A few nights ago I was invited to a small dinner at a friend’s house. It was an intimate gathering of a group of high-level individuals, all active in their communities in areas ranging from education to charity to Israel. Each person was asked to introduce themselves and share what it is that they are involved in. It was inspiring and a little bit intimidating to hear some of the achievements of those 20 or so individuals. But it was when the main event started that we were really floored.
Present at the dinner were two women, Nonie Darwish and Wafa Sultan.
Wafa Sultan is a Syrian born and raised medical doctor and psychiatrist. She left Syria and moved to the US in 1989. Nonie Darwish is the daughter of Commander of the Egyptian Army Intelligence (The ‘Fedayeen’) in Gaza, who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in July 1956.
Both women have left their countries (Nonie also converted to Christianity) and are now the strongest voices educating people on Islam, its doctrine, essence and intention.
Both women are born and raised Muslim, Arabic speakers (They mentioned that in order to fully understand what Islam is about you must read the original writings in Arabic, hence the difference between the more ‘groovy’ Muslims of Indonesia for example, and the extremists of the Middle East) and they know the mentality inside and out, from the viewpoint of a smart independent-minded woman.
Living in America we are trained in PC-speak. A word of warning. none of what came out of these women was PC, and it was not pretty.
Nonie and Wafa could not be more against what Islam is about. They claim that us in the west have no idea what we are dealing with. That the main objective of Islam is to spread, the only way to do it is by Jihad, that Sharia law surpasses any other law of any other government and therefor there will never be human rights, women’s rights, workers' rights, freedom or democracy in any Muslim country. They sarcastically call it the Arab “Spring”, saying that we have actually entered the Arab Winter. They see Iran as the country which by revolution went Muslim, and we all know how that turned out.
And these are the more pleasant things they said. Being Jewish and an Israeli, I can not write some of the other things, for fear of being called an Anti-Muslim extremist myself.
Naturally, Nonie and Wafa are both disowned by their families and have a Fatwa (Islamic death sentence) issued upon them. Nonie already survived an assassination attempt. They sat there and plainly stated that they will most likely be killed for speaking out, and that they don’t care and are not going to stop. It was breathtaking and not optimistic for the next generations, to say the least.
As troubling as this was, it was what happened next that changed me forever.
Nonie was telling us about the death of her father. She was 8 years old and it was a devastating event. As I listened to her speak I suddenly froze.
I know that story. I have heard it before. And the realization hit me.
I know the son of the man who killed her father.
I pulled my phone out of my bag and texted my friend in Israel.
“Is Mustafa Hafez the name of the man your father killed?”
“Yes.” I got the replay.
Shaken, I came up to Nonie and gently asked if the details of the case are as follows. She confirmed that yes, that indeed is the case.
“I know the son of the man who did it Nonie...” I said weakly. She smiled at me. “Small world. But don’t worry about it Noa. I understand and I want to send him a message”.
I pulled my phone out and with shaky hands wrote down verbatim a message from Nonie to the man who killed her father.
This is what the message said:
“Tell him I don’t blame Israel and I don’t blame your father. I blame Jihad. I believe your father was doing his duty, I have no blame what so ever. I only blame the culture of Jihad. That is what killed my father”.
I was crying as I was typing this and Nonie was hugging me, consoling me. My friend in Israel was touched by the email. He sent the message to his father and his father replayed back thanking Nonie and mentioning other details from that event in the 50’s.
The love, compassion and forgiveness of those communications was palatable. It was an example of humanity’s ability to transform on the highest level I have ever experienced.
I don’t know why I was put in the middle of that situation, but I feel blessed to have been the messenger.
Nonie and Wafa are real life warriors. They speak up against what is wrong and for human rights and freedom, at great danger to themselves and their loved ones. They do it with feminine compassion and love. Nonie showed me a level of acceptance and forgiveness which we usually read about in novels or see in the movies.
I am forever grateful for that night.