FP: You describe how Arabs see a virtue in never admitting a mistake. To say the least, this kind of psychology necessitates pathology and the failure of a culture. No? Tell us about this mindset and its effects.
Darwish: The Arab culture is famous for its concept of pride. Image is very important and pride and shame are great motivators. Protecting the image of Muslims in front of the non-Muslim West is vital. Thus elaborate behavior is done to saving face.
Admitting to a mistake can bring terrible shame and is not regarded as a virtue; those who admit to mistakes are not rewarded for their honesty but ridiculed and shamed or even severely punished.
Until today most Muslims blame 9/11 on a Jewish conspiracy. The father of Muhammad Attah in Egypt, for 4 years denied that his son headed the 9/11 terror attack even when the whole world saw him checking into the airplane that slammed into the twin towers. Only recently Atta's father come out and admitted he is proud of what his son “the Shahid” (and not the terrorist) has done.
There are people in Arab jails right now who are accused of defaming Islam or their country in front of non-Muslims. This defamation can be a simple praise of Christians or Jews and of being critical of radical Islam. Fear of being accused of defaming one’s tribe, nation or religion leads to a culture that tends to blame others rather than look within.
The Judeo-Christian culture concentrates heavily on the concept of “we are all sinners and only through the grace of God we can be saved.” That is a big relief to the Western psyche. Muslim education views members of other religions as sinners; the infidel non-Muslim sinners can only be saved by announcing they are Muslims.
It is a prominent part of the Jewish faith to talk about God’s punishment when they are disobedient to God’s laws.
That honest admission by Jews is not viewed by Muslims as a virtue and a step towards self-improvement, but as an admission of wrongdoing and that Jews are bad and deserve God’s wrath; that is why to many Muslims Jews do not deserve land or a nation. “They themselves even admit that they are sinners,” I once heard a Muslim say.
There is also a concept in Islam called “taqiyya” which allows lying to non-Muslims if it is in the best interest of Islam. That concept is very deep in Muslim culture that we don't even think of the term “taqiyya” any more; it has simply penetrated every aspect of Muslim life. Because of it there is very little self-criticism.
Thus, saying sorry, admitting guilt or looking within for solutions is not a strong value; it will surely get a person in deep trouble instead. Such a person will bear the blunt of the blame for everything — even for what he did not do; thus you have Muslim denials and defensiveness over matters that many in the West cannot comprehend.
Muslims are in denial when they say that Muslim women have more rights than Western women; even many Muslim women convince themselves of that and defend Sharia Law rather than say the truth in front of the non-Muslim West.
Muslims are in denial when they say Israel is behind all Muslim terrorism across the globe, even 9/11; they are in denial when they say that Arab tyrants are the product of American foreign policy, but when America takes out Saddam, they say “you are interfering in our internal affairs.” That is why many Muslims say one thing to the West in English and the opposite to Arabs in Arabic.
Shaming is prominent in the Arab child. To avoid the intense pain of shaming, denying responsibility turns into a virtue to save face and protect one's pride.
The concept of “taqiyya” is one of the reasons many Muslims were silent after 9/11. Only a few were speaking out honestly and openly by admitting there is a problem in Muslim culture that needs to be examined and corrected. The few Arab Americans who did that where not rewarded for their honesty by their Muslim community; instead they were condemned, shunned and shamed by the majority of Muslims. They are doing everything they can to silence us. They do not want to get into Western-style dialog with us or debate us in the open.
We rarely see Muslim vs. Muslim debate and that is why when the brave Arab-American Dr. Wafaa Sultan, debated a Muslim cleric on Al Jazeera TV, it became international news. The thank you she got for her honesty by powerful radical Muslims was a Fatwa — a death warrant.
This explains and exposes the deep cultural need to even lie for self-preservation and protection. They don’t want an honest debate for reform from within; but they want to continue the lies to save face.
Very simply, Islamists do not want to admit to the world their jihadist agenda and their sympathy with terrorists. That is why they simply want to silence the opposition; a Danish cartoonist; the Pope; a Dutch filmmaker or politicians and the few Muslims and Arabs who dare to speak out.
Our crime is being honest and open about our culture, radical Islam and our wish for reformation. Even after leaving the Middle East and becoming US citizens we still carry the baggage of never admitting to a mistake and always blaming others such as the West or Israel for all internal problems of the Arab world.
This charade of denials and games has done nothing but keep the Muslim world in a permanent state of stagnation, turmoil and poverty despite all the wealth from oil.
FP: You discuss a crucial issue in how you noticed the hate being taught in the mosques when you got here. You also noticed the bizarre phenomenon of Muslims who hate America come to America to live, who live against American values and seek to destroy America through the liberty that America provides. Can you talk about this a bit?
Darwish: I moved to America in 1978 and was glad to leave the culture of jihad, dictatorships and police-states behind. I was looking forward to be part of America. But when I went to the local mosque, we were told not to assimilate in America; show your pride in Islam by being noticed as Muslims in America. Women were encouraged to wear Islamic clothes with pride even if Egyptians like myself have never covered their heads or wore Islamic clothes in Egypt.
To my surprise, I started seeing Egyptians and other Arabs getting radicalized right here in US mosques. We were told that Saudi Arabia is building all these mosques, sending their clerics from the most radical Muslim backgrounds and even sending the Friday sermons to such preachers directly from Saudi Arabia.
When I asked why are we building more mosques than the need of the American Muslim community, I was told we are here to fill them with Americans; to bring Islam to America and change America’s constitution to the Qur’an. I heard some say “congratulations, Europe is now dominated by Muslims; may God bless America with Islam too.”
When Louis Farrakhan was making anti-Semitic and anti-American comments, I heard some Arab-Americans who attend mosques regularly, say “Farrakhan is useful for the Arab cause.”
Some of the moderate Muslims that I knew started to gradually behave and act more radical. They only befriended other Muslims and criticized me for befriending and marrying an American. They rejected me when I refused to cover my head; something I have never done before. Even my mother and grandmother never covered their heads or wore Islamic clothes all their lives in Egypt.
Some even called Americans stupid or naïve for being such an open society. I then started seeing Muslim students becoming extremely active on college campuses while wearing their Islamic clothes with pride. I started noticing a rift between Muslims and the rest of America, and an attitude of “us against them.”
There seemed to be an attempt to push the envelope further and further every day by some new demand or complaint by radical Muslims in America. Some advocated taking advantage of loopholes in America’s open system and to further Muslim power.
Some radical Muslims and shady characters started coming to America and I often wondered why they were here. Why would they choose to live in a country they consider the “great Satan”? Why would they subject their children to the temptations of the West? It became clear to me that America was being flooded by radical Muslim clerics with a political rather than a religious agenda.
One shady character was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman from Egypt. This man caused so many problems in Egypt and was a suspect in the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat. He fled Egypt to Sudan to cause more turmoil and trouble. From the Sudan he was able to get a visa from the American Embassy in Sudan. He came to the USA to preach in a New Jersey mosque.
Such preachers are often regarded as a joke and as extreme, even by moderate Muslims in Egypt, only to find themselves with new respectable status and freedoms they could only dream about under Muslim dictatorships. Such Muslim radical preachers should never have been allowed in America. But believe it or not they have discovered that only in America can they work the system to their advantage to demand this and that and if anyone criticizes them they learn the good old buzz words in America: racist, bigot and Islamophobia — the choice words they learned quickly from some Muslim-American organizations who claim to be moderate. These expressions represent realities that are a way of life in the old country where racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism are the norm. In America these individuals are finally free to spread their hatred, rage and subversion and cause a rift between Muslims and the rest of America.