March 11, 2006

Wafa Sultan to Muslims: Emulate the Jews.

Here's a piece about the Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan, who gave "an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21" and became "an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die."
She said the world's Muslims, whom she compares unfavorably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence.

Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose....

"Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs."

Perhaps her most provocative words on Al Jazeera were those comparing how the Jews and Muslims have reacted to adversity. Speaking of the Holocaust, she said, "The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling."

She went on, "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."

She concluded, "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."
It's good to know that Dr. Sultan's voice is being heard so widely via the internet.

A biographical detail:
[H]er life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. At that time, the radical Muslim Brotherhood was using terrorism to try to undermine the government of President Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said.

"They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."
Many individuals give up the religion they were taught as children. Usually the events that lead to the change of heart are not so dramatic. Yet here, the thing that repelled the believer was intended to lock believers more tightly into the faith. Does frightening people keep or lose believers? The answer lies in Sultan's statement: "Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking." It is by keeping people in the dark that a religion succeeds through fear. Why would the educated persons within the religion want to proceed in that fashion? Isn't the answer quite obvious? Those people seek political power.


ShadyCharacter said...


1) Re: all religions having blood on "their" hands (especially the Jews). What is your point? Is it that in the world today Buddhists, Islamists, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews and Wiccans are all equally "bloodthirsty" or that they are all equally prone to bloodletting as religiously motivated, mandated and/or excused acts? If that's not your point, then what is?

2) Can you comprehend a moral difference between killings in different contexts? If Bob rapes and murders a child, is that morally equivalent to the State of California executing Bob? If a rogue state (Iraq) lobs scuds into civilian centers of another country (Israel); is that morally indistinguishable from unintended collateral deaths from a US bombing campaign aimed at military and strategic targets in Iraq? If terrorists murder Jewish athletes to make an religio-political point, is that indistinguishable from the State of Israel hunting down and killing those same terrorists before they can carry out similar attacks against other Jews? [What if we receive evidence of Osama’s presence in a terrorist training camp and bomb it? How is this scenario different from the Munich example except that Spielberg hasn’t gotten around to crafting a movie to humanize Osama and dehumanize the US military – though just give it 10 years…?]

If you really, truly, deep in your soul, cannot distinguish between these cases, or even comprehend that such intrinsic differences can exist, then you would be a moral idiot. I’m not implying that you would be “stupid”, I mean that you would be lacking a fundamental component of human intellect. You’d be like a 5 year old who gets equally mad at his friend when he’s accidentally bonked by a poorly thrown baseball as when he’s intentionally pegged with a rock - with intentionality and proportionality being completely left out of the moral calculus.

Of course, you’re not so lacking. Rather, you are simply attempting to square a round peg – justifying your instinctual dislike of “oppressors” (i.e. Western people who lead a “comfortable” middle class life with a Starbucks on every corner -people such as yourself) vis-à-vis your romantic vision of the various third world “oppressed” populations (i.e. any underdog, preferably with an exotic language, brown skin and quaint customs). This is a common adolescent leftist predilection – usually only maintained into adulthood by academics and journalists. Which are you?

Say a former gang member goes on TV and says “Wake up and stop raping, robbing, killing and stealing! It’s simply wrong and life would be better if we gang members would instead emulate the Korean shopkeepers we so often brutalize.”

Why in the world would someone like you feel the need to point out that Korean shopkeepers are not morally superior to gang members because after all, some Korean shopkeepers cheat on their taxes, oh oh oh, and there was that case where a Korean shopkeeper shot a robber, but it turned out that the robber was just a confused teenager who didn’t mean any real harm, and ooh ooh ooh and North Korea is an evil country where they kill a lot of people so Koreans aren’t all that great!!!!!

ShadyCharacter said...

I'll leave it up to others without such a big axe to grind as yourself to tell me if I need to up the coherency quotient, Dave.

For now, I'll take your non-responsiveness as evidence of your unwillingness to address any of my points!

Good day, Sir.

Anonymous said...

"Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking." It is by keeping people in the dark that a religion succeeds through fear. Why would the educated persons within the religion want to proceed in that fashion? Isn't the answer quite obvious? Those people seek political power.

