Chesler Chronicles

"There Is No Such Thing as 'Moderate' Islam." Continued Conversations with Nonie Darwish.

I am proud to count the very brave but equally warm, Nonie Darwish, as a friend and colleague. I read her new book, Cruel and Usual Punishment. The Terrifying Global Implications of Sharia Law, before it was published by Thomas Nelson on Jan. 6, 2009. The back cover of her book bears an endorsement by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Hasan Mahmud, and by me as well.


Nonie was born in Gaza when it was under Egyptian control and she grew up in Cairo. She is married, lives in southern California and has three grown children (well–one is still a teenager). She is the founder of Arabs for Israel. She is also the author of a previous book: Now They Call me Infidel. Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror. Nonie is no longer a practicing Muslim. Her new book is a landmark event whose timeliness is beyond compare. No American can afford NOT to read this book. Sharia law, which governs every area of Muslim life, is now increasingly infiltrating the West. Europe may be lost, America is now under siege. With profound bravery, Darwish documents the history and nature of Sharia law which is invariably mis-represented and mis-understood, both by its followers and by “infidels.” In her words, “the non-Muslim world must have no illusions.” She also describes the phenomenon of extreme religiosity among Muslim today, and analyzes it in feminist as well as jihadic terms.

Phyllis Chesler: What do you hope to accomplish?

Nonie Darwish: My hope is for the West to understand the threat that Islamic Sharia law poses to their democracy, their concept of equality under the law and their human rights values. The West should never allow Sharia to be practiced in Western democracies. I am also hopeful that my book will inspire Muslims to take an honest look at their oppressive religious laws and reform.

PC: What kind of audiences are you most hoping to reach?

ND: It is urgent for me to reach Westerners who find Sharia OK or who view it as a religious right when the truth is that it is not a religious right to oppress, discriminate against and torture others. Everyone, including Muslims will benefit from reading this book, which was described by Sharia expert, Mr. Hasan Mahmud, as a first in terms of analyzing the impact of Sharia on society and the family.

PC: Do you believe that “moderate” Muslims do exist and that their voices are religiously sophisticated and can either reason with or compel Islamists to reform Islam?

ND: The term “moderate Muslim” was created in the West. In the Muslim world there is nothing called moderate or radical Muslims or moderate or radical mosques. You are either a Muslim or not. For the term “moderate” Muslim to be legitimate, we must have something called “moderate Islam” vs. “Islam.” What the West terms as Moderate Muslims are the good and peace loving Muslims who are not necessarily taking their religion very seriously and many of whom have never read a Sharia book. So what the West calls moderate Muslims have people who have lost the battle against the radicals in the Middle East. The radicals are terrorizing and controlling the Arab street and also Arab leaders who must conform to Sharia if they want to survive in office. Just remember, Sadat and the Shah of Iran were considered infidels and that is why one was killed and the other pushed out of office by an Islamic revolution. Muslims who stand against offensive jihad, anti-Semitism or Sharia’s brutal laws, he or she will be labeled an apostate. That is why the voices of the so called moderate Muslims are not heard and are not a strong force for change and for the reform of Islam. Many so called moderate Muslims discovered that in the long run it is best to follow the saying “if you cannot beat them, join them.”


PC: What then, in your opinion, is the future of Islam? Is there more than one possible script?

ND: Islamic Law has slammed shut every door and window; any reform of Islam is punishable by death. Vigilante justice is allowed under Islamic Law under three conditions. There is no punishment for three murders in Islam 1) killing an apostate. 2) killing an adulterer. 3) killing a highway robber. By doing that Islamic law turned Muslims on the street into enforcers of Allah’s Law. That is the power of the dreaded death Fatwa which a Muslim leader can issue against any Muslim in the world. They can call him or her an apostate. Such a Fatwa means that any Muslim in the world can kill that person and be considered a hero in the eyes of Sharia. Any attempt at change or reform is a crime under Islamic law whose penalty is death, even if the one who is trying to make the change is a Muslim leader. One of the duties of the Muslim Head of State (the Khalifa) is to Safeguard Islam in its original form, and to protect against the introduction of new things (bid’a) into Islam. We have seen many examples in recent history of Muslim leaders who were removed from office or killed for daring to introduce modernity, Western values or peace with Israel.

