Last night Nonie Darwish, one of the favorite ex-Muslims of Fox News, visited campus.
She gave a strange talk. Part of was sensible enough, such as the bits where she pointed out the seriously illiberal aspects of Islamic law, with examples of everyday atrocities from countries where sharia has significant influence on laws and policies. (An example she gave about Turkish law, however, was mostly wrong, which didn’t inspire confidence.)
But then, she also went off the deep end with some regularity, such as cheering on recent paranoid efforts in the US to ban sharia law. (This is probably about as useful as banning alien abductions.)
The Q&A; afterwards was curious. Perhaps predictably, most Muslim students in the audience interpreted Darwish’s remarks as an attack on their community. But some of the Christian conservatives in the audience ate it all up; they were enthusiastically supporting Darwish.
By the end, all the Muslim students in the audience (and this includes some of my past and present students whom I know to be quite liberal) had long walked out. Only the Christians and a few quiet others like myself remained.
The experience makes me wonder what media figures such as Darwish are trying to accomplish. They’re not influencing the more liberal-minded among Muslims, who normally are as pissed off at the power of conservative mullahs as anybody. They got defensive and angry, and left feeling even more like their identity is under attack. And the Christians who remained just got their prejudices reinforced.