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Beauty and Promise of American Free Speech

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Author Nonie Darwish at Georgetown University

by Lil Tuttle

In an opinion letter to the GeorgetownVoice, Senior Research Fellow Mobashra Tazamal condemns Georgetown University, the Georgetown University College Republicans (GUCR), and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute for inviting author Nonie Darwish to speak on campus about her new book, Wholly Different: Why I Chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values, which describes her experiences as a Muslim and a Christian.  Two false claims in Ms. Tazamal’s letter deserve to be called out.

False Claim #1: “I was silenced in the name of free speech.”

Ms. Tazamal begins her article with this statement:

I am a Muslim, an immigrant, and a woman of color. On the campus of Georgetown University last month, I was silenced in the name of free speech.

Ms. Tazamal was not silenced, but by her own admission, Tazamal tried – and failed – to silence Nonie Darwish:

In an effort for my voice and the voices of concerned Muslim students on Georgetown’s campus with whom I spoke to be heard, I wrote to the GUCR. I engaged with the event’s organizers, hoping they would understand the danger of bringing to campus a speaker who makes false claims and foments anti-Muslim sentiment.

Moreover, Tazamal is not the hapless victim of persecution  she claims to be. She didn’t stumble unsuspecting into the Darwish speech.  In her article, she states she attended one of Darwish’s talks while a student at the College of William and Mary in 2010.  She didn’t like what she heard then, yet she attended Darwish’s Georgetown speech anyway.

Why? Tazamal is a Senior Research Fellow at The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, where she “researches Islamophobia.”

Perhaps I was naive to assume that a prestigious university such as Georgetown, where I research Islamophobia, would avoid inviting speakers who reinforce negative stereotypes and perpetuate false allegations about any religion …

Far from being a naïve victim of this ideological battle, Tazamal is a shrewd, polished warrior in the cause. 

The Bridge Initiative focuses on Islamophia

 

False Claim #2:Darwish calls for the annihilation of 1.6 billion human beings because they’re Muslim.

Ms. Tazamal begins her condemnation with this explosive statement [emphasis added]:

On Feb. 28, the Georgetown University College Republicans (GUCR), in partnership with the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, invited Nonie Darwish, an author and critic, to speak on campus about women and Islamic law. Darwish, an Egyptian-American and non-Muslim, has publicly called for the annihilation of 1.6 billion human beings because they’re Muslim.

The “annihilation” claim is linked to a 51-second YouTube video edited and posted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIRtv), which contains broken excerpts of a speech by Darwish. Here is a transcript of that video.  Notice particularly the editing done at the crucial point immediately prior to the “annihilation” statement:

Islam is a poison for our society. It’s divisive.  It’s hateful.  Look what Islam is doing on our college campuses.  It’s full of anti-Semitism.  It’s going to turn us against one another.  It’s going to make produce [sic] chaos in society … [tape edited; speaker’s full comments unknown] … because Islam should be feared, should be fought, should be conquered and defeated and annihilated.  And it’s going to be brought down, because Islam is based on lies and it’s not based on the truth … I have no doubt whatsoever Islam is going to be destroyed.

A neutral observer would recognize that Darwish is clearly speaking about the annihilation of the ideology of Islam, not the annihilation of 1.6 billion people who embrace the Muslim religion.

A young woman asks a question during Q&A

Islam is unique ideology in that it is simultaneously a religion, embraced by millions of people, and a theocratic form of government under Sharia Law, embraced by some nations around the world. As Darwish has asserted on many occasions, a theocratic form of governance – whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or any other – is incompatible with the secular democratic-republic form of government of the United States under Constitutional Law.

It is this theocratic Islamic governance that Darwish criticizes, and she is not alone. Sharia Courts/Councils allowed to operate within Muslim communities in Great Britain are currently under investigation by the British Home Office for their treatment of women, according to the UK Independent newspaper:

The Government is to launch an investigation into whether sharia courts operating in the UK discriminate against women – legitimising forced marriages and issuing unfair divorce settlements. The Home Office said it would examine claims that sharia courts – or councils – may be working in a “discriminatory and unacceptable way”, seeking to legitimise forced marriage and issuing divorces that are unfair to women, contrary to the teachings of Islam. However, it will also seek out examples of best practice among sharia councils.

An estimated 30 sharia councils exist in the UK, giving Islamic divorce certificates and advice on other aspects of religious law. They have garnered fierce criticism, particularly for their treatment of women seeking religious divorces, who make up the core clientele.

Sharia is the Islamic legal system, derived from the Koran and the rulings of Islamic scholars, known as fatwas. As well as providing a code for living – including prayers, fasting and donations to the poor – sharia in some countries such as Saudi Arabia also lays down punishments as extreme as cutting off a hand or death by stoning for adultery.

Canada is currently embroiled in a controversial Sharia halal financing proposal to create a segregated housing subdivision of 80 homes for Muslims only, who would be allowed to avoid Canada’s standard finance laws governing home purchases.

Islamic Sharia laws and their conflict with the American form of government are a valid and important debate for people in the United States, particularly given the experiences of other Western nations.

Those who have the courage to participate in the discussion should not be condemned or branded “Islamophobic.” That is the beauty and promise of Americans right to free speech – something the U.S. Constitution guarantees that Sharia Law does not.