Wafa Sultan was born on June 14, 1958, Baniyas, Syria. She is an American author and critic of Muslim society and Islam. She is trained as a psychiatrist in Syria.
Life and Career
Sultan was born into a large traditional Muslim family in Baniyas, Syria. She immigrated to the United States in 1989, and is a naturalized citizen and resides in Los Angeles, California. Sultan became notable after the September 11, 2001 attacks for her participation in Middle East political debates, with Arabic essays that were circulated widely, and for television appearances on Al Jazeera and CNN.
On February 21, 2006, she took part in Al Jazeera’s weekly 45-minute discussion program The Opposite Direction. She spoke from Los Angeles, arguing with host Faisal al-Qassem and with Ibrahim Al-Khouli about Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory. A six minute composite video of her remarks was subtitled and widely circulated by MEMRI on blogs and through e-mail; The New York Times estimated that it has been seen at least one million times. In this video she criticised Muslims for treating non-Muslims differently, and for not recognizing the accomplishments of Jewish and other members of non-Muslim society while using their wealth and technology. The video was the most discussed video of all time with over 260,000 comments on the video-sharing website YouTube.
Sultan’s latest book, A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam, was released on October 13, 2009.
Sultan describes her thesis as witnessing “a battle between modernity and barbarism which Islam will lose”. It has brought her telephone threats, but also praise from reformers. Her comments, especially a pointed criticism that “no Jew has blown himself up in a German restaurant”, brought her an invitation to Jerusalem by the American Jewish Congress.
Sultan believes that “The trouble with Islam is deeply rooted in its teachings. Islam is not only a religion. Islam [is] also a political ideology that preaches violence and applies its agenda by force.” Sultan stated that she was shocked into secularism by the 1979 atrocities committed by Islamic extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood against innocent Syrians, including her witnessing while she was a medical student of the machine-gun assassination of her professor, Yusef al Yusef, an ophthalmologist from the University of Aleppo renowned beyond Syria. “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. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god.”
Sultan’s account of some aspects of her life is disputed by others. According to Abdussalam Mohamed, staff writer for the Southern California Muslim newspaper InFocus News, an anonymous Syrian expatriate who met and got to know the Sultans when they first came to the United States told him (Mohamed), that the assassination of Yusef al Yusef took place off-campus, and at a time when Sultan wasn’t even around. InFocus says this was confirmed by Dr. Riyad Asfari, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in Aleppo (Syria) and by another Syrian expatriate Ghada Moezzin, who attended the University of Aleppo in 1979 as a sophomore. According to this 2007 article, both Wafa Sultan and her husband Moufid (later changed to David) had entered the US as tourists, and managed to bring their two children and Wafa’s sister into the country through using a passport sham. The article also suggested that the Sultans used the Farmers’ Amnesty act to gain legal residency permits by paying a Mexican lady who worked as a farm hand to claim that Moufid had worked on her farm for 4 years.
In 2006 Wafa Sultan was named in Time Magazine in a list of 100 influential people in the world “whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.” Time stated that “Sultan’s influence flows from her willingness to express openly critical views on Islamic extremism that are widely shared but rarely aired by other Muslims.”
In the same Time interview, Sultan described herself as a Muslim who does not adhere to Islam, yet remains associated with the faith through her birth, rather than belief; “I even don’t believe in Islam, but I am a Muslim.” In 2007 she commented further in a conference associated with conservative writer and activist David Horowitz.