Last night, Georgetown University students gathered to hear Nonie Darwish discuss her new book, Wholly Different: Why I Chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values, an account of her experience growing up in the Muslim faith and converting to Christianity. The lecture was sponsored by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and hosted by the College Republican Club at Georgetown University.
Before the event even began, controversy surrounding it brewed on campus. Many of the club’s executive board members faced a strong criticism for the event. In a Georgetown Voice article entitled, “Upcoming Campus Speakers Fuel Anti-Muslim Rhetoric,” one student calls the event “a platform to spew her hateful and violent views on Islam.” And Georgetown University’s The Bridge Initiative ― self-described as a research project on Islamophobia ― organized a counter event at the same time. The event name, entitled “Muslim Responses to Islamophobia,” implied that Nonie (a former Muslim) is Islamophobic for explaining Sharia Law.
As attendees entered the event space, they were handed two flyers by the Bridge Initiative. One advertised the counter event, being held in a separate building on campus, and the other listing Nonie’s credentials describing her as a hate monger and depicting her as an Islamophobe.
Due to the irrational response on campus, Nonie Darwish and CBLPI staff had to be escorted onto campus and into the lecture room by campus police, and police presence remained prominent throughout the event.
From the beginning of the talk, Nonie clarified that she was criticizing an ideology, not people themselves. She said that every ideology has both good points and bad points, and that none is above criticism. She went on to compare and contrast Christianity with Islam; for example, pointing out that Christians pray for non-Christians, while Sharia Law considers non-Muslims infidels and unworthy of prayer.
After her talk, Nonie patiently answered a slew of hostile questions from the audience. In an effort to show Christianity as a brutal ideology as well, one audience member quoted passages from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. Nonie responded that in the Bible, Jesus came to Earth to fulfill the Old Testament and its laws. She emphasized how Jesus preached forgiveness and loving your neighbor, whereas Islam still today promotes violence against non-Muslims.
One audience member aptly pointed out how the real significance of the event was the students’ attempt to suppress Nonie’s voice.
After her talk, Nonie signed books for audience members. The Institute was pleased that – despite attempts to prevent it ― an articulate former Muslim woman’s voice was heard at Georgetown University.