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She Tells It Like It Is
Wafa Sultan, the Los Angeles-based Arab-American psychologist -- one of the few who's had the courage to speak out against the primitivism, savagery, and backwardness of so many in the Arab world -- talks at the link above, on tape, on Al Jazeera. She's sending a message in their language (subtitled in English) -- with exceptional courage, passion, and force -- but really, she's speaking ours:

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.

The interviewer cuts in:

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.

It's the rare item on the Web that brings me close to tears -- but this is one of them. Here's a woman who's doing her part -- passionately, eloquently, and at great personal peril -- to advance civilization. What have you done for civilization lately? Compared to Wafa Sultan -- what have we all?

(Thanks, Norm.)

Posted by aalkon at March 25, 2006 10:56 AM

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She's done nothing, zip, zero. You cannot rationalize with these Islamic fundamentalists because you are a heretic and your beliefs mean nothing to them. You would have better luck convincing Fred Phelps to see Brokeback Mountain with you.

Posted by: nash at March 25, 2006 7:49 AM


She's done nothing, zip, zero. You cannot rationalize with these Islamic fundamentalists because you are a heretic and your beliefs mean nothing to them. You would have better luck convincing Fred Phelps to see Brokeback Mountain with you.

Are things really that hopeless, Nash? She's probably got a fatwa placed on her. In particular, I like the paraphrase of John F. Kennedy at the end, where she states that the Muslims must ask what they can do for humankind before they demand the world's respect.

Maybe I'm gullible, but I'd like to hope that somewhere, some fundamentalist Muslim might just think, "You know, she's right. A Jewish did discover the medicine that saved my daughter's life..." or whatever. I'd rather think that ultimately they're human before they're fundamentalist Muslims. Maybe I'm wrong.

Or maybe she just got universally ignored because she's a woman, or because she blasphemed the Prophet, or whatever.

I would rather you at least appreciate her for trying to reason with these people, I guess. It's more than I've done.

Posted by: Patrick at March 25, 2006 8:07 AM

> I would rather you at least
> appreciate her for trying to
> reason with these people

Agreed! Nash, there's no way you can know that all the fanatics are perfectly brainwashed. Some of them must have doubt which can be leveraged through reasoning, especially if the persuasion comes from someone of their background. (IIRC this woman used to be Syrian.)

Islamic fundamentalists (arab or not) want people to think that history has already been written and that individual aspirations are irrelevant. This is the opposite of Western life, especially the Hollywood showbiz message. We should be using this to our advantage. Instead of putting on stupid sunglasses to have their pictures taken with Kofi Annan, rock stars should be expected to tour the middle east at the peak of the popularity, putting their olympic charisma, playfulness and sexuality on display. I mean, let's REALLY rub their noses in it.

I support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and any effort to diminish the power of Islamic fundamentalism. We hate violence, and if there's a peaceful way to achieve our goals, we need to try it.

Posted by: Crid at March 25, 2006 10:02 AM

There is indeed reason to be hopeful. I've shared these news items with several Muslims I know, and they are quite open to discussing the issues they raise. In fact, I've already received an email this morning from a Muslim Iranian friend about Dr Sultan's interview -- and he was not at all offended or hostile about the things she said.

This is my approach: I present this information and commentary not in the spirit of "your religion is backwards" -- even though I believe that it is, essentially. Instead, I couch it in a concern about how fundamentalism threatens the viability of Islam peacefully co-existing with other religious and secular cultures in the modern world (or something like that). I don't do this because I care about Islam. I do it because I care about and value these individuals in my life, who happen to be Muslim.

Posted by: Lena at March 25, 2006 11:50 AM

It's intolerance that is the problem, not fundamentalism per se. The Afghan sentenced to death for leaving Islam illustrates this. According to the press (eg St Louis Post Dispatch), ordinary Muslim clerics would kill him for apostasy. These mainstream Muslim clerics, some considered moderate (sic), cannot tolerate an opinion different to their own.

Unfortunately, intolerance is the one thing that cannot be tolerated.

Incidentally, one typical quote reads "We will not allow God to be humiliated - this man must die." The implication is that if the man were not to be killed - say he were airlifted out and given a new identity - then God would be humiliated. What kind of God do these people believe in? What kind of logic do they use for thought processes? I wouldn't really care, if they were tolerant of other logic, other thought processes. But it seems they ain't.

Posted by: Norman at March 26, 2006 11:43 AM

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