...Even a hardened secular Muslim such as myself was deeply hurt by what I heard that evening. I also was disappointed that the speech was at a synagogue, and the audience almost all Jews.Er, I'm not sure that that's the message she had in mind, Tarek. "Knock it off with Islamic supremacism and the jihad-is-the-way-sharia-is-the-goal stuff," more like.
The speaker who caused me this anguish was Wafa Sultan, the Syrian-born American who shot to fame after her appearance on Al Jazeera Television in 2006, where she tore into the arguments of cleric Ibrahim al-Khouli about the ills of Muslim society. The 30-second clip went viral and won great acclaim even among Muslims who respected her for her candid and honest critique of what ails us as a people.
However, instead of using her newfound fame to challenge the established theocracies and corrupt kingdoms of the Middle east, Sultan veered off the deep end and could not resist the temptation of becoming the poster child of Islam haters, joining their ranks with the fervour of a convert.
Inside a Toronto synagogue last week, where she was debating with Prof. Daniel Pipes whether moderate Islam was a Western ally or a Western myth, Dr. Sultan wasted no time in lashing out at her former faith. Catering to the fears of her predominantly Jewish audience, she said, "Muhammad was a Jew killer." To further inflame the crowd, Wafa Sultan delivered an astonishing account of how the Prophet had slaughtered Jews and then raped the wife of the defeated Jewish tribe.
The vitriol was so severe, it was left to the two Jewish speakers at the debate, the moderator Avi Benlolo and Prof. Pipes to praise Muslims and mention the fact that moderate Muslims were rising up against extremism. Benlolo specifically mentioned the recent 600-page fatwa by the Pakistani cleric Tahir ul Qadri denouncing suicide bombing and terrorism.
However, Wafa Sultan would not have any of that. She chided both Benlolo and Pipes for their naivete. "There is no moderate Islam," she wagged her finger at Pipes. There was only one Islam, she claimed-- the Islam of rape, murder and hate.
To his credit -- and this will surprise many of his Muslim naysayers --Daniel Pipes reminded his Jewish audience that Islam was not the bogeyman it has been made out to be. "Remember, for over 1,000 years, whenever Jews needed a place for sanctuary, they got it in Muslim lands ... The problem is not Islam, it is Islamism," he told them.
I left the synagogue deeply disturbed. In the fight against Islamofascism, Wafa Sultan's hatred of Islam was cultivating the very forces she claims to be exposing. When a questioner asked her "What is the solution?" she just shrugged her shoulders. Perhaps the answer she had in mind was too outrageous even by her own standards: Force Muslims to convert or die...
It's not that Sultan is an "Islamophobe"--that is, someone with an irrational fear/hatred of Islam. It's just that as a former Muslim--an apostate, an outsider--she is no longer a believer and, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, another apostate, is no longer afraid to speak the truth about Islam, warts and all (even though it has earned her a fatwa, a death sentence). As practising Muslims--insiders--who renounce the primacy of sharia, Tarek Fatah and Salim Mansur may bravely criticize other Muslims, but you'll notice they rarely if ever criticize the faith or its founder. For them, the two remain sacrosanct.
What I find disturbing is that Muslims like Fatah and Mansur who "get it" about sharia and who are on the right side of the free speech issue are so unwilling to take a good look at Islam--Islam, not Islamism--and acknowledge some unpleasant truths about it (as, for example, Dr. Tawfik Hamid, that rare Muslim who isn't afraid to tell infidels the awful truth, is willing to do). Then, too, I have the sense that Fatah was particularly upset because Sultan was saying these things to a Jewish audience (i.e. telling it things Jews shouldn't be privy to)--which is also kind of disturbing.
