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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Speak the Truth, And Die?

Dr. Wafa Sultan, who hit the blogosphere after her Al-Jazeera interview in late February, has been receiving a lot of phone calls and e-mails of late. Unfortunately, they have been death threats.

In Saturday's NY Times, in the "Saturday Profile" she lets readers know that the price she's paying for speaking out could be the ultimate one.

Lone Pony first introduced me to this woman, with a partial transcript of her February 21st interview. The Memri video she referenced in her post has been downloaded a million times. There must a lot of folks who want to hear a moderate voice speaking on Islam, or the wrong element is downloading it.

What got Al-Jazeera, and others attention was an essay last July on an Islamic reform website, when she questioned Islam. She now disavows the religion, instead preferring to call herself a "secular human". The quote, that caught Al-Jazeera's eye was:
"Why does a young Muslim man, in the prime of life, with a full life ahead, go and blow himself up?" she asked. "In our countries, religion is the sole source of education and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched."

After reading the essay, they asked her to do the February interview, and debate with a muslim cleric. In that broadcast she made a couple of statements that haven't gone over well.

The first from her February interview that angered many in the muslim community:
"The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling."

She went on, "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."

She concluded, "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."
Many people who have been attacked by Islamic radicals have made the same point, but she speaks from a much better position on the topic than most of us; She watched, in class, at medical school as her professor was gunned down by fundamentalists trying to disrupt the government.

But what really got the ire of the clerics up was her comparison of the world of Islam and the rest of the world.

"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations," Dr. Sultan said. "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."
The Egyptian cleric she was debating on Al-Jazeera immediately said she had blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran. She took that as a fatwa, and apparently so have many others, since that's when the death threats started rolling in.

What is happening with her; and anyone who questions certain elements of the Islamic religion; is no different that what happened during the Inquisition in Spain. For 22 years anyone who questioned the Church was immediately branded a heretic, and paid the price for it.

To end this current inquisition though, will require more than just a few people. The governments, even in "Islamic states", and moderates in the religion have to rise up with a loud voice, and disavow those who make these threats in the name of their religion.

Countries like Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain and Oman show that Islam can exist in society without killing all who aren't lockstep with the fringe. However, until other governments, specifically Saudi Arabia and Iran step up to the plate and force the issue it will be hard to see change.

Hopefully moderates in Islam will take a look at what she said, and realize there is a lot of truth in it. When they start a (loud) discussion of how to advance Islam as a religion, and repair it's image, maybe some folks will listen. Al-Jazeera, which Dr. Sultan on the air in February needs to find more moderate voices to feature also. As the largest broadcaster in the Arab world, they can help lead the way.

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Blogger Tim said...

I watched that interview. Couldn't find a single thing I disagreed with her about.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Steven Tucker said...

It has been my position for years that the only real solution to terrorism is the reformation of Islam; but how do we MAKE that happen? The truth is we can't. All we can do is defend ourselves until the Muslims reform. Though, if you look at American Muslims and Canadian Muslims, they seem to be perfectly modern and peaceful. The Muslims at George Mason, where I go to school, are delightful and respectful. I'm taking a class on Political Islam and we discuss problems between Jews and Muslims every day, and there is no angry rhetoric. Everyone is attacking the issue from a place of cool reason and patience. It's really quite inspiring.

9:29 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Part of the sadness is that the Moslems who do want to live in peace with others are just another brand of heretic to the Jihadists. Many of them are as afraid of the Jihadists as moral Germans were of the SS during the Third Reich.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Joubert said...

There is a video of that interview:


10:05 AM  
Blogger Peakah said...

Great analysis... unfortunately unless Ms Sultan takes refuge in the west a'la Rushdie, her days are numbered. She will be much less effective to influence change in her homeland while exiled or dead...

12:54 PM  
Blogger Lone Pony said...

Thank you for finding this article Bob. You have a nose for the best stuff.

Two things she said meant a lot to me personally:

"Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking.", and, "I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book."

I look forward to owning the book she is writing.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

LP, you are welcome, and those are powerful quotes.

Peakah, luckily for her she's living in Cerritos, Ca. She left Syria in 1989.

Patrick, thanks, I should link that.

Shoprat, you are right, the thugs of the religion have beat down the moderates for too long.

Steven, she makes a great point, the kid of Islam in many countries never see another point of view. In the US and Canada they do, and realize that they can live with others without violence. It's a message that needs to be spread more.

7:31 PM  

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