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One of the Most Compelling TV Clips I've Seen in a Long Time

is available here; there's also a transcript, though it doesn't really do the video justice (though the video is just talking heads with subtitles).

The program is an interview with Arab-American (but nonreligious) psychologist Wafa Sultan on Al Jazeera (2/21/2006), subtitled by MEMRI TV. I can't say I agree completely with what Dr. Sultan is saying, but I agree with much. And it's extremely important that she's saying it, that she's saying it on Al Jazeera, and that there are people who have the courage to say it given what I suspect is the very serious personal risk that they run.

Thanks to Lance Dakin and to Charlie Eldred for the pointer.

gerry (mail):
Already saw it, and it is a blockbuster. Why hasn't the NYT reported it?
3.9.2006 2:29pm
Davide:
I think, Eugene, that you should credit www.littlegreenfootballs.com for having publicized this interview fully quite a while ago -- back on Feb. 28, 2006, in fact, and then again more recently due to a great amount of interest in the matter.

In any case, to view the video, people should go there and view it. Try http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=19460&only
3.9.2006 2:33pm
B. B.:
Nice to see Al Jazeera get some publicity for something other than showing hostage videos or footage of happenings in Iraq that our leaders would rather people not see. They've been the only network in the Muslim world that puts on opposing viewpoints for some time now, and we need to support them rather than ripping them as some arm of the terrorist organizations. If they aren't there, there isn't any widely viewed media that would present opposing viewpoints. And that does not bode well for the West.
3.9.2006 2:53pm
Bruce:
She has a certain cadence to her speech, and good use of repetition ("It is a struggle between..."), that the transcript doesn't fully capture. I'd be interested in seeing the whole debate, though, including the response.
3.9.2006 2:57pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Eric: Thanks very much! (The original post didn't have a direct URL, but pointed to a search you can do on MEMRI to find the video; some readers were good enough to give me a direct URL, so I've revised the post accordingly.)
3.9.2006 2:58pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
My prediction is that someone will issue a Fatwa against her for saying such things. Unfortunately, all of the secular moderates in the Muslim world are targeted, both by governments that we support (e.g., Egypt, which targets secular moderates calling for democracy and Saudi Arabia, which essentially bans such speech) or by the Al Qaeda/Islamic extremists of the world. Maybe it is time for the USA to be consistent in supporting such people, through our foreign policy and how we spend our tax dollars in foreign aid.
3.9.2006 2:59pm
Freddy Hill (mail):
They are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books.

Lovely.
3.9.2006 3:05pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Wafa Sultan says, "We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people."

I wish that were true, but in 1994 Dr. Baruch Goldstein "protested" by killing 24 Muslim worshippers in Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs. Goldstein was an American trained physician and a religious fanatic who once announced that he would refuse to treat non-Jewish patients. His supporters -- Goldstein was killed by survivors of his massacre -- claimed that he was motivated by a desire to "stop the peace process," which was proceeding pretty well in 1994.

We can be proud that Goldstein's actions were immediately condemned an reputed by Jews and Israelis across the political spectrum and around the world.

Fortunately, Goldstein and others like him are a tiny minority in Israel and in the Jewish community. But we should not forget -- or deny -- that they exist.
3.9.2006 3:18pm
Mark at UofC:
I sent you guys a link to this like a week ago. I also posted it in last Sunday's Open Thread. Glad it's finally get some publicity though.
3.9.2006 3:22pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Corrections:

Goldstein killed 29 Muslim worshippers, not 24.

His acts were condemned and repudiated (not "reputed," egregious typo).
3.9.2006 3:24pm
The River Temoc (mail):
Wafra Sultan stated in her interview:

Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies

This statement is patently absurd.

Burning down churches? Setting aside the example of the churches burned down in the South last week, I'd remind you of the destruction of a historic mosque at Ayodhya, purportedly the birthplace of Rama, at the hands of Hindu nationalists in 1992.

Killing people? Even if we narrow this broad charge to mean "suicide bombing," that's a phenomenon with ample precedent outside the Islamic world, in places ranging from Tamil Nadu to Japan to Russia.

