May 11, 2006
Sultan Renews Islam Critique -- in English
Psychiatrist, writer and activist Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian expatriate and "American-by-choice," has become one of the most famous Muslim heretics in modern times. And she did it in a thoroughly modern way condeming Islam during two television appearances, the most recent on Feb. 21, on Arab television network al-Jazeera.
In her televised comments, in Arabic, she called the "clash" between Islam and the West "a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality."
Last week, in Los Angeles, she spoke in a public forum for the first time in English, at an appearance hosted by the conservative-leaning Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
"I have lost hope for Islam and I think it's the duty of all thinkers to be blunt and straightforward to change the minds of Muslims," she said confidently, flanked by two bodyguards, to a receptive audience of about 150 at the Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
Time magazine counted Sultan, 47, as among the world's 100 most influential people for pioneering public criticism of Islam by Muslims. That she is a woman makes her voice almost unique in the Muslim world, which she characterizes as routinely suppressing women. This outspokenness has resulted in frequent death threats against Sultan, who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles. Some Muslims reformers, on the other hand, have praised her.
The daughter of devout Muslims, Sultan first began to question Islam as a medical student at the University of Aleppo, where she witnessed members of the radical Muslim Brotherhood political group shoot dead her professor while shouting "Allah is great." She and her husband immigrated to the United States in 1989. She describes her mission as educating the world about what she calls the dangers of Islam and fostering an intellectual rebellion among "oppressed" and "brainwashed" Muslims.
"There is no moderate Islam at all because Islam is different from any other religion," Sultan said. "They believe the Quran is the absolute word of God and we're not supposed to play with it or change it."
In addition, she said, in Islam religion and politics are intertwined, making state enforcement of Islam a religious goal among devout Muslims in any country. Islam, she said, "shouldn't be classified as just a religion but a policy which applies its teachings violently."
Sultan didn't reserve her criticism for Islam alone. She faulted President George W. Bush for referring to Islam as a religion of peace. She said that America has the responsibility and right to lead the ideological change that needs to occur among Muslims, to liberate them, but through "books -- not only tanks."
"We don't only need [Donald] Rumsfeld, but we need Dr. Phil and Oprah," she remarked, to applause and laughter.
She's working on her third book, "The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster," which, she said, will examine the ideology of Islam from a scientific perspective.
Tammy Bruce, feminist and conservative radio host on KABC, moderated the question-and-answer period at the May 3 event. The subject of Israel and its future in West Bank came up in a question.
"The problem is not the land," she said, "it's deeply rooted in the hatred [of the Jews] in the Islamic teachings." -- Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer
A Diplomatic Birthday Party
A who's who of the Los Angeles Jewish world gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the Israeli consulate general's annual Yom Ha'Atzmaut celebration on May 3 sponsored by Nathan Shapell. Those in attendance in the crowd of about 700 included the heads of many Jewish organizations, rabbis, lay leaders, elected officials, diplomats and prominent local Israelis.
"In 58 years, Israel has become an economic powerhouse, ranking first in the world in investment in research and development, second in the quality of its institutions of higher education, and third in entrepreneurship," Consul General Ehud Danoch said.
His remarks lauded Israel, which he praised as the only democracy in the Middle East. Danoch also alluded to Israel's political uncertainties and the continued threats of terrorist violence, saying, "With all of this we have not yet achieved our dream of peace and the developments of the past year present many challenges."
Other speakers included Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier, who was saluted with enthusiastic applause for his commitment to "fight for his homeland" in the face of terror.
The IDF air force musical troupe provided entertainment, performing classic Israeli favorites, which got Israelis -- and some Americans -- in the crowd singing along.
But people in the buoyant crowd were so busy greeting and conversing, like at a reunion -- or haggling over politics -- so irrepressibly that the most popular word at the event wasn't "Israel" but
"shhhhhhh!" -- OA
Click below to read Wafa Sultan's criticism of Islamic extremism: