By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, December 27, 2007
Frontpage Interviews guest today is Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychologist and internationally known critic of militant Islam.
FP: Wafa Sultan, welcome to Frontpage Interview. It is an honor and privilege to speak with you.
Sultan: I greatly appreciate the opportunity you grant me to voice my thoughts and concerns. The West must take notice of those of us who are willing to take the risk and speak up against Islamic infused hateful ideology.
FP: That's what we are here for my friend.
Let's start with your background. What has been your intellectual and spiritual journey? Who and what influenced you in your youth?
Sultan: I was born and raised in Syria as a Muslim and lived there for the first three decades of my life. It took me many years, profound life experiences and an open mind to evolve into the person I am today. My first turning point took place in 1979 when I was a medical student at the University of Aleppo in Syria, and witnessed the murder of my beloved professor by members of the Islamic brotherhood. They sprayed his body with bullets in front of my eyes while screaming, “Allah Akbar!” (Allah is great.) This experience severely traumatized me and left an indelible emotional scar on me. Since then I began questioning my religion and culture.
My second major turning point was Sep 11th. At the very first day following this hideous catastrophe, I screamed as loud as I could, “Wake up America! Islam is here”, and since then I continue to voice that message. In fact, I view every single day in the US as a turning point.
FP: I am very sorry about your beloved professor and to pry into this painful area, but do you knowthe reason why these murderers decided to take his life? Also, had you been a faithful Muslim until that time? Did the murder make you start thinking about Islam and your faith in a different way? Can you give us a few words on the nature of trauma that you experienced as a person, in the sense of how it changed you and affected who you would become?
Sultan: Those killers have been raised and brainwashed to treat brutally whoever they perceive to be their enemy. Prior to that incident, the Islamic brotherhood were leading a bloody campaign against the Syrian government and resolved to kill whoever belongs to the Syrian president’s religious Islamic sect as an intimidation tactic. My beloved professor was an academic figure who had nothing to do with politics, but he happened to belong to that same Islamic sect.
A few years ago, if you recall, an Egyptian man Muhammad Hidayaat walked into El AL - Israeli airline in LA Airport and randomly shot and killed two people. Did this criminal have anything personal against those victims? Of course, he did not. He was motivated by his hatred against Jews. It’s only one example to illustrate the consequences of religiously motivated hatred.
I was a faithful Muslim up to the moment I witnessed the killing of my teacher. That moment heavily traumatized me and I began to dive deeply into the Islamic texts to figure out what is the nature of G-d I have been worshiping. However, I was not able to freely express my thoughts, until I immigrated to the US where I have been exposed to various cultures and religious beliefs. It’s the power of a liberated mind that helps me to become who I am today. I started to publish my articles in Arabic at the first week I was in the US . Prior to Sep. 11th, I was warned by CAIR official not to cross the “red line.” Believe it or not, even here in America they were trying to prevent me from freely expressing myself. However, the tragedy of 9/11 released all inhibitions and fears and helped me to become who I am today.
FP: A 16-year-old girl, Aqsa
Parvez, was killed by her father in an honor killing in Toronto recently. Your thoughts on that murder?
Sultan: The crime committed by Aqsa
Parvez’s father is a direct product of the Islamic education he received and the influence of the culture he grew up in. I believe that Muslim men, who adhere to these types of immoral deeds, have become criminals by their Islamic induced indoctrination. This is not an isolated case. Similar crimes have been committed daily in various Islamic countries for the last fourteen hundreds years. The Muslim community at large has been muted and has not condemned these types of crimes. Therefore, the civilized world must take strong action against these brutal offenses.
Western governments need to monitor incoming Muslim immigrants and we should also initiate a proper mechanism within the current Islamic enclaves in the west, to rehabilitate those influenced by Islamism and help them learn to cherish our own western human rights standards.
Regarding this particular crime, I am not a law expert, but it made me so furious when I read that the Canadian court has not decided yet if it is going to consider this crime as first or second degree murder. I think the defendant (the father) should be triad and convicted for first degree murder as a deterrent and a means to send a clear message to the Islamic community that the nature of these heinous crimes are unacceptable.
FP: Many Muslims and the leftist media are arguing that Aqsa
Parvez’s murder had nothing to do with Islam. A father orders his daughter to wear the veil and to submit to other dehumanizing rules of Islamic gender apartheid and she resists and he kills her -- but this has nothing to do with Islam. Am I missing something here?
The last time an atheist or Buddhist or Catholic father killed his daughter because she refused to veil herself was when exactly? A father kills his daughter because he tries to force the rules of his religion on her -- but this has nothing to do with his religion? What is this pathology among many Muslims and Western leftists to absolve Islam of what it fertilizes into earthly incarnation? And if this is not about Islam, then where are all the Muslim clerics who are outraged that this has happened and are now issuing fatwas that veiling can never be forced on a woman and that it must always be her choice?
