By Nonie Darwish
Arab feminists, reformers and intellectuals are intimidated, threatened or killed in the Middle East. Even the late Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was stabbed in Cairo in 1994 by a radical Muslim who claimed that Mahfouz insulted Islam.
Americans of Muslim Arab origin, like myself, who speak out against jihad, terrorism and anti-Semitism, also confront threats and shaming from those who want to silence us. This does not necessarily come from radical Islamist clerics, but often from highly educated Arabs working in prominent institutions of higher learning in the US.
On September 24th, and out of nowhere, I received an e-mail from Dr. Houria I. Hassouna, an Egyptian female professor at Michigan State University. The subject of her e-mail said: “A weight of carion flesh than to receive 3,000 ducats.” And she proceeded to describe me in the body of the email as: “You surpass the Shylock described by Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice.”
To those who are unfamiliar with the William Shakespeare play Merchant of Venice, Shylock played the character of a mean Jew who refused to forgo a pound of Antonio’s flesh which he has earned by an archaic law rooted in religion. Shylock rejected the offer of 6,000 ducats instead of the 3,000 that Antonio owed him so that he could revenge himself upon the Christian merchant.
What Dr. Hassouna was trying to tell me in her e-mail was that I am worse than a Jew. Muslim law agrees with her because a Muslim should never soften, forgive or befriend Jews. Being a former Muslim who runs a website called “ArabsForIsrael.com,” I believe that the Jewish people are Middle Eastern people who contributed a lot to Middle East culture, society and religion, larger in proportion than the size of Israel. I also speak openly about the Jewish people’s rights to their own State, Israel, and its capital, Jerusalem.
Dr. Hassouna apparently never got over the hate and anti-Semitic propaganda that Muslim children are spoon-fed in the Middle East. She also does not believe that Arab Americans should be able to expose and criticize radical Islam and the culture that produce thousands upon thousands of men who are ready to kill others for the sake of the expansion of Islam around the world.
I remember the many films on Arab TV dehumanizing Jews and depicting them in the worst possible manner. Muslim kids were told that Jews were monsters who wanted to kill them. When you fill the heart of Muslim children with such propaganda, hatred comes easy and terrorism acceptable. Such films still exist on Egyptian TV and are watched by thousands right here in America through satellite dishes. The last film I saw was called “A Girl from Israel” where an Israeli family visiting the Sinai deceive, rape and kill Egyptian kids.
I do not receive a lot of hate mail, but when I do, the worst comes from University professors, especially from those of Middle East origin, like myself. Ms. Hassouna, like many so called “moderate Muslims,” reveals her deep-rooted anti-Semitism and, in spite of her migration to the US and getting a PHD from American Institutions of higher learning, she still could not shed this hate indoctrination or the taboo against self-criticism in Muslim scriptures. Some of the most anti-Semitic Muslims are non-practicing intellectual Muslims. Our college campuses are full of Middle East professors who came to study in the US, thanks to scholarships from Uncle Sam, but who are spreading the poison of hatred of the old culture and are trying to silence people like myself who are promoting respect, peace and understanding between Arabs and Jews.
There are many heavy-handed attempts to silence me and the few others who are committed to peace and exposing the root causes of jihad against Israel and the West. Such attempts are a symbol of the hateful past we lived under and they simply strengthen my commitment to promoting peace and forgiveness to a culture that has forgotten what living in peace truly means.
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