Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Anger and an agenda: an explosive mix

By Sabria S. Jawhar
The Saudi Gazette

Al-Jazeera was forced to apologize last week when guest Wafa Sultan on the segment "The Opposite Direction" defended the publication of the Danish cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), then spent most of her airtime insulting Muslims by saying the cartoons were reflecting the truth of Islam.

The Syrian-born Sultan has been on Al-Jazeera before so the station knew what to expect from her. The news channel was right to apologize.The Danish cartoons have caused an uproar among Muslims worldwide. To have her on the program and spew insults only added insult to injury.Sultan has made a name for herself since 9/11 giving speeches and writing articles that condemns Islam as barbaric.

She is a darling of Western media. She satisfies their concept of what a good Muslim should be. So whenever a Western news outlet wants a Muslim to attack his or her own religion with extremist views, she tops their list.

I never paid much attention to people like Sultan, but her comments have drawn so much attention I decided to watch the interview. I saw an angry woman who only used the Danish cartoon issue to further her own agenda, and she often referred to Muslims as "you" as if she is distancing herself from her own culture and "religion",if she has any. Her single-mindedness in attacking Islam often led her off the topic of the segment.

Sultan claims to be a Muslim but doesn't believe in Islam. I've heard she sometimes says she is an ex-Muslim. Well, what is she or what does she want to be? What is the motive for having her on the program? To give her fame? It's the only motive I can think of since she isn't clear on her political and religious stand. She is a contradiction in the most starkest terms. From what I can glean from her rantings is that if we want the West to perceive us in a better light, then we should conform to their concept of what is Islam. Is that our ultimate goal? To be perceived better in the West by changing our religious values? What kind of a mentality is that?

My impression of the news segment was that Sultan did not speak as a scholar or expert on Islam, but as a hurt and angry woman. From what I understand of her background, she was reportedly traumatized when she was a 21-year-old student in Damascus when she witnessed one of her professors murdered by terrorists. This led to her crisis of faith.This might explain her hatred for her own culture and religion. This explains why she is a single-note critic of Islam. This is why she parrots non-Muslims who use fear and hate to attack Islam. But it doesn't justify having her on the program.It's also interesting that Southern California InFocus, a Muslim newspaper in the United States, conducted an investigation of Sultan that casts doubt on her story about the assassinated professor. The investigation also revealed that she lived in poverty and had little interest in politics until her instant fame once she appeared on Al-Jazeera.

What makes Sultan a fraud and an opportunist is that she has virtually no credentials to speak on Islam. She is an American citizen and a psychiatrist. She is not a theologian, a scholar or even an expert in political affairs. She's an angry, hurt woman with an agenda.But Western media find her entirely credible. After all, she is a Muslim and that gives her a pass in the West as an expert. This is why I am surprised Al-Jazeera would give her airtime in the first place.

Egyptian Tal'at Rmeih, the guest appearing opposite Sultan, expressed opinions that Muslims should exercise the rights of boycotting Danish products and staging demonstrations outside Danish embassies.Sultan's extremist remarks neither fit Rmeih's sensible, moderate comments or the opening tone of the show. She came out swinging at all things Islamic and did not even directly respond to Rmeih's views. Al-Jazeera would have served its viewers better if it found a moderate Muslim, and not necessarily one well known. If the news channel wanted an opposing view to Rmeih, then it could have found a Muslim or even non-Muslim with a Western viewpoint who would defend the publication of the cartoons without resorting to anti-Muslim rhetoric.

What I found traumatic with this highly inflammatory interview is that I hear this kind of hatred in English from Westerners. While I don't hear it often to my face, it doesn't surprise me when I do. But to hear it these hurtful things in Arabic, it makes me sick to my stomach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i missed the programme but can imagine the glee of the west for having yet another "Muslim" doing what they love. reminds me of hirsi the somali woman who first lied in order to get asylum and then turned full blast against Islam so as to be let off the hook. she now dines with the powerful in usa. is this the way they want to dialogue with muslims?
anyway i enjoyed your blog and would be a regular. you may check my own if you have time: hajia.blogspot.com