If publishing a bunch of cartoons results in significant death and destruction around the world, imagine what it must require to actually speak critically of Islam on an Arabic television program. Dr Wafa Sultan has — how should I put it — gonads the size of the globe. A Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, she is talking. Her talk is not pretty.
Here is a video clip of her appearance of Feb 21st on Al Jajeera. This video has been downloaded millions of times.
To judge by her appearances on al Jazeera, Los Angeles psychologist Wafa Sultan is the very definition of fearlessness. Face-to-face with radical Islamists before millions of potentially hostile viewers around the Arab world, Ms. Sultan — a secular Arab American fluent in Arabic — does not flinch when called a heretic and a blasphemer. For all we know, she is endangering her life.
She has received death threats, naturally.
I am of course unconditionally in favor of free speech and free beliefs. My most memorable line from her confrontation with her Egyptian interlocutor Mr. Al-Khouli (who had compared Christians to apes and pigs) after he had called her a heretic is, “Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don’t throw them at me.”
I could not have said it better. I don’t care what you believe in or what you hold sacred, just don’t go on a murderous spree if I refuse to share your beliefs or your views. All the good things that the world has to offer arose out of the enlightenment which is congruent with the freedom of humans to think thoughts that could be considered heretical and blasphemous. I have defended the freedom of speech, although I would have wished that it needed no defense. All development — including economic development — is predicated on the freedom of speech and expression. India needs to understand that. Otherwise India will continue to be part of that backward set that kills people for speaking their truth.
Dr Wafa Sultan’s days are numbered. So I bow deep in recognition of the courage that she displays in speaking because she is in effect signing her own death sentence.
Breaking news: Bombs recovered from local train station in Mumbai. I expect that Dr Manmohan Singh will ask people to stay calm and go about their business as usual. Ms Sonia Gandhi has saris already. Would anyone like to contribute to a fund for buying saris for her handmaidens who don’t have saris?