Destroying embassies? Does anyone remember that Chinese nationalist mobs nearly attacked the U.S. embassy in Beijing during the Kosovo conflict, after the U.S. inadvertently bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade? (Jim Sasser, the U.S. ambassador at the time, ordered the embassy staff to begin burning records in preparation for an outright attack.) An slightly less dramatic scene took place in Moscow, where mobs threw paint at the U.S. embassy.

I don't dispute that Muslims need to have a frank internal debate about the nature of their religion, or even that there's historically been a troubling streak of radicalism within Islam. But these comments strike me as poisoning the well.
3.9.2006 4:06pm
Cabbage:
The river says "inadvertently" and then acts as if it has no bearing on her argument. What a maroon!
3.9.2006 4:11pm
BossPup (mail):
Temoc:

You are right, of course. These things did occur and, if you brought them to Ms. Sultan's attention, she would probably concede the point. I think her larger argument though is that Islam is the only major religion today where a substantial portion of its followers believe that it is legitimate to use violence in defense of the faith. Of course, this wasn't always the case, but the point is that the other major religions have moved past the point of bloodshed. For large swaths of Islam, that simply doesn't appear to be the case.
3.9.2006 4:13pm
Cabbage:
"I don't dispute that Muslims need to have a frank internal debate about the nature of their religion" ... "But these comments strike me as poisoning the well."

That is, the River wants a "frank" debate with only one side - Extremist Islam - allowed to speak. Don't want to rile up the natives by exposing them to rational arguments that conflict with their beliefs... I think she must mean she wants someone NAMED Frank to browbeat moderates into shutting the hell up so they don't offend the psychos...
3.9.2006 4:13pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
These are some of the things I disagreed with Wafa Sultan about. But the unfortunate fact is that the people who have the courage to risk fatwas are also ones who sometimes tend to speak somewhat less carefully than we might like.

If there were hundreds of commentators within the Arab world willing to say what she's saying, I would certainly prefer those who were more precise (stressing, for instance, that she's comparing religions, not ethnic groups, and noting or otherwise expressly excluding the Hindu violence), and even fault those who were imprecise. But to my knowledge there aren't hundreds of such commentators, because it takes a lot more guts than most of us would have in that position to say the things she's saying. She deserves praise for her courage and the generally correct thrust of her argument, despite the imprecisions in her argument.
3.9.2006 4:16pm
The River Temoc (mail):
Cabbage Patch Kid wrote:

The river says "inadvertently" and then acts as if it has no bearing on her argument. What a maroon!

First off, I'm neither a she nor a maroon, but thanks for playing. (I've been known to be called a moron now and then, though never by a vegetable. First time for everything, I guess.)

Second, if you seriously think the U.S. deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, be my guest. If anything, it further undercuts the point that Ms. Safra was making, namely, that attacks on embassies are hardly the work of extremist Muslims alone.
3.9.2006 4:29pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
The River Temoc,

I heard of the church burnings last week, but not of the "beliefs" that prompted them. Has anyone taken blame — oh, pardon me, I think "credit" is the accepted phrase — for this?

I think "nearly attacking" an embassy, and paint-bombing another one, aren't quite comparable to burning a few of them to the ground. And at least the Beijing mobs were protesting something that the US Gov't actually did (even if by mistake), not something published in a minor American newspaper.

Steve Lubet,

True re Goldstein. But the fact remains that Jewish political protest doesn't run to indiscriminate violence except in a very few cases. Has there ever been a Jewish suicide bomber? (after Samson, that is — he's really the prototype, yes?)
3.9.2006 4:32pm
chris (mail):
Not to pile on River, but while not correct in every detail, Sultan is willing to acknowledge the violent nature of today's Islam.

Look where there is religious violence currently in the world:

Israel (and nearby) between Jews and Muslims.
Africa between Christians and Muslims.
Philippines between Christians and Muslims.
Russia between Christians/non-religious and Muslims.
India between Hindus and Muslims.
Thailand between Buddhists and Muslims.
France between Christians/non-religious and Muslims.
Bosnia (and nearby) between Orthodox Christians and Muslims.

