Wafa Sultan

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Wafa Sultan
Sultan in May 2012
Born (1958-06-14) 14 June 1958 (age 65)
CitizenshipSyria, United States
EducationMedicine (psychiatry)
Alma materUniversity of Aleppo
Known forCriticism of Islam

Wafa Sultan (Arabic: وفاء سلطان; born June 14, 1958) is a Syrian-American medical doctor, writer, and critic of Islam.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Sultan was born into a modest middle class Alawite[1][2] family in Baniyas, Syria.[3][4][5]

Although Sultan wanted to be a writer, and would have preferred to study Arabic literature, she studied at the medical faculty at the University of Aleppo due to pressure from her family.[6] She says that she was shocked into secularism by the 1979 atrocities committed by Islamic extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood against innocent Syrians. She states that while she was a medical student, she witnessed the machine-gun assassination of her professor, Yusef al Yusef,[7] an ophthalmologist from the university who was renowned outside Syria. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'Allahu Akbar!' " 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."[8] She worked for four years as a psychiatrist in a hospital.

Sultan and her family emigrated to the United States in 1989, where she moved to Los Angeles, California, and became a naturalized citizen. Initially she had to work as a cashier in a gas station and behind the counter in a pizza parlor, but she found her treatment in these jobs better than as a medical professional in Syria.[6] From the time of her arrival she began to contribute articles to Arabic publications in the United States and published three books in Arabic.

Sultan became notable after the September 11, 2001 attacks for her participation in Middle East political debates, with the publication of Arabic essays that were circulated widely and for television appearances on Al Jazeera and CNN in 2005.[6]

On February 21, 2006, Sultan took part in Al Jazeera's weekly forty-five-minute discussion program The Opposite Direction. She spoke from Los Angeles, arguing with host Faisal al-Qassem and with Ibrahim Al-Khouli, a professor at Al-Azhar University in Cairo (Egypt), 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.[1] In this video she criticised women's situation in Muslim countries, Muslims for treating non-Muslims differently and for not recognizing the accomplishments of Jews and other members of non-Muslim society while still benefiting from using their wealth and technology. The video became YouTube's most discussed video.[9] The full transcript of the debate, which was made public later, also raised many online discussions.[10]

Following her participation in founding of the Former Muslims United on October 13, 2009, Sultan released her first book in English, A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam.[11] In her book Sultan relates her life story and personal relationship with Islam. She attempts to address the history of Islam from a psychological perspective, and examine the political ideology of the religion's modern form.

In October 2010 Sultan was called as an expert witness to give testimony at the Geert Wilders trial. Wilders is a Dutch politician who was charged with hate speech for his anti-Islamic statements and subsequently acquitted. At the trial Sultan confirmed that she had met Wilders several times in 2009, had seen his film Fitna, and in general agreed with his views about Islam.[12]

Political views[edit]

Sultan describes her thesis as witnessing "a battle between modernity and barbarism which Islam will lose". It has brought her telephone threats,[1] 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."[13] In a discussion with Ahmad bin Muhammad, she said: "It was these teachings that distorted this terrorist and killed his humanity".[14]

In her book A God Who Hates, Sultan writes that "No one can be a true Muslim and a true American simultaneously". Sultan argues that initially, US must help its Muslim citizens give up Islam and embrace Christianity "[W]e first have to help them see their ogre clearly and show them how to exchange their God who hates for one who loves".[15]


In 2006 Wafa Sultan was named in Time Magazine in a list of one hundred influential people in the world "whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world."[16][17] 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."[16] In 2006, she has received the Freethought Heroine Award from the Freedom from Religion Foundation[18]

Religious sentiment[edit]

In the same Time interview, Sultan described herself as a cultural 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."[16][17] Sultan is a board member of Stop Islamization of Nations (SION), an organization founded by Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Anders Gravers Pedersen.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d John M. Broder (March 11, 2006). "For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 20, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2008. In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times … Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries. … In response, clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. … Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria,
  2. ^ Abdussalam Mohamed (March 3, 2007). "Wafa Sultan: Reformist or opportunist?". Southern California InFocus. Archived from the original on February 1, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2011. Wafa Sultan grew up in a modest middle class Alawite family
  3. ^ Ruthie Blum Leibowitz (October 26, 2006). "One on One: A woman's work in progress". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on January 1, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2015. For no reason other than belonging to the Allawi sect of Islam - that of the president - while the majority in Syria were Sunnis.
  4. ^ Gerard Henderson (August 28, 2007). "Welcome to all who pass the test". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2008. The Syrian-born Sunni Muslim Dr Wafa Sultan has recently completed a visit to Australia, … Sultan's message about radical Islamism is important and she is a courageous critic of jihadist terrorism and societies such as Syria.
  5. ^ Brenda Gazzar (July 16, 2006). "U.S. Muslim Women Weigh Anti-Islam Firebrand". womensenews.org. Archived from the original on September 7, 2009. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c Wendt, Jana, A Matter of Principle: New Meetings with the Good, the Great and the Formidable, Melbourne University Publishing, 2008, p.46
  7. ^ Kerry Howley. "Breaking the Silence: One woman is risking her life to speak the truth about radical Islam". Reader's Digest. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  8. ^ John M. Broder (March 11, 2006). "The Saturday Profile; For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 9, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  9. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (November 4, 2007). "God and Man on YouTube". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  10. ^ "Transcript Translation: al-Jazeera – The Opposite Direction 26/02/2006 Translator: Meph www.aqoul.com, March 22, 2006" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  11. ^ Elisabeth Eaves (October 27, 2009). "Islam On The Couch – An ex-Muslim psychiatrist is attacked for apostasy". Forbes. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  12. ^ Baudet, Thierry (January 19, 2011). "Thou Shalt Not Offend Islam". City Journal. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  13. ^ "A "crack in the wall" – Wafa Sultan on the mohammed cartoons". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 12, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2008.
  14. ^ "LA Psychologist Wafa Sultan Clashes with Algerian Islamist Ahmad bin Muhammad over Islamic Teachings and Terrorism". Middle East Media Research Institute. Archived from the original on June 15, 2008. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  15. ^ Yaghi, Adam (December 18, 2015). "Popular Testimonial Literature by American Cultural Conservatives of Arab or Muslim Descent: Narrating the Self, Translating (an)Other". Middle East Critique. 25 (1): 83–98. doi:10.1080/19436149.2015.1107996. S2CID 146227696.
  16. ^ a b c Asra Nomani (April 30, 2006). "Wafa Sultan". Time. Archived from the original on February 14, 2008. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  17. ^ a b "The People Who Shape Our World". Time. Archived from the original on March 11, 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  18. ^ "Wafa Sultan".
  19. ^ "Stop Islamization of Nations (SION) Calls on UN to Protect Christians of Syria". Press Release from PR Newswire. Reuters. January 20, 2012. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2014.


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