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Nonie Darwish (Arabic: نوني درويش) (born 1949) is an Egyptian-American human rights activist, and founder of Arabs For Israel, and is Director of Former Muslims United. She is the author of two books: Now They Call Me Infidel; Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror and Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law. Darwish's speech topics cover human rights, with emphasis on women's rights and minority rights in the Middle East. Born in Egypt, Darwish is the daughter of an Egyptian Army lieutenant general, who was called a "shahid" by the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, after being killed in a targeted killing in 1956. Darwish blames "the Middle Eastern Islamic culture and the propaganda of hatred taught to children from birth" for his death. In 1978, she moved with her husband to the United States, and converted to Christianity there. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, she has written on Islam-related topics.
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Nonie Darwish was born in 1949 in Cairo, Egypt. Her family moved to Gaza in the 1950s when her father, Colonel Mustafa Hafez, was sent by Gamal Abdel Nasser to serve as commander of the Egyptian Army Intelligence in Gaza, which was under supervision of Egypt. Hafez founded the fedayeen who launched raids across Israel's southern border, that between 1951 and 1956, killed many Israelis, the majority civilians. In July 1956 when Nonie was eight years old, her father was killed by a mail bomb in an operation by the Israeli Defense Forces. This became the first targeted killing carried out by the IDF. The assassination was a response to Fedayeen's attacks, making Darwish's father a shahid. During his speech announcing the nationalization of the Suez Canal, Nasser vowed that all of Egypt would take revenge for Hafez's death. Darwish claims that Nasser asked her and her siblings, "Which one of you will avenge your father's death by killing Jews?"
After the death of her father, her family moved back to Cairo, where she attended Catholic high school and then the American University in Cairo, earning a BA in Sociology/Anthropology. She then worked as an editor and translator for the Middle East News Agency, until emigrating to the United States in 1978 with her husband, ultimately receiving United States citizenship. After arriving in the US, she became a Christian and began attending a non-denominational evangelical church. About a year after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Darwish began writing columns critical of Islamic extremism and the silence of moderate Muslims."I always blamed Israel for my father's death, because that's what I was taught. I never looked at why Israel killed my father. They killed my father because the fedayeen were killing Israelis. They killed my father because when I was growing up, we had to recite poetry pledging jihad against Israel. We would have tears in our eyes, pledging that we wanted to die. I speak to people who think there was no terrorism against Israel before the '67 war. How can they deny it? My father died in it."
Asked what can be done to encourage more moderate Muslims to speak out, Darwish answers:
Darwish is the current Director of Former Muslims United. In a letter sent from that organization to Muslim leaders, Darwish said:"After 9/11 very few Americans of Arab and Muslim origin spoke out... Muslim groups in the U.S. try to silence us and intimidate American campuses who invite us to speak. I often tell Muslim students that Arab Americans who are speaking out against terrorism are not the problem, it’s the terrorists who are giving Islam a bad name. And what the West must do is ask the politically incorrect questions and we Americans of Arab and Muslim origin owe them honest answers.
She often says, "Just because I am pro- Israel does not mean I am anti- Arab, its just that my culture is in desperate need for reformation which must come from within”."We send this letter to you to be received by September 25, 2009. On that date 220 years ago in 1789, the U.S. Congress passed the Bill of Rights. This is a fitting date to put our pledge to the world...As founders of Former Muslims United, we now pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to achieve for former Muslims their unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We claim these rights as the foundation for our right to freedom from Shariah. We urge you to join us.
She has spoken on numerous college campuses including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Oxford, Cornell, UCLA, NYU, Virginia Tech, UC Berkeley and several others. She has also spoken in the United States Congress, the House of Lords and the European Parliament.
Darwish is a strong supporter of Israel, and has founded the group "Arabs for Israel", composed of ethnic Arabs and Muslims who respect and support the State of Israel, welcome a peaceful and diverse Middle East, reject suicide terrorism as a form of Jihad, and promote constructive self-criticism and reform in the Arab/Muslim world.
Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute "Woman of Exceptional Courage" Award.
Darwish, N (2006). Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror. Sentinel HC. ISBN 1595230319.
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Nonie Darwish was the daughter of the head of Egyptian army intelligence, who launched deadly fedayeen attacks from Gaza into Israel; he was eventually killed by the Israelis.Thus, young Nonie was honored as the daughter of a shahid, a martyr.As she grew up in Egypt,however, she began asking questions about the cruel practices of her religion, including female genital mutilation, and about the unreasoning hatred of Jews and Israel that was constantly taught to all children.