"Stand up: Wafa Sultan is passing
Among the most moving scenes in film history occurs in "To Kill a Mockingbird," in which the little girl, Scout, who has been watching her lawyer/father plead for the life of a falsely accused black man in the old South, is exhorted by an elderly black spectator in the gallery to rise to her feet. "Your father is passing," he explains.
She began by describing the struggle in which we are engaged as one between "two opposites, between two eras." It is a clash, she said, "between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights on the one hand, and the violation of those rights on the other hand . . . "
Dr. Al-Khouli was clearly taken aback.
Are you saying, the host asked, "that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West and the backwardness and ignorance of the Muslims?"
"Yes," replied Sultan, "that is what I mean."
She wasn't finished. Not by a mile. She went on to scorn Muslim clerics who say out of one side of their mouths that Islam forbids them to offend the beliefs of others, and yet characterize Christians and Jews as "those who incur Allah's wrath" or as apes and pigs. She paused to consider the common Islamic description of Jews and Christians as "People of the Book."
"They are not the 'People of the Book,' they are people of many books. All the useful scientific books that you have today are theirs, the fruit of their tree and creative thinking."
Sultan then forthrightly explained that she herself is neither Muslim, Christian nor Jew, but simply a secular human being. She does not believe in the supernatural, but respects the right of others to believe what they wish.
"Are you a heretic?" demanded Al-Khouli in triumphant tones. "You can say whatever you like," she replied. In an age that has brought us the Theo van Gogh assassination, deadly riots over a series of Danish newspaper cartoons, the Pym Fortune assassination, the death threats against Salman Rushdie, Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq, among many others, it requires truly remarkable courage to stare into the Al-Jazeera camera and calmly permit yourself to be labeled a heretic.
Sultan was raised as a pious Muslim, but her faith was shaken when she was studying medicine at the Aleppo University in northern Syria. As The New York Times reported, terrorists from the Muslim Brotherhood burst into her classroom in 1979 and shot her professor as she watched. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great.'" It was a turning point in her life. She eventually left her home and moved with her husband and children to the United States.
Sultan's debate is available on The Middle East Media Research Institute's website at www.memritv.org. MEMRI says that the video has already received 3 million hits since it first aired on Feb. 21, 2006.
Courage is among the rarest of virtues. Most people will not risk even the displeasure of their boss, far less their very lives, for something they believe in. Sultan doubtless speaks for millions of Muslims who similarly deplore the barbarism that has come to dominate large segments of the Muslim world. But without leadership like hers, they must feel besieged and beleaguered. Her heroic stand deserves our awe and deep respect. Stand up: Ms. Sultan is passing.
|"Arab-American Psychologist Wafa Sultan: There Is No Clash of Civilizations but a Clash between the Mentality of the Middle Ages and That of the 21st Century|
Following are excerpts from an interview with Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan. The interview was aired on Al-Jazeera TV on February 21, 2006.
Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.
Host: I understand from your words that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West, and the backwardness and ignorance of the Muslims?
Wafa Sultan: Yes, that is what I mean.
Host: Who came up with the concept of a clash of civilizations? Was it not Samuel Huntington? It was not Bin Laden. I would like to discuss this issue, if you don't mind...
Wafa Sultan: The Muslims are the ones who began using this expression. The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The Prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger." When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to start this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels.
My colleague has said that he never offends other people's beliefs. What civilization on the face of this earth allows him to call other people by names that they did not choose for themselves? Once, he calls them Ahl Al-Dhimma, another time he calls them the "People of the Book," and yet another time he compares them to apes and pigs, or he calls the Christians "those who incur Allah's wrath." Who told you that they are "People of the Book"? They are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books. All the useful scientific books that you have today are theirs, the fruit of their free and creative thinking. What gives you the right to call them "those who incur Allah's wrath," or "those who have gone astray," and then come here and say that your religion commands you to refrain from offending the beliefs of others?
I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?
Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...
Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do not concern you.
Wafa Sultan: Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don't throw them at me. You are free to worship whoever you want, but other people's beliefs are not your concern, whether they believe that the Messiah is God, son of Mary, or that Satan is God, son of Mary. Let people have their beliefs.
Wafa Sultan: The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."