I’ve recently enjoyed a debate presented by FORA between a scholar of Islamic and middle eastern studies, Daniel Pipes and Syrian born psychologist, Dr. Wafa Sultan. The essence of the debate is whether or not there exists what many deem a “moderate” or tolerant following of Islam.
Pipes’ perspective is that there is indeed a division between hardcore Islamist ideology and a collective moderate belief and that the trend of extremism can be staunched. Sultan, citing her experience as a woman in an Islamic country, begs to differ suggesting that Islam cannot be neatly divided into various gradients of piety, rather that the doctrine itself is immune to selective adaptation. In other words, Islamic doctrine cannot be or simply won’t be conveniently “fudged” into an ideology that’s willing to overlook the more primitive, violent aspects of Koranic doctrine.
Sultan’s hard edged belief that Islam is irreconcilable to modern civilization was famously captured on Al Jazeera when she pulled no punches during a debate with a Saudi cleric, insisting that what kept much of the Islamic world in a perpetual, primitive state of backwater existence was the religious adherence to Islam. Her debate with Pipes isn’t nearly as entertaining but is a more thoughtful and engaging discussion.
The video of the debate is about an hour long and follows:
<object classid=”clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000″ codebase=”http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,0,0″ width=”400″ height=”264″ ><param name=”flashvars” value=”webhost=fora.tv&clipid=11252&cliptype=clip” /><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always” /><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”movie” value=”http://fora.tv/embedded_player” /><embed flashvars=”webhost=fora.tv&clipid=11252&cliptype=clip” src=”http://fora.tv/embedded_player” width=”400″ height=”264″ allowScriptAccess=”always” allowFullScreen=”true” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer”></embed></object>
Sultan is fiery and unrelenting (to the point of distraction, I’d say) in her disgust with the Islamic world . Obviously her heritage and experience go a long way toward pre-empting the politically correct epithet’s that would be hurled at, say, an anglo male holding and publishing the same scorching testament regarding Islam. I admire both her vehemence and her audacity.
However, I think David Pipes got the better of her in the long run. Much of what Sultan presents will grab both the feminist and xenophobic crowd in America and while one can sympathize with her, Pipes presents a more balanced, realistic vision. He recognizes the reality of militant Islam as the “now” in terms of threat and even suggests that security efforts should include the ultimately “politically incorrect” tactic of profiling. Yet at the same time he insists that not only are there a considerable number of Muslims practising a “moderate” form of Islam but that the religious concept as a whole can be shifted to marginalize the “jihadist” element. Give the vid a look and let me know what you think.