Written by Robert Spencer
By Robert Spencer
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Wafa Sultan appeared on Al-Jazeera again earlier this month, and the shock waves are still reverberating throughout the Islamic world. The day after her appearance Al-Jazeera issued a public apology for her “offensive” remarks, but did not specify what exactly she said that was so terrible.
But for Sultan herself, of course, they are nothing new. This courageous woman has been a target of jihadist outrage ever since she burst onto the international scene with an interview also on Al-Jazeera on February 21, 2006. The video of this interview has now been viewed over a million times, and led to Sultan’s receiving numerous death threats. In it, she excoriated the violence that all too many Muslims have committed in the name of Islam, and the tendency of all too many others, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to justify that violence by pointing to mistreatment that Muslims have allegedly suffered:
The Jews have come from the tragedy [of the Holocaust], and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. Fifteen million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims 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.
Reasonable enough. And so was what Sultan said on Al-Jazeera this month. Defending the notorious Danish cartoons of Muhammad that continue to roil the Islamic world, she pointed out:
But if Islam were not the way it is, those cartoons would never have appeared. They did not appear out of the blue, and the cartoonist did not dig them out of his imagination. Rather, they are a reflection of his knowledge. Westerners who read the words of the Prophet Muhammad ‘Allah has given me sustenance under the shadow of my sword’ cannot imagine Muhammad's turban in the shape of a dove of peace rather than in the shape of a bomb. The Muslims must learn how to listen to the criticism of others, and maybe then they will reexamine their terrorist teachings.
Qaradawi, however, was in no mood to reexamine anything. Sultan’s statements were “all based on ignorance,” he complained. “If only she had some knowledge... But she doesn’t have any knowledge. She doesn't know the Koran or the Sunna. When she cited a hadith to back up her statements, she used a hadith that scholars consider unreliable.” Which unreliable hadith? Muhammad’s statement that “Allah has given me sustenance under the shadow of my sword.” Qaradawi asserted: “This hadith is unreliable. The Prophet did not get sustenance by the sword. If she had read the Koran, she would have known that it forbids killing people: ‘Anyone who kills another person for any reason other than manslaughter or spreading corruption in the land – it is as if he has killed all of mankind.’”
Of course, anyone can see that “other than manslaughter or spreading corruption in the land [fasaad]” is a rather large exception, and the next verse makes Qaradawi’s claim that the Qur’an “forbids killing people” even more questionable. He quoted Qur’an 5:32, which immediately precedes a verse directing Muslims to crucify or amputate a hand and a foot on opposite sides from someone who fights against Allah and Muhammad or spreads “corruption in the land.”
And as for the unreliability of the hadith about the shadow of Muhammad’s sword, Qaradawi doesn’t bother to tell us that a hadith in which Muhammad says “Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords” appears in Bukhari, the hadith collection that Muslims consider most reliable, and in which only a very few ahadith are considered unreliable by any Islamic scholars. Not only does it appear, but it appears in three different places in Bukhari and in two places in Sahih Muslim, the hadith collection considered second most reliable. This repetition is further attestation of its authenticity from a Muslim standpoint, since the multiple renderings are considered to have come from different narrators, indicating that many people heard Muhammad say this.
Qaradawi made even wilder charges, falsely claiming (with stinging irony in light of his support for suicide attacks) that Sultan “sanctions the killing of Muslims in Gaza and elsewhere, claiming that they deserve to be killed.” Such charges, and Qaradawi’s claim that Sultan “had the audacity to affront all that is sacred – the entire Islamic nation, its past, its present, and its future.” Yet as we have seen, it was she who was telling the truth, not this renowned “reformist” Sheikh, and thus it is she who has yet again shown up the hollowness of the denial, obfuscation, and finger-pointing that all too many Islamic leaders engage in rather than embarking upon the searching self-reflection urged upon them by Wafa Sultan and other defenders of universal human rights and human dignity.
Wafa Sultan is a national and international treasure. The American government should be rushing to protect her against any who might be motivated to act by the distortions of the thuggish Qaradawi. Is that happening?
Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?.