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Dr. Wafa Sultan Seeks Radical Change From Radical Islam

Dr. Wafa Sultan is in hiding, fearful for her life and the safety of her family, after she lambasted the roots of radical Islam during a debate televised on Al-Jazeera last month.
By Debbie Berman
First Publish: 3/13/2006, 1:14 PM / Last Update: 3/13/2006, 3:08 PM

Dr. Sultan is leading a struggle to create a new reality in the Islamic world, which she believes should be led by none other than the women it has oppressed for so long. Born in Syria and now a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist, Dr. Sultan has taken upon herself the mission of trying to change the way the Islamic world operates.

Dr. Sultan spoke with IsraelNationalRadio's Tovia Singer in her first English-language interview since the Al-Jazeera debate. “I am trying to change the mentality of my people. They have been hostages of their own beliefs and teachings for 14 centuries. No hostage can break the laws of his prison and get out by himself. An outsider has to help him escape his prison,” Dr. Sultan stated.

“I have been asking who the savior is and answering myself by saying it is me. My people are in the middle of nowhere lost and confused. Humanity’s caravan has passed them by and they are too far from catching it. By changing their way of thinking, I am changing their behavior and eventually their future.”

Dr. Sultan is determined to see her task through to fruition, despite its dangerous and difficult nature. “Most of the reactions from my readers and audience from all over the Islamic world to my writings and debates have been very positive and encouraging," she explained passionately. "My task is absolutely not easy, but it is not impossible; it is a million-mile journey and I proudly believe that I have walked the very first and hardest ten miles. It may seem to others that it is too hard and too long but believe me, I can assure you that the point I have reached does not allow me to make any u-turns. I have opened the door for advancement. Everyone was asking himself who is going to do it, and I told myself it is me."

Dr. Sultan explained that her perspective on Islam changed radically after she bore witness to the murder of her college professor at the hands of Islamic extremists acting in the name of Allah:
“The year 1979 was the turning point of my life. I was a medical student at the University of Aleppo in Syria. At that time, the Brotherhood of Islam committed very bloody and ugly crimes against innocent Syrian people in the name of their God. I witnessed the killing of my professor, a great human being who had nothing to do with the government. They filled his body with hundreds of bullets before my eyes while screaming Allah is great. At that moment I was traumatized. I had just lost trust in their God and started to question his teachings. This event was the turning point that has led me to the present point.”

Dr. Sultan explained that during her upbringing in Syria she was raised to hate Jews:
“Up to the very first day that I immigrated to America, I used to believe that Jewish people were not human creatures, that they had different features, different voices than the human race. Unfortunately this is the way I was raised."

She said that it was only through meeting and interacting with Jews on a personal basis that her views began to shift: “I have discovered how wrong we were. The more I work with them the more I find out we are all human beings. The first experience I had in the medical field was with a Jewish doctor. We were four Muslim women in his program, and he treated us very well. My experience is great, so I have to break this taboo and tell my people the truth."

During her Al-Jazeera debate, Dr. Sultan praised the high moral standard of the Jewish people, demonstrated by their restrained and resilient response to suffering. “The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. 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,” Dr. Sultan stated.

In contrast, Dr. Sultan points to the murderous tendencies of Islam. “The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them,” explained Dr. Sultan.

Instead of perpetuating the cycle of hate and bloodshed, Dr. Sultan advocates creating connection and communication between Arabs and Jews to foster tolerance and compassion. “There is a saying ‘Get to know your enemy in order to know how to fight him.’ Far from this saying I would say, ‘Get to know your enemy in order to befriend him.’ Once you know how much suffering your enemy is going through, you will be more compassionate and eventually more tolerant. Get people on both sides to know each other, to communicate with each other,” Wafa implored.

Dr. Sultan called out to women who have traditionally been severely oppressed in the Islamic world to seek out leadership roles in the battle to rid Islam of its militant influences. “I would like to tell every woman in the Islamic world, 'you are a true leader. Our people are not going anywhere unless you get in the driver's seat and drive our new generation safely to their destination. You are by your nature more flexible.' I would like to tell every woman that men have proved nothing but their failure, by keeping you out of the big picture they misled us and took us from one disaster to another. I would like to tell every woman believe in yourself and play your role,” Wafa maintained, stressing that the innate nature of women lends itself to compromise and peacemaking.

“Mother Nature has given you the ability to conceive and give birth to life, and I am sure has also armed you with the skills to preserve this life. You are by every means a peaceful creature and by practicing your natural skills and playing your natural role you will be able to lead your divided and broken world to a peaceful better life. The bright future I am hoping for is not too far away,” Wafa stated, envisioning a new reality in the future where all Muslim women will be free to speak their minds openly. “What I am saying right now, if a Muslim woman were to say it in ten years from now she will say it not from her home in the United States but from her home in Saudi Arabia,” Dr. Sultan said.