They don’t have a shortage of land. They have a shortage of freedom and tolerance. Terrorism is the lowest form of warfare. It’s not a sign of strength, but a sign of a decay in culture in turmoil and contradictions. A culture that’s trying to hide its failures by finger pointing, blaming others and destroying the competition. In this dynamic, Israel has become the most useful enemy, the scapegoat. That’s why the current state of Islam is not as powerful as some might think. Anyone can have temporary power with terrorism. Reformation and peace must be pursued as a value from within the Muslim world. That’s why Israel’s fence must remain stronger and higher during this very dangerous transition.

After 9/11 I did a lot of soul-searching. I did a lot of jihad, but peaceful jihad. Terrorism is not just hurting the West and Israel, but most of all, it’s also destroying the moral fabric and goodness that I know exists in Arab culture and Islam. I speak out of empathy for Israel. A country that deserves our respect and not our hatred and terror. I now support Israel because it’s the right thing to do. Being pro-Israel does not mean anti-Arab. We can support both if truly our common goal is peace. I get very discouraged when the media call terrorists “freedom fighters.” They think they are championing the underdog. But terrorists are not the underdog, they are brainwashed killers and murderers, and they represent the hope they do not represent the hope of the future of the Middle East. But they represent the oppressive, dark past of the Middle East. They are the hidden hands of tyrannical and despotic regimes who want to turn back the clock and keep Muslim women in bondage and keep Muslim men under the authority of the tyranny. The true freedom fighters are the brave, moderate Arab voices who risk their lives and speak from inside the Arab world advocating peace with Israel, advocating democracy and freedom. And many of them right now are in Arab jails. They – the freedom fighters are the Iraqi voters who defied the terrorists and went and voted. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, the freedom fighters are the people of Israel. I am in awe at your resilience. You are the silent heroes who go about the business of living, riding buses, working, creating and contributing to the world and above all, maintaining your democracy and moral standards despite of the hatred, terror, war and boycott for 58 years. The world must see that, Western media must advocate that. It must be God’s protective hands over Israel that you survived all of what I’ve seen from the other side of the fence. You are an inspiration and a blessing in this region.

And to conclude, Israel should not be criticised for creating a physical fence to protect its citizens, and then they call it “apartheid state”. We Arabs have been surrounding you with an ugly psychological war of hatred, boycott and an “us against them” attitude for many decades. It is time for the Arab psychological wall, we have a psychological wall surrounding you. It’s time for this wall to come down in order for your physical wall to become unnecessary. The way the Jews have been treated by my culture is tragic and a disgrace. In today’s world no people should be called “infidels” and no group of people should be called “enemies of God” by any religion. I long for the day when Muslim preachers promote peace and tolerance. They will serve their people and their God best by being a source of comfort, wisdom and hope. They will bring back half of the Muslim population who don’t go to mosques, who have practically – are not practising anything. We need to start having the religion back, of tolerance and peace. By dialogue, by building bridges with Jews and Christians in the Middle East, Muslim scholars say Islam is a religion of peace. Then let us teach peace and forgiveness, from the mosques and from the pulpits of mosques. I have forgiven Israel for the death of my father and I hope, I hope and I know that Israel is capable of forgiving us. Forgiving the Fidayin and forgiving the Arab world for the anti-Semitism and hatred and terror. Let us extend the famous Arab generosity to welcome you in our region. As neighbours, and as an asset in the region and not as an enemy.

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