Sultan: I am not surprised that many Muslims deny correlation between Islam and honor killing. Denial is their way to conceal reality. After all, according to them, Sept 11th as well as suicide bombing phenomenon, honor killing and the daily terror acts perpetrated by Muslims all over the world, have nothing to do with Islam. They conveniently blame Israel and American foreign policy for all miseries inflicted by Muslims, so naturally they obscure the roots of the commonly practiced murders as that of Aqsa
Parvez’s. In Pakistan for example, almost daily at least two women are murdered, legitimized as honor killing. Often it’s excused as a cultural phenomenon. Islamic countries do have diverse cultures. In that case, why is honor killing so widespread in the Islamic world? For how long will Muslims mislead the world regarding the nature of Islamic teachings and its culture?
Regarding the leftist media, I wonder what they really know about Islam. What do they base their opinions on? Do they comprehend the extent of the hatred and disrespect the Quran and Hadith instill on men against their women? Are they aware of the numerous Quranic verses like Sura 4.32 where Allah permits husbands to admonish their wives, refuse to share their beds and allows beating them? It’s an utter disgrace for women, especially in the free world to defend and excuse such values.
FP: What do you think about the poll conducted last May among U.S. Muslims that revealed that one in four younger U.S. Muslims support suicide bombings? How come almost none has heard of this and the media didn’t even seem to mention it?
Sultan: I am not surprised to learn the results. I must acknowledge that young Muslims in the US who believe that suicide bombing is justified are well-versed in their religious teaching. The idea of becoming a Shaheed (martyr) by means of suicide is indeed deeply rooted in the Islamic belief system. The Quran states:
“Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods, for theirs (in return) is the Garden (of Paradise ): They fight in His Cause, and slay and are slain” (9/111).
I believe that Muslim clerics in the US have explained this verse in the same way that the clerics in Syria had explained it to me at young age. Growing up, I had always believed that suicide bombing was justified for the cause of being a martyr.
The poll results should motivate us to come up with firm ways to face this crisis. We should inspect what is being taught at Islamic schools and mosques here in the US to identify and treat properly the causing factors of this epidemic.
FP: What is your response to Muslim women who claim that it's their own decision to cover themselves? What is your opinion regarding the veil?
Sultan: Let me tell you a short story:
In 2005, I traveled to Syria with my American friend. We visited a small Syrian
Island (Erwad). My friend noticed that the majority of women in that place were head covered. I asked our tour guide to explain the reasoning behind it. I asked; “are ALL women in this island covered? Without any hesitation he responded; “Yes, they are ALL covered except for few whores.”
So, yes, it might be their decision, but it’s not their choice. When you make a decision, your society does not necessarily allow you to freely choose. The decision in this case is made to avoid humiliation and reprisal by the Muslim community around these women.
Here in the west, I believe that wearing the Hijab is a way for women to identify themselves as Muslims. It is also a tool for Muslims to prove their superiority over other non Muslims and for Muslim man to control their women. Thus, it’s interesting to note that increased number of veiled Muslim women goes hand in hand with Islamic radicalization. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two. Likewise, head cover had been used to differentiate between “true” Muslim women and the inferior female slaves and it has been that way since then.
Lastly, I must mention that I find it unwise for non-Muslim western women to cover their head for show of respect when they visit Muslim lands (One example is Barbara Walters when she interviewed the Saudi King). This attempt to display their respect to Muslims would have been proper if Muslims respected western values equally. Unfortunately, it is not the case; so in essence, by this type of pacification we weaken our own resolve to demand equal respect.
FP: What is a moderate Muslim?
Sultan: It’s a very important question and a subject of tremendous amount of confusion which is triggered in part by the media, many in the academia and Western government officials. We are consistently told that only a small percentage of the Muslim population is radicalized and the rest are considered moderate Muslims. While it’s correct that only a small percentage of Muslims actively support and involved in terror acts, what about the rest?
Muslims who don’t agree with the strategy of terror as a means to accomplish their aspiration, yet consider the supremacist political ideology of Islamic domination under Sharia Law as the legitimate path for Muslims to follow, and do it through “cultural Jihad”, are they considered moderates?
I don’t believe so. In that case, who are moderate Muslims?
In my opinion, a moderate Muslim is one who fully supports separation of state and religion, rejects implementation of Sharia law and believes that it has no binding with Western codes of human-rights. A moderate Muslim is one who respects and supports our western system of liberal democracy; including equal rights of all religions, races and gender.
Last and not least, moderate Muslims ought to be courageous and honest enough to condemn crimes done in the name of Islam and admit that these crimes are all committed with the tacit approval of traditional Islamic theology which has not been reformed yet.
Having said that, only a very small number of Muslims are considered moderates and these people need to be supported and empowered.