Notice a pattern?

Is there anywhere in the world with significant Christian vs. Hindu violence? Christian vs. Buddhist? Hindu vs. Buddhist?
3.9.2006 4:34pm
B. B.:
The "beliefs" involved in the church burnings were only a belief that burning stuff is fun. It was a few college students, no religion or racism or anything juicy like that, just some senseless pyromania. They carry no relevance to this discussion.
3.9.2006 4:40pm
Rational Actor (mail):
One doesn't have to look too far back (or wait too long) to see Christian-on-Christian violence in Northern Island....
3.9.2006 4:43pm
Dustin (mail):
Chris, that's the best point possibly made about all this.

I'm sure some Jewish youth got fed up and committed violence after the nine billionth Hamas bombing.. It's the nature of the world. But it's not really the nature of Judaism, modern Christianity, and surely not Buddism.

It needn't be the nature of Islam either, but it's so handy for controlling people when you can be an absolutist about everything. I'm sure the Theorcrats in IRan would consider it heresy to challenge their rule, even if you did so over taxes or speed limits or whatnot.

Islam is, largely anyway, broken. It usually can't get along with others, it usually can't get along with itself.
3.9.2006 4:46pm
JonBuck:
Temoc:

I suggest you do a Google News search on the sectarian violence in Nigeria the past month or so. Muslims burning churches and killing Christians.
3.9.2006 4:59pm
The River Temoc (mail):
If there were hundreds of commentators within the Arab world willing to say what she's saying, I would certainly prefer those who were more precise…

…but because you can't find hundreds, you'll take the word of one commentator with foot-in-mouth disease?

Look, the bottom line is this: what Ms. Safra is doing is *discrediting* those who want real change in the Arab world. She's doing so in much the way that bash-America-first types can so easily discredit more mainstream commentators on the center-left. The "discourse" Ms. Safra advocates is roughly on par with the liberal crowd that thinks it can discredit conservatives by yelling "fascist" with conservatives who reply in kind by yelling "socialist." And yes, that kind of debate happens all too frequently, even at elite universities like Harvard or Berkeley. That doesn't mean we shouldn't hold the namecallers to a higher standard. Period.

I, for one, don't judge the quality of political debate in America by counting how many people seriously argue, for instance, that life would be better under Saddam Hussein than George Bush, as one particular eager Young Turk on Daily Kos did not long ago. I'm glad there are outlets for that kind of expression in the blogosphere and elsewhere, but no one should expect that it be given a bully pulpit on the Sunday morning talk shows. In fact, I'd be far more concerned about the health of our democracy if it were.

Now, to return to your post, why aren't there "hundreds" of political commentators in the Arab world debating these issues? Well, for one thing, there may be more than you realize. The text of the Arab Human Development reports may not make as compelling agitprop as do Ms. Safra's hysterics, but they are important commentary on the political backwardness of the Arab world -- and their authors are Arabs, and they've gathered real attention. To my knowledge, none has attracted any fatwas.

For another, however, there aren't hundreds of political commentators on *any* subject within the Arab world because, with the arguable exception of the new Iraq, Arab states are authoritarian states. You just don't get Charlie Russerts in authoritarian states, where people learn to lie low. Political discourse becomes something far more subtle, relying on jokes, analogies, and so forth. You grew up in the USSR, and it's not for nothing that Russians are masters of black humor. That was how they got their dose of political commentary.

The whole reason why an entire generation of Kremlinologists failed to predict the demise of the USSR was because they looked to the dissident movement and ignored the more prosaic concerns of the man on the street. Well, that's what you're doing now in the Arab east. The Arab world isn't going to rally around Ms. Safra any more than Americans are going to rally around Cindy Sheehan. To ask that they do so is setting them up to fail. But by looking to the histrionics of Ms. Safra, you're missing the quiet reformers of the Arab world, people like the authors of the AHDR, or the Kifaya movement in Egypt, or even bloggers like salampax. I can't see that these people will inevitably prevail in the quest for openness; but lionizing the Arab version of Cindy Sheehan is perhaps one sure way to ensure they won't.
3.9.2006 5:04pm
The River Temoc (mail):
Is there anywhere in the world with significant Christian vs. Hindu violence? Christian vs. Buddhist? Hindu vs. Buddhist?

