Dr. Wafa Sultan
& Her 1.2 Bn ‘Psychiatric Patients’
A few weeks ago an interesting
article in Los Angeles Times caught my attention.
It was about the formerly obscure and now well-known
Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan who had
in February of this year renounced her Islamic faith
on Al Jazeera television. She woke up to the realization
that the religion she was born in and raised in
was an evil religion and that there was no hope
of reforming the religion or its 1.2 billion followers
whom she called psychiatric patients. Since then
she has become a minor celebrity and along with
Irshad Munji a poster child for Islamophobes and
Recently Dr. Sultan was the featured speaker at
a fundraiser in Los Angeles for a Jewish organization
that seeks to counteract anti-Israel disinformation
and propaganda. In her remarks she claimed to be
a secular human being with no ties to any organized
religion. Then she went on to broadside Islam and
Muslims to the delight of her cheering hosts. In
that partisan crowd however there were a few voices
of reason that were not blinded by her misplaced
attacks on the entire edifice of the religion.
One was Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein of the Wilshire
Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and the other was
Judea Pearl, father of the Wall Street Journal reporter
Daniel Pearl who was mercilessly murdered in Karachi
by terrorists in early 2002. Rabbi Stein was so
outraged by her remarks and the jubilant response
of the crowd that he wrote the piece for LA Times.
According to the Rabbi Stein her attacks on Islam
and Muslims were on tenuous and superficial ground.
For example, she said that since Qur’an is
in Arabic, it can only be understood by Arab Muslims.
All others follow merely an interpretation of the
Arabic text. Rabbi Stein draws an interesting parallel
with the Jewish Bible (The Old Testament). To him
the translation of Hebrew Bible poses many more
formidable translation problems than translation
of the Arabic Qur’an. Are Christians and Jews
who cannot read the Jewish Bible in Hebrew, asks
the rabbi, ill equipped by its message?
Judea Pearl took exception to Dr. Sultan’s
contention that Qur’an contains only verses
of evil and domination and suggested that there
were verses advocating peace that the followers
of religion uphold as the religion’s true
intent. To Mr. Pearl the verses on war and brutality
were nothing more than ‘cultural baggage’
that can also be found in the Torah. Unfortunately
his words were drowned out, wrote Rabbi Stein, by
the full-court press against Islam and Muslims.
In the same article the Rabbi draws an interesting
parallel between violent passages in the Qur’an
and the Bible. What if down the street from this
gathering, he muses, was a roomful of Muslims listening
to a self-loathing Jew, cheering her on as she spoke
of the evils inherent in the Torah, in which it
is commanded that a child must be stoned to death
if he insults his parent and in which Israelites
are ordered by God to conquer cities and, in so
doing, to kill all women and children. By doing
that this imagined Jew would be completely ignoring
all of what Judaism teaches.
Rabbi Stein also wrote about the wonderful relations
Jews and Muslims have fostered in Las Angeles area.
He particularly mentioned the groundbreaking efforts
of the Islamic Center of Southern California and
the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in promoting interfaith
understanding and accommodation. Groups of The Jews,
Christians and Muslims have traveled to Israel and
the Palestinian territories as pilgrims. They visit
each other’s places of worship to pray together
and the children are taught about the significance
of other religious holidays in their respective
schools. But despite being a resident of southern
California Dr. Sultan is apparently unaware of the
‘non-violent and non-evil’ work being
done by Muslims under her very nose.
Religion is a mater of choice. There is no compulsion
for anyone to follow any particular faith. But why
would some Jewish groups think that they could raise
money by maligning another faith? And why do the
hateful and distorted speech of the Sultans and
Munjis of this world resonate with them? Just imagine
if the tables were turned as in Rabbi Stein’s
what if scenario. They would be screaming bloody
murder and would not hesitate to label all cheering
participants as anti-Semitic.