The following are excerpts from an interview with Wafa Sultan, an Arab American psychologist from Los Angeles. It aired on Al Jazeera TV on Feb. 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 the 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?
WS: 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....
WS: 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 Muslim 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 stop this war, they must re-examine 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 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 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 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: ( a teacher at Al-Azhar University) Are you a heretic?
WS: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural.
Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran.
WS: These are personal matters that do not concern you.... 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.... 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 of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. Fifteen 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.
Translation from Arabic is courtesy of MEMRI: The Middle East Media Research Institute.