Again, a strawman argument. Of course there's less Christian-Hindu conflict than Christian-Muslim conflict, precisely because the former come into contact much less than the latter. Where different strains of Christianity have come into contact, there's been plenty of bloodletting (cf. Protestants v. Catholics, Catholics v. Orthodox. I suppose I might also bring up the example of the Holocause (see Christians v. Jews), but that would invoke Godwin's Law.

Sultan is willing to acknowledge the violent nature of today's Islam

It is unfair to attribute the many conflicts you cite to "the violent nature of today's Islam." Take Orthodox-Muslim conflict in Russia. I suppose it's the fault of the Muslims when the Moscow police stop people from the Caucasus, shake them down for bribes, beat them up, kill them, etc., all because they're "people with a Caucasian face"? I think not.
3.9.2006 5:19pm
FMB (mail):
The holocaust was Christian v. Jew? I thought it was teutonic totalitarian eugenics against non-aryans . . . Or, maybe it was Blonds v. Jews or X Jawbone v. Not X-Jawbone? Godwin's law flourishes because people use the Nazi "analogy" with little thought.

There is often a (n obvious) difference between people who call themselves "Christians" and "Muslims" killing people and those who are truly Christians and Muslims killing people. It's not usually a subtle distinction, either. Godwin's law, indeed.
3.9.2006 5:53pm
chris (mail):
In response to River,

It is always possible to point to this conflict or that conflict and say there's something special about it that causes the violence. (as River did with the Russian example). That's the reason I put up all the examples. If in a class of ten boys, Bobby fights with Jimmy, Billy, Tommy, Fred, and Clyde, (and none of the others often fight with each other) at some point you have to wonder whether there's something about Bobby which causes him to get in fights. Maybe everyone really is out to get him, but also maybe he's just a violent kid. Especially if there's a different reason "explaining" why he fights with each kid.
3.9.2006 6:06pm
Nathan Hall (mail):
River,

Why not adjust the "patently absurd" statement as follows:

<i>Among major world religions, only Islam fails to unequivocally condemn those who would advance it by violent subjugation of unbelievers.</i>

I think this sums up Dr. Sultan's case, and I think it is correct.
3.9.2006 6:13pm
Guest2 (mail):

First off, I'm neither a she nor a maroon, but thanks for playing. (I've been known to be called a moron now and then, though never by a vegetable. First time for everything, I guess.)


"What a maroon! [sic]" is something Bugs Bunny used to say.
3.9.2006 6:14pm
Colin (mail):
"There is often a (n obvious) difference between people who call themselves 'Christians' and 'Muslims' killing people and those who are truly Christians and Muslims killing people. It's not usually a subtle distinction, either."

Is it equally obvious whether or not they are true Scotsmen?
3.9.2006 6:30pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
It's grossly under-reported in the West, but there is a constant thread of violence--on a weekly, if not daily basis--going on in India. It matches up fundamentalis Muslims against fundamentalist Hindus and has been going on, at a greater or lesser pace, for the past few hundred years.

Back to Sultan, however...

She is not alone in the Islamic or Arab world (though she is, actually, an American citizen). Over the past couple of years I've been blogging at Crossroads Arabia on the issue of religious reform, particularly concerning Saudi Arabia. Some items that may have been noted by the US media in the last month alone, but weren't, include:

Broadcasting Moderate Islam

Moving beyond History

Taheri on the Cartoons

Counseling Calm

There's a lot more. But I guess if it doesn't get reported in the MSM, it just doesn't happen...
3.9.2006 6:34pm
The River Temoc (mail):
If in a class of ten boys, Bobby fights with Jimmy, Billy, Tommy, Fred, and Clyde, (and none of the others often fight with each other) at some point you have to wonder whether there's something about Bobby which causes him to get in fights.