Bush v. Science>

A Time magazine cover story today shines a spotlight on Bush's relationship of convenience with science. Mark Thompson and Karen Tumulty write that "growing numbers of researchers, both in and out of government, say their findings -- on pollution, climate change, reproductive health, stem-cell research and other areas in which science often finds itself at odds with religious, ideological or corporate interests -- are being discounted, distorted or quashed by Bush Administration appointees. the past two years, the Union of Concerned Scientists has collected the signatures of more than 8,000 scientists -- including 49 Nobel laureates, 63 National Medal of Science recipients and 171 members of the National Academies -- who accuse the Administration of an unprecedented level of political intrusion into their world. 'There have always been isolated incidents where people have played politics with science,' says Francesca Grifo, director of the group's Scientific Integrity Program. 'What's new is its pervasive and systemic nature. We get calls every week from federal scientists reporting stuff to us.'

Ann, I don't know how you can slice and dice Bush up in the way you do: Oh I don't support that, and I don't support that, but I do support that, and that is clearly the only correct legal opinion, I don't support that, and I don't support that, but that could be a legal argument and we are in a war after all.

On every front Ann, Bush leads a group of thugs who act against America's interests and act only in the name of political power and money.

Slicing and dicing opinions up while ignoring their context will not get you what you seek. And you will be ashamed of your defenses of Bush and his actions in later years.

ShadyCharacter, it is indeed a shady characteristic to call anything you don't like "leftist". Begone Troll!

Anonymous said...

I agree with shady. When the right can explain how they can support abandoning frozen embryos unused after IVF but not the morning after pill (Plan B, for example) or how they can claim the rights of the rapist have precedence over the victim by enacting the South Dakota Abortion Bill that will not give victims of rapists the right to abort, I will consider their point of view.

Until then, it sounds like they want me and you to do whatever they want and they do not want to be held accountable.

Mirror Mirror David

amba said...

Of course you always run a danger when you set up any group of people as a paragon, even if you only mean it as a comparative paragon. Right away someone will find flaws, exceptions. Jews are human. My Pentecostal friend always says, "Don't look to men." That statement impressed me, even though her solution -- look to Jesus, the only perfect man because he was God -- doesn't quite work for me.

That doesn't make the comparison invalid between two groups' ways of responding to misfortune and tragedy. The comparison is valid, but even as you justly blame people for making bad choices, you have to be aware of the weight of culture behind those choices. Jews survived and even thrived over centuries of oppression by having a culture of solidarity, adaptability and striving. Huge emphasis on education and achievement. Arabs had a culture of honor and shame, as so well described here by Dr. Sanity. It's so much less adaptive. It's an "I'll take my football and go home and come back and kill you" culture instead of an "I'll go home and train hard and come back and kick your ass next time" culture. It not only lacks the confidence to compete, it doesn't even have the concept.

Which is just to say that poor and uneducated people in any culture are ill-equipped to suddenly start thinking independently and making better choices (though it's not impossible), especially just when they are being exploited by politicos pressing their emotional buttons. Sultan is certainly right that education is crucial. Imagine "moderate madrassas" that fed and cared for their pupils better than the competition . . .

Sorry to go on so long . . . procrastination day . . .

Troy said...

Great post Shady -- quite coherent (do you have any coherence to spare?)

Quxxo -- calling someone else a troll is quite droll (that could be done better by the donut guy)and brings up a pot/kettle issue.

Unknown said...

"Those people seek political power."

Exactly. And money. IMO that's why the so-called civil wars in ME (e.g., Lebanon and now Iraq) resemble Mafia wars for spoils more than wars of ideas. They never end, because the gangs do not want civil society--it's not as profitable. Calling one's gang a national liberation movement does not make it so, even though it does provide a nice platform for the disaffected of the world to project their own psychic anxieties upon. (Shady and amba are right on with their analysis of this.)

Wafa Sultan is the antithesis of this gangland style rule, which so far has liberated...well, Suha Arafat is doing well.

bearbee said...

Wafa Sultan video clip #1050

Ann Althouse said...

Bearbee: Thanks! I was surprised at how strong and emphatic her speech is. That woman is inspired! I love that she is so passion about science.

Freeman Hunt said...

Based on a quick look at his blog, Dave is not a leftist. My snap judgement is that he is more of a libertarian, and that he generally dislikes religion. (Pro tax reform, pro death penalty, pro free markets, pro gay marriage, anti Roe v. Wade for constitutional reasons, etc.)

That said, I did enjoy Shady's post. I thought it was both coherent and apt.