Cover Story

Dissident voices

"Dissident voices" Continued...

Issue: "Fixing Islam," June 16, 2007

But it was a long and twisting journey. Like other wealthy Egyptian girls, Darwish went to a private convent school. She studied anthropology and sociology at Cairo's American University, then worked as a journalist. Visiting a Coptic Christian friend once, they heard a local mosque at prayers, calling for Muslims to kill infidels. Darwish saw fear in her friend's eyes: "I suddenly, for the first time in my life, thought, 'My religion-there's something wrong with it.'"

In 1978, Darwish moved to the United States, settling in the Los Angeles area. Women could attend Muslim prayers, but the rabid, anti-American teaching and the ill-educated leaders repelled her. Curious, she soon began educating herself about Jewish and Christian beliefs.

When her brother, still in Gaza, had a stroke that put him in an Israeli hospital, relatives told her the medical staff cared well for both Jews and Arabs. This was a biting contrast to the tale she learned as a child, that Israeli soldiers killed pregnant Arab women for fun. Darwish thought, "This is another proof that we're living a big lie. They are not the monsters we thought they were."

On her first trip back to Cairo in 2001, Darwish also was shocked to see a different, radicalized city. Most women wore headscarves. Young, unemployed men railed against the West, then asked if she could secure them U.S. visas for jobs. A local paper reported that Israeli Viagra tampered in order to sterilize Egyptian men was flooding the country.

Her family returned to L.A. from vacation a day before 9/11. When she heard Egyptian Mohammed Atta was the head hijacker, she called friends at home to ask how they felt that Arabs had committed such slaughter. None believed her; they all said 9/11 was a Western conspiracy. That was her tipping point. Like Hamid and Warraq, trumpeting radical Islam's dangers has become her urgent mission.

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