At the risk of sounding politically correct, all the kids in your class have nice Anglo-Saxon names. But what if Jimmy's getting in a fight with, oh, Quoc from the school across town -- only *that* fight not getting the attention that it would otherwise, because Quoc's school is on the wrong side of the tracks?

That's what's wrong with your list of conflicts: selection bias. There are multiple points of contact between Islamic and European civilizations, but, so far as I know, there's only one Buddhist republic in Europe: Kalmykia (which, incidentally, isn't exactly a paragon of democracy itself). Of course there's going to be more Muslim-Christian communal conflict than Buddhist-Christian communal conflict, precisely because there's more opportunity for interaction between Muslims and Christians than between Buddhists and Christians.

While I take FMB's point that the Holocaust may not have entirely been a "Christian versus Jew" story, as a matter of first impression, it seems diffiult to explain it without at least mentioning traditional European antisemitism, whether in Germany, Russia, or the Spanish inquisition. Where Christians came into conflict with other civilizations, the results were not always pretty -- Clyde and Fred may have been fighing after all -- but no one is talking about the inherently violent nature of Christianity.

And on the last note, you are also forgetting that Islamic civilization in Spain was more tolerant of religious minorities, such as Jews, than Christian civilization. Granted, the proposition we're debating here is whether "modern" Islam is inherently violent -- but that strikes me as a semanti point. If you're going to argue that a particular religion is inherently more violent than another, you must least look at the religion's historical legacy and explain why it mutated into something far more pernicious in the modern world than in the 1400s.

If you explain that mutation in terms of exogenous factors (e.g., the emergence of the Westphalian state system or what not), then you're *not* ultimately arguing that one religion is more violent than another, but merely that external factors shape religion, just as they do anything else -- which is not a particularly profound point.
3.9.2006 6:36pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
BTW, Arab blogs are worth a look-in from time to time. The notorious "Religious Policeman,"--whom Saudi bloggers recently voted "Most Controversial Blogger"--is constantly teeing-off on the Saudi religious establishment. This blog is currently ranked #459 on the TTLB rating system, with around 2,500 visits per day.
3.9.2006 6:39pm
The River Temoc (mail):
John Burgess: what other Arab blogs do you recommend? Are there any good ones from the UAE?
3.9.2006 6:45pm
Anonymous Jim (mail):
The problem, for me, with the speaker and some commenters here, is that they seem to believe that Islam is inherently violent. Unless the translation was off, she always said "Muslims . . ." not "Muslim extremists".
3.9.2006 7:56pm
Nathan Hall (mail):
River,

The word "inherrent" does not appear anywhere in this thread until your post. Nobody here is arguing that a particular religion is inherrently more violent than another; that would require delving deep into history and theology. We are saying violence is more accepted--for whatever hopefully transient socological or theological reasons--in Islam than in other religions today, and we hope the moderate and secular voices that Dr. Sultan (imperfectly) represents will gain more sway in the future. What about that do you find objectionable?
3.9.2006 7:59pm
Taimyoboi:
"...look too far back (or wait too long) to see Christian-on-Christian violence in Northern Island..."

Rational actor,

I think you meant Ireland, and I believe that this was prompted by nationalism, whose borders also happened to be demarcated by religious beliefs as well.

That there were no prominent Catholic or Protestant leaders urging Irish or Northern-Irish into duking it out is a none too trivial distinction.
3.9.2006 8:05pm
FMB (mail):
Colin:

I appreciate your response and the informative link. Perhaps my time away from my native language has dulled my sarcasm meter(e?), but I'm not entirely sure whether you are implying that I have used that fallacy, or whether the fallacy is present in the arguments of the type to which I responded. Because I think that "fallacy" is inherently flawed, I think both are plausible . . .

After all, we ARE living in a "postmodern" world . . . That is to say, either of the above may be entirely true and correct. I don't know what makes a Scotsman a Scotsman and I believe that, as the example suggests, there exist people who disagree over the definition. Of course, when a fallacy presupposes that there is an "accepted definition" of a Scotsman (and uses such unfortunate examples of an 'accepted definition'such as 'vegetarians' to analogize to a cultural/historical/political concept such as a 'Scotsman'), I tend to be skeptical.