Islam has been aggressively expanding in the last four or five decades mainly due to the empowerment of Arabs from petrodollars. In the book I have a chapter on the example of Egypt, which was a Christian (Byzantine) superpower the Middle East before it was Arabized and Islamized by the sword.

I am not sure about the future of Islam in the West since that depends on the West. But what I know is that Islam is rotting at the core in the Middle East. It has been rotting and stagnant for centuries, but the discovery of oil brought it back alive and certainly kicking. I am not sure if the West, especially Europe, is willing to stand up and fight for its values of freedom and democracy. The West is hopeful for an Islamic reformation thinking that it is just a matter of time before Muslims will discover the virtues of Western life and imitate them. But I do not see the same eagerness to reform in the Muslim world. The future of Islam should depend on the actions of the so called “moderate Muslims” but where are they? The West cannot rely heavily on them but should support them. What is more important is whether the West will allow itself to be Islamized.


PC: Are many Muslims and most non-Muslims misguided in their understanding of what Islam says about women? About infidels?

ND: The views of Muslims on women are guided by Islamic scriptures and in that sense they are not misguided or misinterpretation but simply the reflection of what Islam taught them. Islamic Sharia is not based on equality between all human beings regardless of gender or religion. Sharia discriminates based on gender and religion. In Islam, men and women have different rights under the law.

Discrimination against women starts with the marriage contract itself where the husband and wife are treated differently. In the contract she must be a virgin, but he is asked the name and address of wife number 1, 2 and 3 if any. Divorce is in the hands of the man only and custody of the children after a certain age goes automatically to the man. For the woman to keep her kids till age 7 or 9 she: Should not reject Islam. If she rejects Islam, she has no right to the custody of the children. Second, she must be of good character for if it was proven that she is corrupted by illicit sex, or theft, or has a low trade such as a professional mourner, or a dancer, she loses her right to custody. There are many punishments for the disobedient wife in Islam and one of them is the right of the husband to beat his wife.

Also Muslims and non-Muslims have different rights in the Muslim State. There are many orders to mistreat, humiliate, subjugate and even kill non-Muslims. The only way for non-Muslims to protect themselves from Muslims is by accepting living in the Muslim state as second class citizens, obeying Islamic Sharia law, and never promoting or preaching their religion. Even slavery has never been abolished by Islam and Muslim law books are full of laws regulating the ownership and treatment of slaves. Sexual slavery for war captive women is allowed by Sharia and was practiced by the prophet Muhammad himself.

PC: How do you view western feminist movements who pride themselves on their post colonialism and anti-imperialism in terms of how well they understand the plight of women under Islam today? Do you tell them that their isolationism and political correctness amounts to an abandonment of their own feminist and universalist principles?

ND: It is amazing how the Western feminist movement doesn’t want to touch Islam or Islamic Law. The same Western Feminists who revolted against and never forgave their own culture, religion or society for discrimination against women in the past, suddenly have developed great respect for religious, cultural and social customs that oppress and discriminate against women in other cultures. They suddenly say, this is their tradition and culture and we must respect them. Nothing seems to move Western feminists when it comes to Islam and conditions of third world women in general, not even the stoning and flogging of women going on right now in Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim countries.


They seem to live in denial and have allied themselves with and support the views of elitist and intellectual college type Muslim women who defend Islam, sharia and ignore the reality of women in the Muslim world. The problem in my opinion is that Western campuses are full of Muslim militant women who found their form of feminism not in standing against Sharia, but in supporting it. That is one safe coping mechanism within Sharia that some Muslim women have found to be helpful to them and it gives them respect and power. Consequently, since there is no Muslim feminist movement to talk about, Western feminists found that staying quiet was the best policy. If the victim is not complaining, why would anyone else come to her aid? Muslim women have been trained for centuries to never complain. Complaining especially to non-Muslim infidels is actually a sign of the rebellious Muslim woman and we all know what is the penalty for rebelling against Sharia. It is literally death.

PC: You have written about the mistreatment of Muslim women by other Muslim women. What do you want to say about this here?

ND: Sharia Islamic law has succeeded in dividing and isolating women. It closed every door and window of freedom when it subscribed punishment of death for apostasy. Rebelling against Islamic law is considered apostasy and because of that women who love their religion must never try to change or criticize it. A feminist movement within Islam is always considered an apostasy movement and that is why many Muslim women try to solve their problem of oppression by becoming as radical, if not more radical, than men. Thus if you cannot beat them, join them. Thus you see that some of the fiercest defenders of Islamic Sharia are women. They even defend polygamy and are the ones who report other misbehaving women. Sharia has turned women against each other and made them guards of their own prison.

