Canada: From an ex-Muslim, true Islamophobia
The words stung me like a jolt of electricity: "Muhammad was a child rapist." As if the slur were not sufficient, the speaker then insinuated my Islamic faith was filth. "I am 'clean' of Islam," she sneered to her Toronto audience. As far as hate speech goes, the shoe was suddenly on the other foot. By Tarek Fatah.
For years, radical Islamists have cited freedom of speech to defend their attacks on Christians, Jews, Hindus and liberal non-observant Muslims. A hateful tone is never far from the surface -- although great care is taken to couch this cancer in ambiguity and double-speak. Take for instance the Toronto imam caught on videotape praying to Allah for the "defeat of the kufaar," a thinly disguised reference to Christians and Jews.
As a Muslim, I learned very early in life to walk in my adversaries' shoes to feel their pain. This is why I have not shied away from calling a spade a spade and outing the segregationist hate mongers within my community, an effort that has paid dividends in the slow decline of overt anti-Semitism and Hinduhatred in the public religious discourse of Western Muslims.
But last week, it was not a Muslim cleric whose speech traumatized me; it was the words of an ex-Muslim.
Even a hardened secular Muslim such as myself was deeply hurt by what I heard that evening. I also was disappointed that the speech was at a synagogue, and the audience almost all Jews.
The speaker who caused me this anguish was Wafa Sultan, the Syrian-born American who shot to fame after her appearance on Al Jazeera Television in 2006, where she tore into the arguments of cleric Ibrahim al-Khouli about the ills of Muslim society. The 30-second clip went viral and won great acclaim even among Muslims who respected her for her candid and honest critique of what ails us as a people.
However, instead of using her newfound fame to challenge the established theocracies and corrupt kingdoms of the Middle east, Sultan veered off the deep end and could not resist the temptation of becoming the poster child of Islam haters, joining their ranks with the fervour of a convert.
Inside a Toronto synagogue last week, where she was debating with Prof. Daniel Pipes whether moderate Islam was a Western ally or a Western myth, Dr.
Sultan wasted no time in lashing out at her former faith. Catering to the fears of her predominantly Jewish audience, she said, "Muhammad was a Jew killer." To further inflame the crowd, Wafa Sultan delivered an astonishing account of how the Prophet had slaughtered Jews and then raped the wife of the defeated Jewish tribe.
The vitriol was so severe, it was left to the two Jewish speakers at the debate, the moderator Avi Benlolo and Prof. Pipes to praise Muslims and mention the fact that moderate Muslims were rising up against extremism. Benlolo specifically mentioned the recent 600-page fatwa by the Pakistani cleric Tahir ul Qadri denouncing suicide bombing and terrorism.
However, Wafa Sultan would not have any of that. She chided both Benlolo and Pipes for their naivete. "There is no moderate Islam," she wagged her finger at Pipes. There was only one Islam, she claimed-- the Islam of rape, murder and hate.
To his credit -- and this will surprise many of his Muslim naysayers --Daniel Pipes reminded his Jewish audience that Islam was not the bogeyman it has been made out to be. "Remember, for over 1,000 years, whenever Jews needed a place for sanctuary, they got it in Muslim lands ... The problem is not Islam, it is Islamism," he told them.
I left the synagogue deeply disturbed. In the fight against Islamofascism, Wafa Sultan's hatred of Islam was cultivating the very forces she claims to be exposing. When a questioner asked her "What is the solution?" she just shrugged her shoulders. Perhaps the answer she had in mind was too outrageous even by her own standards: Force Muslims to convert or die.
Five hundred years ago, Isabel and Ferdinand "cleansed" Spain of Islam and Muslims, but we are still here. Surely, we can think of more productive solutions -- and devote our attention to more productive minds -- than this.
-Tarek Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. His next book, Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti- Semitism (McClelland & Stewart), will be launched in October 2010.
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