I agree that the accepted definition of a Nazi is not a vegetarian and vice versa. Headway. If the "accepted definition of [a Nazi]" (quotes from your link) includes the characterization of a member of that party as "Christian," well, I guess that's what a NAZI is, right? But, then, what about the "accepted definition" of a "nazi" as polled among 15-22 year olds? 35-50? 70-100? Americans? Argentinians? Germans? Swedes?

I, someone who is not a postmodernist (nor a modernist), suggest that the "accepted definition" of a "Nazi" and the "accepted definition" of someone FAITHFUL to the Christian faith do not overlap (I recognize that the "accepted definition" of a "Christian" involves original sin and that a Christian can commit atrocities as well as anyone else but I suggest that such an individual would be acting contrary to the foundations of that faith and could not reasonably claim to be committing those atrocities in the name of that religion). Two "accepted definitions" that conflict? I believe so.

Maybe a "Nazi" would disagree. Maybe another "Christian" would disagree. Maybe the "accepted definition" of a "Christian" in the Weimar Republic in 1934 was a "Nazi."

I don't buy the postmodernist (ahem, 1975) "accepted definition" argument, but the "accepted definition" of "Christianity" and "Islam" at the time of those conflicts wasn't the same as it was in the 12th, 8th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st centuries.

I haven't a wiki link to an appealing 1975 nomenclature for such a fallacy, but a real madrileNo doesn't take the time to look up such things on the internet. Well, at least not in 2006.
3.9.2006 8:12pm
Colin (mail):
FMB,

You stated, "There is often a ... difference between people who call themselves 'Christians' and 'Muslims' killing people and those who are truly Christians and Muslims killing people." This is an example of the NTS fallacy, unless I severely misunderstand you.

You seem to be saying "No true Christian or Muslim kills people," or at least, "True Christians and Muslims kill people for different/better reasons." But this relies on an objective and inherent definition of Xian/Muslim which precludes killing people, or at least killing people for particular reasons. I dispute that such a definition exists; as with Scotsmen, you have to rely either on self identification, or a simple and objective definitive characteristic.

Worshipping Jesus Christ as the only begotten son of God seems to be a very simple and objective diagnostic characteristic of being a Christian. Not killing people, or only killing people for very good reasons, does not seem to be a good diagnostic, because lots of people who define themselves as "Christian" will dispute your definition of a good reason, or the necessity of not killing people to be a Christian. And lacking an objective definition of Christian, you're committing the No True Scotsman fallacy: "No Christians kill people for these reasons. Some people who call themselves Christians do kill people for those reasons, but they aren't True Christians."

Your mileage may vary, especially if you perceive your own definition of Christian or Muslim to be objective. I simply disagree. And, again, it's always possible that I misunderstood you, in which case I apologize.
3.9.2006 9:21pm
FMB (mail):
Thank you Colin.

I appreciate your thoughtful response. I'm not sure that you have misunderstood my comment but, at the very least, I understand your comment better.


Recognizing that I did make the NTS fallacy in the first post, I made a point in my most recent post that you also make in your final paragraph: I do perceive my own definition of "Christian" to be objective: Someone who TRULY believes that the Bible is the one, true, God-breathed gospel, a gospel in which the story of Jesus, the Son of God presents a message suggesting that those who believe Him and his death on the Cross for the redemption of their sings shall have eternal life....


I just made the circle larger (perhaps smaller) and I suggest that MY "objective" definition is just as "good" as your definition.

My point is that I'm not sure how it is possible to remove the "fallacy" from either "objective" and "simple" diagnostic. What you think is "simple" I think is incomplete . (What is your diagnostic for a true Spaniard? And let us ask someone from Madrid, La Rioja, Pontevedra, Pais Vasco, and Catalonia whether they are a Spaniard) Your "simple" diagnostic would lead to a lot of people contesting that Mormons, fitting your diagnostic, are Christians while under my diagnostic, they would be excluded.

