dr. sultan and the clash of cultures

Since appearing on the Al Jazeera satellite network in February, Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychiatrist living in California, has been repeatedly threatened with death by Islamic fundamentalists. (You can see the Al Jazeera footage here. I highly recommend it.) I suppose it’s possible that you could interpret some of her views on Islamic extremists to be racist, but I find it refreshing. It’s not so often that you get to hear the voice of a Middle Eastern secularist… Here’s a clip from the New York Times on the circumstances behind her realization that Islamic extremism doesn’t offer tenable solutions to the world’s problems:

…But, she said, her 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”…

In recent years, Dr. Sultan has been writing for an Islamic reform website run by another Syrian expatriate in the United States. Her work on the site, called “Annaqed” (The Critic), has led to the draft of a book entitled, “The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster.”

While her anger may cause her to occasionally go too far in her criticism of the Muslim faith, I find her courage refreshing and my heart swells at the prospect of an open debate on fanaticism taking place within the Muslim world. It’s long overdue… One just hopes that her courage is contagious and that other pro-science, pro-modernity Muslims step forward and join in the discussion.

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