Wafa Sultan in February appearance on Al-Jazeera
LAS VEGAS – President Bush is undermining criticism vital to the survival of Western civilization and empowering terrorist leaders by proclaiming Islam a “religion of peace,” says one of the most outspoken critics to emerge from the Muslim world in recent years.
Wafa Sultan, a native of Syria, seized attention worldwide in February when her electrifying interview on Al-Jazeera television spread across the Internet through a video clip produced by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Named this year to Time Magazine’s list of 100 influential people in the world, Sultan spoke with WND after addressing a symposium on radical Islam and terrorism in Las Vegas hosted by America’s Truth Forum. She understands Bush’s position as president and believes he is only trying to be diplomatic, but insists, nevertheless, his words are “empowering” Muslim leaders whose ultimate aim is for Islamic law to govern the world.
“I believe he undermines our credibility by saying that,” said Sultan. “We came from Islam, and we know what kind of religion Islam is.”
In her February Al-Jazeera appearance, which has brought her death threats, she asserted the world is witnessing “a battle between modernity and barbarism which Islam will lose.”
President Bush with Muslim leaders in 2004 (White House photo)
The video clip is estimated to have been viewed at least 1 million times, according to the New York Times.
Sultan, who identifies herself as a secular ex-Muslim, told WND she would urge Bush to take a closer look at Islamic culture and its general embrace of violence as a means of establishment and expansion.
“Facts are very stubborn things. Facts are facts,” she said. “If you are not familiar with Islamic culture, how can you claim Islam is a peaceful religion?”
The White House declined WND’s request to respond to Sultan’s comments.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the president has made an effort to reach out to Muslim leaders at home and abroad to assure them the U.S. is not in a war against Islam.
President Bush at White House Ramadan dinner with Muslim leaders in 2004 (White House photo)
Six days after 9-11, Bush told Muslims in remarks at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
In an October 2002 speech in Washington, the president said, “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”
But Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islam who also spoke at the Las Vegas conference, contends President Bush and other Western leaders don’t need to make any pronouncements about the nature of Islam at all.
“They would be much wiser to limit themselves to declaring that their foes wish to impose Islamic sharia (law) rule upon their countries and the world, and that they are going to lead the resistance to that,” Spencer writes in his best-selling, controversial book, “The Truth About Muhammad.”
‘This is your Quran’
Sultan, a psychiatrist, said that amid the death threats, she has received a flood of correspondence from Muslim men and women from around the world, using assumed names, who are “encouraging me to keep up doing what I am doing.”
“Once they feel protected, they will come out and speak up, I believe,” she said.
One e-mail came from a man in Morocco who said he grew up in a family of mullahs.
“He printed out all my articles and made a small book out of them,” Sultan said. “He gave them to his 17-year-old son and he said, ‘Son, from now on this is your Quran.’”
Sultan told the Nov. 11 America’s Truth Forum symposium the turning point of her life came in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo in Syria and witnessed the murder of a teacher by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the terrorist organization founded in Egypt in 1928 that spawned groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Symbol of Muslim Brotherhood reads “… and be prepared”
“They filled his body with bullets while screaming, ‘Allah is great,’” she said. “I was traumatized, and I started questioning what kind of god we worshiped.”
Sultan came to the U.S. in 1989 with her husband, David, and they later became naturalized citizens.
“I decided to fight this ideology of hatred,” she said, “and began to search for a new place to do what I do freely.
“And here I am doing what I do,” she said to applause.
But Sultan admitted wounds remain.
“Islam is a very painful chapter of my life, and it doesn’t matter how much I try to close this chapter and move on with my life – I will never be able to heal the ugly scar Islam left in my heart,” she told the Las Vegas conferees.
Sultan contended, contrary to prevailing wisdom, Islam has been a major problem for the world since its inception more than 1,400 years ago.
“We need to find an effective way to deal with Islam, but it must be based on truth and honesty,” she said.
Previous dialogue has failed, because it hasn’t been based on truth, she said, and has ended up “empowering the fanatics.”
“It’s time to face the Islamic world and discuss with them the problems in the Islamic faith, without fear,” said Sultan.
While many Muslim leaders and non-Muslim apologists insist terrorists have “hijacked” Islam, Sultan asserts people such as those who kidnapped and beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 are “true Muslims.”
Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders are simply following the example of Muhammad, who “committed the most brutal acts against those who opposed him,” she said.
By contrast, she told of meeting Pearl’s mother, Ruth.
“The forgiveness and love she has in her heart is stunning,” Sultan said. “She believes that by showing Muslims love and forgiveness they will see the faults and reform.”
But Sultan cautioned that while many Muslims are inclined to this “civilized way of dealing with humans,” the “thinking process doesn’t fit with people who have been taught the true Muslim faith.”
Speaking of Muslims in Western nations in particular, Sultan said regardless of how much help and benefit they receive from their country, they “will always be loyal first to Islam.”
In Islam, as taught in the Quran, she said, there is no guilt toward any action against non-Muslims.
Peace, she said, is impossible to achieve with true Muslim believers.
“You must realize that for the Israelis to make peace with Palestinians, they must make peace with every Muslim country in the world. The Iranian president says Israel must be wiped out. What did Israel do to Iran?”
Muslims, she said, are coming to the U.S. and using the country’s constitutional freedom of religion to advance an alien system that seeks political dominance.
It’s time to “define what constitutes a religion,” Sultan urged.
“Please don’t let your civilized way become your worst enemy and become a weak point in protecting the country and the rest of the world,” she concluded.
Some of Sultan’s critics complain she has no authority to criticize Islam because she no longer is a Muslim. Los Angeles Times reporter Teresa Watanabe argued Sultan had “never been connected with progressive Islamic groups and does not know the writings of Islam’s most respected voices of reform.”
In an interview with CNN, Hussam Ayloush, director of the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, called Sultan “Islamophobic” and insisted “reform is alive and well within Islam, but it will only happen by those from within Islam and not those who hate Islam.”
But CAIR, a group that has had access to the White House, is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a “front group” for the terrorist group Hamas. Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terror-related charges, and the group’s chairman of the board, Omar Ahmad, was cited by a California newspaper in 1998 declaring Muslims are here in the U.S. to make Islam dominant, with the Quran America’s highest authority.
Wafa Sultan spars with Al-Jazeera host Faisal al-Qasim
Sultan’s February interview found her squaring off with Al-Jazeera host Faisal al-Qasim and Islamic scholar Ibrahim Al-Khouli about Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” theory. The exchange took place on the 90-minute discussion program “The Opposite Direction,” with Sultan speaking via satellite from Los Angeles.
Sultan: “The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations,” she 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. 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.”
Al-Qasim: “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?”
Wafa Sultan and Islamic scholar Ibrahim Al-Khouli
Sultan: “Yes, that is what I mean.”
Al-Qasim: “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. …”
Sultan: “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 Muslims 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.”
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