PC: As someone who has lived in Cairo and Gaza, what are your emotions and your thoughts as Israel finally strikes back in self-defense in Gaza?

ND: I think that is it about time for Israel to strike back after several years of constant bombing of civilians in southern Israel. I think that the Gaza/Israel conflict is just another example of how the Arab/Israeli conflict is rooted in Sharia law and I talk about this in detail in my book. Mainstream Sharia books define Jihad as: “to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion.” (Shafi’i Sharia 09.0). Jihad is not just the duty of the individual Muslim, but it is also the main duty of the Muslim head of State (the Calipha): “A Muslim calipha is entrusted to take his people into war and command offensive and aggressive Jihad. He must organize Jihad against any non-Muslim government, which prevents Muslim da’wah (meaning preaching and spreading Islam) from entering its land.” (Shafii Law o25.0 to o25.9). Sharia law # o25.9 states: “(When the caliph appoints a ruler on a region, his duty includes) if the area has a border adjacent to enemy lands, (he will) undertake Jihad against enemies, dividing the spoils of battle among combatants and setting aside a fifth for deserving recipients.”


Also, “the Caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax provided he has first invited them to enter Islam or pay Jizya, the non-Muslim poll tax, (in accordance with the word of Allah Most High Chapter 9 verse 29).” Zia-Ul-Haq, former President of Pakistan, said “Jihad in terms of warfare is a collective responsibility of the Muslim Ummah.”

No Muslim leader can survive in a Muslim country if he announces the end of Jihad against non-Muslim countries and that all references to Jihad in Islamic law do not apply today. Treating non-Muslim neighboring countries and individual as equals, with respect and in peace without trying to convert them to Islam, is simply against Islamic Law. Muslim leaders who dare to do that are called traitors and puppets of the “Great Satan” West. That is a description that no Muslim leader wants to be labeled with. Sadat was assassinated simply because he violated his duty as a Muslim leader to continue the permanent jihad against non-Muslim Israel.

PC: What, if anything, can turn the propaganda of Israel-hatred and America-hatred around in the Arab and Islamic world?

ND: With the way Islam is taught today and with Sharia regarded as part and parcel of what Islam is, I do not think that the Muslim world can regard the non-Muslim world as equal or deserving of the same human rights and freedom of religion. Muslims themselves are deprived from enjoying the Universal Human Rights declaration since Sharia Islamic Law officially has been made to supersede International human rights laws. How can we expect the propaganda to end when the religion itself discriminates between people based on religion and commands the killing of infidels? Do you know that under Islamic law a Muslim who kills a non-Muslim will not get the death penalty, but a Muslim who kills another Muslim will get the death penalty? The discrimination is notoriously obvious and thus the teaching of hatred must accompany and explain away the commandments to kill. Otherwise, why kill someone nice and good?

PC: Do you know or work with many other Arabs or Muslims who think like you do? How has your work been greeted in the Arab and Muslim world?

ND: I am happy to say that, bit by bit, many Muslims are speaking out, but most are simply quiet. I am happy to say that if you present the truth to Arabs, many of them appreciate it. Many Muslims in the Middle East are eager to hear different views and ideas. A year ago I spoke on Al-Arabiya TV network which is aired across the Middle East and the discussion was about Israel. My father, who was a well known high ranking military intelligence officer, was killed by Israel. I spoke about forgiveness, which is never discussed by Arabs when it comes to Jews and Israel. Believe it or not, the producer of the show told me that 1/3 of the Arabs who heard me speak agreed with me. Muslims are hungry for the truth and if it was not for Sharia, jihad and being bombarded with messages of retaliation and hatred, we would see change and peace start to happen.


What stands in the way of reform is also the petrodollars that are financing many radical Muslim groups masquerading as “moderate.” Also some members of the far left in the West are extremely supportive of radical Islam and do not want to hear anything about the oppression of Muslim women, Middle East Christians or Jews in the Middle East. Certain elements of the far left are actually standing in the way of progress of Islam and against reformers such as myself and others. That is a major problem.

PC: Thank you so much Nonie for your time, and thought, and bravery.

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