, I thought I would post something else from the same Rupert Murdoch-own paper I normally wouldn't, just to balance things up. This is not, let me hasten to add, to stir up trouble, but to make sure people realise that the Mr Adams is not representative of the Murdoch press.
Hope in heretical voices
At last, moderate Muslims are speaking out against the backward Islamic world, says Janet Albrechtsen
March 22, 2006
SELF-ASSESSMENT is a tricky business. At a personal level, too much of the stuff has you moaning on a psychiatrist's leather couch for years with no real benefit. Likewise, at a national level, or a cultural level, it can soon enough turn into unhelpful self-loathing. But get the balance right and it gives rise to an intellectual form of creative destruction and an important driver of progress. In the Arab world, self-assessment is a rare thing indeed. Which is why, when it does happen, it's downright explosive.
Enter Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera television, of all places, who recently delivered a provocative and brave self-critique of Muslims. Sultan's interview, just over a month ago, may not have made it into our media (notwithstanding The Australian's Cut & Paste, March 10), but Al-Jazeera beamed it into millions of Arab homes. Thanks to the internet, it has been replayed in a million more homes across the globe. Now this once unknown Syrian-born psychiatrist is surely topping the fatwa charts.
Sultan criticised the Muslim world for its backwardness, for shunning knowledge and progress, and for embracing terrorism. She said it was time for Muslims to stop the self-pity and to stop blaming others as justification for Muslim violence directed at the West.
The blame, she said, lay squarely at the foot of Islamic clerics who encouraged followers to reject progress and instead resort to violence.
"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilisations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilisation and backwardness, between the civilised and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality," she said.
The televised interview, a debate between Sultan and Egyptian religious scholar Ibrahim Al-Khouli, was a personification of the problem at hand. Sultan said she was no longer a Muslim, only to be denounced by the academic as a heretic: "There is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the prophet and the Koran."
Ignoring Sultan on the grounds that she is a heretic explains why darkness has descended on large slabs of the Muslim world. In an interview with The New York Times, she said: "Our people are hostages to our own belief and teachings." And only knowledge can release them from this backward thinking, as it released her.
Sultan's comments were dynamite because self-criticism in the Muslim world is rare. The West, on the other hand, has mastered the art of questioning its flaws.
As former diplomat Owen Harries once pointed out about the US: "Everything bad we know about America - its crime and its excessive punishment, its corruption, its graft, its racial tensions, its inane political correctness - we know because Americans have told us about them."
The Muslim world's knowledge deficit has been canvassed before. At a 2002 scientific conference Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf described the Islamic world as "the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, the most unenlightened, the most deprived and the weakest of all the human race". Then came the groundbreaking Arab Human Development Report which, among other things, revealed that in the 1000 years since the reign of caliph Mamoun, Arabs had translated as many books as Spain translated in a single year.
But few episodes of Muslim self-assessment have been as confronting as Sultan's interview where she pointed to the obvious links between ignorance, on the one hand, and intolerance and violence, on the other. To paraphrase Sultan's remarks is to dilute their force. It's worth watching the interview at www.memritv.org
, but here is what she said: "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."
Sultan told The New York Times that she decided to leave Syria after members of the Muslim Brotherhood gunned down her professor in her university classroom, shouting, "God is great!"
She is writing a book that she says will "turn the Islamic world upside down ... I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book."
Unfortunately, there are few examples of this kind of Muslim self-examination. Instead, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Islamic fundamentalists want to change Western culture to fit their own: the orchestrated attacks against free speech arising from the Danish cartoons; a British survey that suggests one in four British Muslims want sharia law imposed in parts of Britain dominated by Muslims; fatwas placed on writers such as Salman Rushdie; the intimidation of some and slaying of others in the West who question Islamic culture.
The problems canvassed by Sultan are, with increasing speed, seeping into the West. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, one Muslim immigrant to Sweden recently described why she had decided to pack up her family and leave her Swedish suburb of Tensta. In short, because of the influence of Islamic fundamentalists.
"I'm tired of being expected to speak badly of Christians and Jews just because I'm Muslim. I'm tired of the hate preachers. I'm tired of seeing women condemned for the way they dress ... I never imagined that in the new millennium, and in Sweden of all places, my five-year-old son would have to defend and explain in his day-care centre why his mother doesn't wear a head scarf," Nalin Pekgul said.
Even those who do not accept that adopting Western values represents progress must accept that the Islamic world would benefit from a little self-assessment. Values immune from criticism are values insulated from improvement. That is why, provocative as they are, Sultan's comments are a sign of hope, not just for Muslims but for the West as well. Self-examination has started, but there is a long way to go. When comments such as Sultan's become less explosive, then we will know that healthy self-assessment is commonplace in the Muslim world.