FP: What religion do you consider yourself if you don’t mind me asking?
Sultan: Even though I don’t follow any specific religion, I feel spiritually connected to a higher source of being.
FP: Are Islam and democracy compatible?
Sultan: As of yet they are not. Liberal democratic societies adhere to and grant equal rights to all regardless of religion, gender and race. It also separates religion from state. Islam is both religion and state.
Regarding human rights, women are not equal to men. Non Muslims are not equal to Muslims. In the ideal Islamic dominating world, non-Muslims are to be regarded and treated as dhimmi; second class citizens with particular rulings.
FP: What is the appropriate response to the threat of Islamic totalitarianism?
Sultan: First, the west must recognize that Islam is viewed by the majority of devout Muslims not merely as a religion but also as a political ideology of domination. Therefore it should not be treated by the west as a religion only. I have been told numerous times by the Muslim community where I live, that they are here to spread Islam and replace the American Constitution with the Islamic Sharia. One member flatly told me; “wait and see that America will soon collapse.” This is precisely why when 9/11 happened I was shocked but not at least surprised.
Up to February 2006 when my Al Jazeera interview took place, I felt the need to educate only the Arab audience with whom I have been sharing my writings on the issue of Islam. But then, following the interview, through gaining experience during speaking engagements and by being exposed to western audiences, I found out that unfortunately the west also suffers a lack of awareness about the realities of Islamism.
The west must thoroughly understand the Arab mindset. For example, our Arab society follows the Islamic eschatology which does not necessarily value and respect the present life, but equally revere life after - in paradise. Additionally, our concept of time is significantly different from that of the west. There is an Arabic proverb stating that “the Arab man took revenge after 40 years because he was in a hurry…” It highlights the notion that Muslims have the patience to slowly but surely achieve their objective for Islamic domination.
Ignorance is not a choice when dealing with this matter. The west must recognize that Islamism has no place in a liberal democracy and in open societies.
I will conclude with a quote I read by Mrs. Melanie Phillips; a British writer and journalist, from a speech she gave in Sweden last year. She stated; “We must defend our society in two ways; on the negative side we must stop Islamists recruiting to extremism and terrorism in our countries. On the positive side, we must strongly reassert our own values”
Thus, I am asking all free thinking individuals to rally behind my message. I pray that those who cherish our free way of life will march beside those of us; enlightened Arab and Muslims who speak up to save us all from the danger of Islamism. We should all be united in this fight.
FP: Are you optimistic? Where are we heading?
Sultan: I believe that most people in the West genuinely desire to preserve our true democratic liberal values. My fear is that we confuse liberalism with multiculturalism by allowing a minority Islamic fascistic ideology to assert itself as the dominant cultural force. So, in order to win this battle, we must unite whether we are conservatives or liberals, democrats or republicans, right or left, and defend our way of life; human-rights, freedom of speech, modernity, equality and forward thinking.
FP: When the Soviet Empire was tormenting its millions of victims, brave and heroic dissidents like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Ginsburg, Andrei Sakharov, Natan
Sharansky and many others stood up against the despotism that was brutalizing and suffocating its people. Today, as the totalitarian force of Islamism wages its viciousness, we have a new generation of heroes and dissidents, such as Wafa Sultan, who risk their lives for the triumph of the human spirit and for liberty.
From where does Wafa Sultan get her courage? From where do you get your inspiration to battle against these dark forces, often single-handedly? What, in the end, drives you and makes you tick, and gives you the power to sacrifice so much, including even potentially your own life, for the cause of freedom?
Sultan: I am inspired by every single moment of my life in America . The sheer experience of walking freely in the street without being accused of being a whore is a blessing for me and an experience that I will die to defend.
In my first interview on Al Jazeera I was asked “why are you trying to be American more than Americans”? I responded that I don’t take my American freedom, for granted, as many Americans do. I was born and raised in hell and I moved to live in Paradise . I know the difference between these two diametrically different worlds. I am now living the life I choose to live, and not the life I was forced to live for the first three decades of my life. Therefore, I feel morally obligated to defend it. On the other hand, I can’t forget the Muslim women I left behind, whom I feel morally obligated to defend as well. Yet, I am not alone waging this battle, but rather inspired by many other heroic women like Nonie Darwish and Ayaan
Harsi Ali, and fortunately, I am also supported by many wonderful people; both in the Us and in the Arabic world. Only today for example, I received an e-mail from a group of highly educated people living in Iraq . They formed an organization and named it; “The friends of Wafa Sultan”.
FP: For those readers interested, click here to see one of Wafa Sultan’s most powerful performances on Al-Jazeera.
Thank you Wafa Sultan. We hope you will visit Frontpagemag.com again soon.
Sultan: Thank you so much. I am and always will be delighted to be a guest of Front Page Magazine.