Update: Here's more of Sultan's "Islamophobia" (from a review in FrontPage Magazine of Sultan's book The God Who Hates):
For her part, Sultan emphasizes the fear inherent in Islam, where the Koran’s 99 attributes of God include “The Harmer,” “The Compeller,” “The Imperious,” “The Humiliator,” and “The Bringer of Death.” She traces this to the dangerous environment of the Arabian desert, in which life was fragile and unpredictable, heightening people’s fear of the unknown. She also emphasizes the traditional Bedouin practice of raiding; Bedouins feared raids, yet relied on them for their own survival. Muslims today, too, are governed by the philosophy of raiding, she suggests. She describes an incident soon after she arrived in the United States, in which an Arab neighbor took her to the supermarket:
We went into a Vons market and, once there, she began to open every packet she could, then she began to make holes in the lids of cartons of milk, Jell-O, and cream. Then she made holes in a number of bags of potato chips, packets of paper handkerchiefs, and packets of spaghetti.This hatred of Jews is not peripheral or dependent on Israel or Israeli behavior. Rather, it is deeply rooted in Islam, which divides the world into two parts, Muslim and non-Muslim. As Sultan recalls from her own childhood: “Jew must be one of the words Muslim children hear most frequently before the age of ten. It is also one of the hardest words they hear, as in their imagination it conjures up visions of killing, depravity, lies, and corruption. When one person wishes to express his disdain for another, he will call him a Jew.”
I shouted at her disapprovingly: “Dina, what are you doing?”
“May God curse them. They stole our land!”
“And are you doing this to try to get it back?”
“I’m trying to hurt them! You’re still new here. Don’t you know the owner’s Jewish?”
With some humor, Sultan describes how, early on, she bolted out of a shoe shop in Hollywood, one foot bare, upon discovering that the shop assistant was an Israeli Jew. ”We imbibed with our mother’s milk hatred for the Jews,” she writes, “and for anyone who supported their cause. We justified this hatred by devising a conspiracy theory, and we called anyone who disagreed with us a Zionist agent. This conspiracy theory helped keep Muslims inside the straitjacket in which Islam had imprisoned their minds.”...Yup. She's an "Islamophobe," alright.
Update: Unlike Tawfik Hamid, Tarek Fatah isn't willing to 'fess up to the unsavoury stuff in core Islamic teachings. For him, Islam and its founder are simply unassailable. How is he able to rationalize this non-scrutiny? He does so by arguing that Islam per se is not the problem. The problem arises when Muslims become hellbent on "chasing the mirage" [the title of his book] of an Islamic State."
Here's how he explains it in his book, which he calls "an appeal to those of my co-religionists" who are mirage-chasers:
In this book, I try to demonstrate that from the earliest annals of Islamic history, there have been two streams of Islamic practice, both running concurrently and parallel, but in opposite directions, leading to conflicting outcomes. From the moment the Prophet fo Islam died in 632 CE, some Muslims took the path of strengthening the state of Islam, while others embared on the establishment of an Islamic State.
The prase, "state of Islam" defines the condition of the Muslim in how he or she imbibes the values of Islam to govern personal life and uses faith as a moral compass. In contrast, the "Islamic State" is a political entity: a state, caliphate, sultanate, kingdom, or country that uses Islam as a tool to govern society and control its citizenry. At times, these two objectives overlap each other, but most often they clash. Islamists obsessed with the establishment of the Islamic State have ridden roughshod over Quranic principles and the Prophet's message of equality...Hold it right there, Tarek. You want to talk about chasing mirages? I'd say the notion that Islam's founder preached a message of equality is exactly that--a mirage. Did he say that infidels and women were the "equal" of Muslim men--in other words, equality as we understand it here in the West? Funny, I must have skipped that sura. As for the notion that you can bifurcate things into a "state" and a "State": it's an unwitting reminder of how Islam divvies up the planet--into the "world" of Islam and the "world" that's up for grabs. And the idea that you can take the sharia--the heart and soul, the guts and entrails--out of Islam: sorry, but that's a non-starter. That's why as appealing as Fatah's version of Islam--Islam without its innerds--it is to us kafirs, it is unlikely to entice the majority of Muslims for whom sharia and Islam are one and the same.