Wafa Sultan, A Brave Woman
Wafa Sultan is an writer-activist who has fought for the rights of Muslim women. A psychiatrist in Syria before her transportation to Southern California in 1989 with her family, here she is in Time Magazine.
"The clash we are witnessing around the world is ... a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another that belongs to the 21st century," she said. "It is a clash between freedom and oppression."
The interview raced across the Internet and landed Sultan in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times and on CNN. I connected with her anger and pain. She questioned Islam in 1979, when, she says, she witnessed the murder of a professor by men with alleged ties to the ultraconservative Muslim Brotherhood political group. I challenged Islamic traditions after my friend and former colleague Daniel Pearl was murdered in 2002. Both killings were punctuated with "Allah is great." We have differences: Sultan blames Islam; I blame Muslims. But we both believe the Muslim world is in the Dark Ages.
Sultan's influence flows from her willingness to express openly critical views on Islamic extremism that are widely shared but rarely aired by other Muslims. She hopes to publish a book and start a foundation to take the politics out of Islam and "change the mentality of Muslim people." She plans to continue speaking out in Arabic to try to free Muslims from "brainwashing." "I even don't believe in Islam," she says, "but I am a Muslim." By so sharply voicing her beliefs, Sultan crystallizes the mission for the rest of us who want to take the slam out of Islam.
Ms. Sultan, a very brave and outspoken woman, appears on MEMRI TV. MEMRI is The Middle East Media Research Institute that keep track of what is depicted in the Middle East media and makes it available to the West IN ENGLISH, in the form of subtitled videos and in transcripts. Here is a transcript of Ms. Sultan's debate and here is another link.
Why do I characterize her as brave? This is what happens to critics of Islam, especially upstart women critics. Oh, but that couldn't happen to her; she lives in the United States. Don't bet the farm on that one.