Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rabbi Dismayed by Message of Wafa Sultan, ‘Islam’s Ann Coulter’

In an opinion article for the LA Times, Stephen Julius Stein, a rabbi and director of inter-religious programming at Wilshire Boulevard Temple gives his impressions of Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychologist who immigrated to southern California in 1989 and was voted one of Time Magazine’s 100 “pioneers and heroes.”

Stein begins by telling the reader that Sultan gave a “legendary” interview on Al Jazeera television, where she claims that “the Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations,” and “[she doesn’t] believe you can reform Islam.”

His next statements describe how Sultan began her speech at a fundraiser for a Jewish organization. “‘I have 1.3 billion patients,’ she quipped…referring to the global Muslim population. Sultan went on to condemn inhuman acts committed in God’s name, to denounce Islamic martyrdom and to decry terror as a tool to subjugate communities.” To Stein, these statements made prefect sense.

Then, he says, “this provocative voice said something odd. [Sultan claims that] ‘only Arab Muslims can read the Koran properly because you have to speak Arabic to know what it means—you cannot translate it.’” Stein finds this statement hard to believe. He says that “any translation by definition, is interpretation, and Arabic is no more difficult to read than Hebrew. So, are Christians and Jews who cannot read it [the Bible] ill-equipped to live by its meanings?”

Sultan then claims that “all Muslim women—even American ones, though they won’t admit it—are living in a state of domination.” Stein has problems with this thought too, citing many of his own friends as examples. “There is no subjugation in the homes of American Muslim women I know. They are equal, fully contributing members of their families.”

The more Sultan talked, the more “evident it became that progress in the Muslim world was not her interest,” Stein says. “Even more troubling,” he says, “it was not what the Jewish audience wanted to hear about. Applause, even cheers, interrupted her calumnies.” Stein says that his “disappointment in and disagreement with Sultan turned into dismay.” According to Stein, “she never alluded to any healthy, peaceful Islamic alternatives.”

Stein says that in the midst of Sultan’s statements this thought occurred to him: “What if down the street there was a roomful of Muslims listening to a self-loathing Jew, cheering her on as she spoke of the evils inherent in the Torah—and this imagined Jew completely ignored all of what Judaism teaches afterward?”

To read this opinion article in full, click here.


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