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April 2006
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From Here and There

Battle between Modernity and Barbarism



Dr Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims. After an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al-Jazeera television recently, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel.


In the interview, Sultan bitterly criticised the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and the Quran for 14 centuries. She said the world’s Muslims, whom she compares unfavourably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence. 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. “ I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings,” says Sultan, 47, who wears a prim sweater and skirt, with fleece-lined slippers and heavy stockings. “ 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 out 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.”


“The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations. 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,” said Sultan. (Hindustan Times, March 12, 2006)