Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cruel and Usual Punishment

by Nonie Darwish

Thumbs Up.

I really hate to give this book a thumbs up. Not because of the book itself however, but because the subject matter is so troubling.

Ms Darwish is an Egyptian born former Muslim. After 9/11 she decided to start a public stand against her former religion. This is her second book. She also is co founder of Former Muslims United and a public speaker and writer on issues of Islamic Sharia and jihad.

In the first part of the book, Ms Darwish leads the reader to a clearer understanding of how Sharia law affects individual Muslims. She shows the extreme violence against and oppression of women and non-Muslims particularly. She also analyzes of how that attitude negatively affects various other demographics like the poor and the sons and grown men and family life in general. She shows the culture of fear that is a necessary part of Islamic society. She shows how Sharia naturally effects the violence that we in the West like to think of as associated only with extreme Islam. Most of us are familiar with the Q'uran as the Muslim holy book. Ms Darwish introduces Western readers to the idea of Hadith, which is the collection of sayings by Muhammad that were collected by followers who were close to him; and also to the origins of Sharia, which was codified in the first hundred years or so after the death of Muhammad.

The result is quite frightening. I cannot summarize well what I felt after reading the first half of this book. Ms Darwish documents not only the many passages from the Q'uran, but also some of the many statements of Hadith that not only support, but also demand violence against particularly Jews; but also those of any religion outside of Islam; those without a religion; and also even those Muslims who don't do Sharia properly. More troubling still, Ms Darwish clearly shows how subjective the idea of following Sharia properly really is. And follow this with the truth that any individual Muslim has permission, by their own religious precepts, to kill anyone within Islam who can be perceived as not following Sharia. Oh, and that same permission extends, of course, to those outside of Islam.

In the second part of the book, Ms Darwish analyzes how Sharia law and its demands on individuals translate into society as a whole and international relations. She teaches about Dar al Islam (society within Islam, or the Islamic state, wherever that may be, geographically) and Dar al Harb (literally the house of war, or society outside of Islam). She shows how this distinction has evolved into the various geographical and political troubles today between Islam and others. These would include the constant violence in SE Asia and Somalia between Muslims and non Muslims, and even among Muslims; the civil war in what was formerly Yugoslavia; the constant acts of individual terror in western countries and elsewhere; and even the demands within western countries for more and more Sharia. By narrating many specific situations and also a chapter tracing the history of Egypt as an example, Ms Darwish successfully argues that the West needs to view Islam less as a religion and more as a political system. She includes a quite scathing reprimand of our media and its failure to report accurately the atrocities inflicted by Muslims around the world.

Ms Darwish uses an example that worked well to highlight the political nature of Islam and how we need to address it. She compared our relationship to the USSR during the cold war, to our relationship with Islam today. If Communism would have successfully sold itself as a religion, would we have allowed Communist temples in our communities or Communist studies departments in our universities? Just so, argues Ms Darwish, Islam is a political system. More specifically, it is a political system that in its purest sense views the West, and those who do not choose to subject themselves to that particular political system, as political enemies. And yet we invite into our communities the mosques that teach hatred of our way of life and even violence toward it. We allow Arab and Middle Eastern studies departments to be promoted and paid for by those who want to obliterate our society from the face of the earth.

Ms Darwish shows very clearly that Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam does call for violence. Through her use of only some of the 35, 213 verses calling for such violence, she shows that any one outside of Islam is at risk. But more troubling still is the second method Islam has used throughout history to spread itself and its violent and oppressive culture. That is the seemingly peaceful migration of Muslims into other geographic areas. These pilgrims, one might call them, are forbidden to assimilate. They are exhorted regularly by their religious leaders to hate those outside of their religion. They are encouraged to find fellow Muslims who are not following Sharia closely enough. And finally they have both encouragement and also the demand from their religion to show violence toward and even kill those with whom they disagree. Even what we might call a moderate religious leader finished up prayers every Friday with the exhortation to kill the infidel. It is part of what we might call the prescribed liturgy.

Ms Darwish shows, these communities of Muslims are spreading and growing like wildfire in western countries. Several European countries are already facing tough decisions with regard to the Muslim community and because of the very nature of Islam. And although there are upright Muslims who we might like to think of as moderate, the religion itself produces such a culture of fear, that we must not expect these people to speak out against the violence promoted by some within Islam. Their life could be forfeit, because of their own religious precepts. Even if perhaps only 10% of Muslims choose to follow the prescribed violence, we can see how risky speaking out is for those who might choose to do so.

When Islam is seen in this light, we in the West, with our relativist attitudes and multi-culturalism are faced with a dilemma. And so far we have not within our culture or political structures clarified a way to deal with this. Ms Darwish gives her list of nine things she thinks could be successfully implemented in the West to stop what she describes as the Islamization of our society.

Finally, Ms Darwish gives her hopes that the religion of Islam itself could experience a reformation. Unfortunately, I can't figure how this would work. Within the Christian church, the Reformation called for the church to return to its origins, the Holy Scriptures. If what Ms Darwish taught us in the whole rest of her book is correct, Islam cannot be reformed without entirely leaving its foundational writings. The entire religion is poisoned from its inception with violence and oppression.

Ms Darwish makes clear that something must be done by those who wish to remain free. Whether we have the strength of will or the moral fortitude to accomplish this is not at all clear.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great review, Mary. This looks like an extremely insightful book. Unfortunately, our library system doesn't have this book. I may put it on my birthday wish list, though.

    I did request 'Now They Call Me Infidel' also by Darwish,

    I'll put it at the top of my reading list when it arrives.