The following are excerpts from a debate between Arab-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan and Egytian Islamist Tal'at Rmeih, which aired on Al-Jazeera on March 4, 2008.
Egyptian Islamist Tal'at Rmeih: "The West only understands the language of force. Contacts with the West which are not based on real force are futile. One day, America declared that the North Korean nuclear dossier would be referred to the U.N. Security Council. North Korea issued a one-line declaration: 'Korea will consider this to be a hostile act of war.' The Americans bit their tongues, and that was it. The West understands nothing but the language of force, and attacks nobody but the weak. Therefore, our nation – with all its people, and organizations, institutions, rulers, and subjects – is required to adopt a resolute stand of resistance and confrontation in the face of these criminal and hostile acts. The West, in this confrontation, which is not divorced from the massacres that are taking place in Palestine and Iraq…The embassies of Denmark, Holland, France, and the U.S. are not more precious to us than Iraq, which has been destroyed, or than Palestine, which is experiencing a real – not fabricated – holocaust. These countries are subject to a holocaust and a massacre. How can we confront this? By Allah, if we issued a communiqué, signed by all the Arab and Islamic organizations and institutions, the West would bite its tongue and stop all this. By Allah, if the Arab summit decided to boycott Denmark, they would all be disgraced. By Allah, if the masses of the nation would gather for one hour only around the embassies of Denmark, those despicable lowlifes would be in a position of retreat, not attack."
Arab-American Psychiatrist Wafa Sultan: "All religions and faiths, throughout the history of humanity, have been subject to criticism and affronts. With time, this has helped in their reform and development. Any belief that chops off the heads of its critics is doomed to turn into terrorism and tyranny. This has been the condition of Islam, from its inception to this day. Islam has sentenced [its critics] to prison, and whoever crosses the threshold of that prison meets his death. The Danish cartoons have managed to break down the first brick in the wall of that prison, and to open up a window, through which the sunrays enter, after a lengthy darkness. The Danish newspaper exercised its freedom of speech. Liberties are the holiest thing in the West, and nothing is more important. 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. When they manage to do so, the world will view them in a better light, and consequently, it will draw them in a better light. The reactions of the Muslims, which were characterized by savageness, barbarism, and backwardness, only increased the value of these cartoons, and gave them more importance than they merited, simply because they proved that these cartoons were true, and that the message they were conveying was true. The Muslim is an irrational creature ruled by instincts. Those teachings have deprived him of his mind, incited his emotions, and reduced him to the level of an inferior creature that cannot control himself or react to events rationally."
Tal'at Rmeih: "God help me. First, Islam is too great to be harmed by the publisher of the cartoon, or by that woman who is talking over there. The truth is that everything she said is 100% false, I'm sad to say. It seems to me that the American and Zionist intelligence agencies have begun to produce people who are hostile to their own nation."
Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem, Moderator: "How come freedom of expression in the West is sacred only when it comes to degrading the Muslims? Are they allowed to talk about the Holocaust? Are they allowed to talk about Christianity? That is the question. Cinemas were burned down in the West when they talked about Christ."
Wafa Sultan: "I live in America, and I never heard of a single cinema that was burned down here. Where do you get your information from? It sounds as if you are living in America, not me."
Moderator: "In France."
Wafa Sultan: "This is completely baseless. You should criticize your own beliefs just as Christians criticize their beliefs."
Moderator: "Don’t you think that you are treating the viewers like fools? You present some trivial reactions as barbaric. Have you forgotten that the country in which you live destroyed Iraq in its entirety, killing 1.5 million Iraqis and driving five million out of their homes? Didn't you see the dozens of children annihilated in Gaza, in a holocaust, as Israel itself admits? When a man blows himself up, he becomes a terrorist, but when you annihilate an entire people, whole countries, it is considered a humanitarian act?! Who are you kidding?"
Wafa Sultan: "Why are they upset about what is going on in Gaza, while the Koran says to them: 'They shall kill and be killed.' So here they are – killing and being killed. What's wrong with that?"
Tal'at Rmeih: "Leave the Koran out of it. If you want to talk politics, go ahead."
Moderator: "I beg you to stick to politics. He talked only about politics."
Wafa Sultan: "Dr. Faysal, you know that you cannot separate Islam from politics. Islam is not a religion, but politics. You must let me express my views the way I want. When you called me, you didn't say I was not allowed to discuss Islam or the Koran. Islam says to them that they will 'kill or be killed', and here they are—killing and being killed. So what's wrong with that? They want to be martyred and to meet their black-eyed virgins, and Israel is merely helping them get what they want. What's wrong with that? If you want to change the course of events, you must reexamine your terrorist teachings, you must recognize and respect the right of the other to live, you must teach your children love, peace, coexistence, and productive work. When you do that, the world will respect you, will consider you in a better light, and will draw you in a better light."
Moderator: "Can you denounce the Zionist massacres in Gaza? That's a simple question. Do you have the courage to do so?"
Wafa Sultan: "I can denounce the Palestinians and the Israelis alike. Hamas chose this path, and you have to pay the price for your choices. When you decide you want peace – I am sure that Israel wants peace, but as long as you keep reciting those teachings, which are full of hatred, rancor, and terrorism, you will be unable to make peace with others. You must recognize and respect Israel's right to live. You must teach your children love, peace, and coexistence. Only then will there be peace."
Moderator: "Do you dare to say that the number of people who died in the Jewish Holocaust is even one less [than what they claim]? Do you dare to say that? Why don't you dare to even touch on Jewish history – let alone on Jewish religion and sanctities? Why do you flex your muscles only against the oppressed Muslims?"
Wafa Sultan: "Why do you want me to deny historical documents that confirm that the Holocaust took place? If there was no proof, I would deny it. But I cannot deny history, knowledge, and documents confirming that the Holocaust indeed took place. Why do you want me to deny the facts?"
Moderator: "From what she says, it is clear that she has no problem denying the holy books, but she is adamant about not denying historical documents."
Wafa Sultan: "Can you as a Muslim deny the massacre of the Jews of the Bani Qureyza tribe, by Muhammad and his followers?"
Tal'at Rmeih: "There is a gang that controls [the West], and you are not allowed to criticize Israel or the Holocaust. Anyone who criticized the Holocaust was placed on trial. Noam Chomsky wrote one line about the Holocaust in a book, and the book was recalled from the market. Bernard Lewis – that great philosopher – said something about the Holocaust and was placed on trial. What did the American president say to the U.S. forces sent to the Philippines? He gave them two orders: 'Kill all people above the age of ten, and convert [the rest] to Christianity.'"
Wafa Sultan: "Did you invite me to the show to hear hollow speeches, which have been around for 1,400 years?"
Tal'at Rmeih: "Allah be praised, we have an identity and a culture."Wafa Sultan: "How can someone who believes in killing people who do not pray possibly criticize liberties in the West? This is a farce. What past is he defending? Is he defending the invasions and lootings?"
Tal'at Rmeih: "I am defending the past of the Islamic nation, which was the beacon of knowledge for the entire world…"
Wafa Sultan: "…polygamy, beheadings, chopping of heads and feet on alternate sides, accusing people of heresy, and drinking camel urine, as a cure for all ailments – is this the past he is defending?"
Tal'at Rmeih: "No, I am defending a magnificent past of a magnificent nation, which was the cradle of knowledge and civilization, at a time when the most that people in the West could do was to catch a rabbit and scurry back to their caves. This nation has made the greatest contribution to civilization and humanity. Our religion is not complete without recognition of other religions. We are the ones who have called for tolerance and respect for religions."
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