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Nathalie Alyon ’06: Nonie non grata?

The recent Nonie Darwish cancellation betrays Brunonian values

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I was shocked to read a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report that Nonie Darwish, a Palestinian peace activist, would not be speaking at Brown because the Muslim Student Association, the Muslim chaplain and the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life are afraid what she has to say is controversial (“Free speech controversy builds as pro-Israel speech canceled at Brown,” Nov. 20). What happened to the Brown I know and love, the haven of liberal education that encourages free thought and debate? Apparently, we have turned into a university easily intimidated when the subject matter gets sensitive.

What about Darwish is so offensive to Muslims that Hillel students decided to cancel her appearance to avoid jeopardizing the wonderful relationship between Jewish and Muslim groups on campus? As the daughter of a martyr who died in Gaza, Darwish was taught to hate Israel as a child. Yet she speaks up against Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism committed under the banner of Islam. Darwish realized that “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.” She calls for “reformation in Islam and Arab culture and society” to “reject hate” and “embrace love.”

Are the Muslim Student Association and the Muslim chaplain not willing to face the reality that there are people using Islam to incite violence, promote terrorism and spread hate across the world? Would they rather keep things simple, inhale hookah smoke with a couple of Jews in the name of multiculturalism and call it a day?

Now that we know who is not allowed to speak on campus, let’s take a look at some events that have taken place. Building a symbolic “apartheid” wall on the Main Green to protest Israel’s security fence last year was perfectly fine, even though it made a completely incongruous – and thus by nature of its inaptness, anti-Semitic comparison – between Israel and South Africa. The apartheid era of South Africa is not comparable to the democratic state of Israel, where Arab-Israelis enjoy more rights than any of their counterparts in suppressive Arab regimes throughout the Middle East. If we are concerned about discrimination – as we should be – why is there no discussion on our campus of the gender apartheid that imprisons millions of women in the Middle East? Let’s have a conversation about the fact that it is illegal to build churches in Saudi Arabia.

Many students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are disturbed by the pro-Palestinian students’ efforts to divest from Israel (a policy that has been rejected by every university so far where it has been proposed). Nevertheless, divestment activists have every right to voice their opinions. After all, we came to Brown to get a liberal education and to be exposed to a variety of views.

It is saddening to see how easily we betray these values. It is saddening to see that of all people, somebody like Darwish, who calls for peace and an end to Islamic terrorism, is not welcome on our campus.

Nathalie Alyon ’06 can speak 47 different languages, most of which she invented.

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