By Angela Wu ’12
A talk by controversial author and activist Nonie Darwish scheduled for Nov. 18 was canceled after the student groups sponsoring the event, Tigers for Israel (TFI) and Whig-Clio, withdrew their sponsorship the previous day.
Darwish, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity after moving to the United States, has been criticized for her harsh condemnation of Islam. In her recent book, Darwish writes that “Islam has annihilated every culture it has invaded or immigrated into.”
Tigers for Israel president Addie Lerner ’11 said the group withdrew support when it learned the full extent of Darwish’s views. “TFI was not going to associate itself with a speaker who had such negative views of Islam as a religion,” Lerner said.
TFI’s co-vice president, Rafael Grinberg ’12, broke ranks and attempted to find another sponsor when TFI backed out. Grinberg said that Darwish was “not anti-Islam” and that TFI was “too conciliatory.”
Lerner said she was not aware of the controversy surrounding the speaker until it was explained by Center for Jewish Life executive director Julie Roth and Muslim chaplain Sohaib Sultan, who had spoken with students who found Darwish’s views on Islam offensive. Both TFI and Whig-Clio said they were not pressured to withdraw their sponsorships.
Whig-Clio president Ben Weisman ’11 said that the debating society initially co-sponsored the event to allow Darwish’s views to be challenged in an open forum.
“As an organization we absolutely disagree with almost everything Nonie Darwish has publicly said regarding Islam, and we were secure in this position before even agreeing to co-host the event,” Weisman said in a statement. He said that after TFI withdrew, Whig-Clio had no reason to sponsor the speech on its own.
After the two groups withdrew, the event effectively was canceled, because University policy requires campus events to be sponsored by a student group.
Grinberg contacted several other groups including The Princeton Tory, which offered to sponsor the event. The Tory’s offer came too late for Grinberg to arrange for security at the event, however.
“This was a student event, and students make decisions about their events, which is the case for the scores of events sponsored by students on campus every year,” said Emily Aronson, a University spokeswoman.
During the same week, a talk by Darwish at Columbia University was canceled just hours before it was scheduled to take place.