At some point, there must be an "objective" diagnostic and you believe it should be "simple." I merely argue that yours is no better than mine. I suggest that the Nazis did not fit my diagnostic, a diagnostic which most people who believe in [insert a "simple" diagnostic of a "Christian"] would likely agree.
3.9.2006 10:34pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
River Temoc: I don't really follow the UAE blogs, but you might look at Al-Bab, which has a listing of some in both English and Arabic.
3.9.2006 11:24pm
Kovarsky (mail):
The River Temoc

But by looking to the histrionics of Ms. Safra, you're missing the quiet reformers of the Arab world, people like the authors of the AHDR, or the Kifaya movement in Egypt, or even bloggers like salampax.

I always appreciate people with extensive historical knowledge, although I'm sure people who are conversant in that material are equally (or at least should be equally) aware of the weakness of reasoning by historical analogy.

And I'm not lecturing here; I don't really understand how "focusing" on her trades off meaningfully with "focusing" on "the man on the street." It's a sort of florid rhetorical point, but the realogik is that its just not a zero sum game. If the western media hadn't reported on Sultan, it's not as if they would have compensated by reporting on any of the other grassroots elements you identify.

In fact, the Western reporting would have probably instead have reported on cartoons, the failures in the Iraq war, the Dubai port scandal, or the response to the North Carolina Bombing, or any other number of phenomena that are likely to embolden the Islamic world.

Maybe the media "should not be reporting" on Sultan in the sense that if they've decided to report on an engine of Muslim moderation, they should have picked another subject. But that's not the menu of options the reporters were facing.

As a result, even if we concede all of your positions about how she's inaccurately conveying information, non-representative, and overly-simplified, it simply doesn't follow as a matter of logic that her rebroadcast "debases" the debate if you consider the alternative reporting.
3.10.2006 12:09am
sam24 (mail):
If .3 of the earth's population were carpenters and .4 of the population were house painters and the carpenter's union demanded that all of the painters join the carpenter's union or face death; then I would not be too surprised if the painters were a little suspicious of carpenters. This would be true even if all carpenters did not like to pay union dues, but did little or nothing to take over the union and change its ways. Of coarse if they tried to change the union or leave the union, union rules required they be killed. If painters joined the carpenters's union in an effort to find peace, union rules limit their activities and require they pay special dues. It really leaves the painters no good choices. The carpenter's union sounds more like the Mafia that a union -- doesn't it?
3.10.2006 1:00am
josh:
If only we had bombed Al Jazeera when we had the chance!!!!
3.10.2006 2:39pm
Bill (mail):
It's an interesting clip, although one that seems designed to strengthen the convictions of the convinced rather than persuade the unconvinced.

It's worthwhile to compare that clip to law professor Madhavi Sundar's approach in her article:

Piercing the Veil, 112 YALE. LJ 1399 (2003)

There's no substitute for reading the article, but lets be realistic! If Sundar were to go on Al-Jazeera maybe she would say something like this:

Muslim's want to become free, not by renouncing Islam, but rather by changing it from within. Human rights law could be a tool to do this, but all too often its promises are formalistic and don't take into account the cultures to which it is applied. This only leads to those struggling for human rights appearing as against Islam. That's not going to help.

Sundar's approach may be unrealistic, but it is certainly more diplomatic.
3.10.2006 3:05pm
Mark at UofC:
Her statement that Muslims are the only ones demonstrating through violence is clearly incorrect.

That being said, it doesn't invalidate the rest of what she says. Nor do the other examples make it ok for the Muslims to act likewise.

People who get hung up on this oversight are missing the point of the piece.
3.10.2006 3:31pm
Mark Nazimova (mail):
The 3/11 New York Times has an article about Dr. Sultan.


Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, a small city on the Mediterranean about a two-hour drive north of Beirut. Her father was a grain trader and a devout Muslim, and she followed the faith's strictures into adulthood.

But, she said, her life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. At that time, the radical Muslim Brotherhood was using terrorism to try to undermine the government of President Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said.

"They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings.
3.11.2006 12:38am