Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychiatrist and author of the 2011 book, A God Who Hates, spoke to a January 7 Middle East Forum Webinar (video) about the current state of ex-Muslims as they try to "stop the hateful message said by the Quran, by the hadith, by Muhammad's biography" that incite violence and crush freedom.
Sultan came to prominence following a 2006 Al Jazeera interview that went viral after she confronted an Islamic cleric over global violence committed in the name of the religion. Having contacted many former Muslims since that broadcast, she frustrated by the lack of support for ex-Muslims since 9-11. "This is an uphill battle" in which "the rest of the world abandoned us to fight on our own." Despite "tremendous efforts we have made to achieve our mission," she says, "we have not achieved much."
She is concerned for the "millions of ex-Muslims who are still living under unbearable Sharia laws that persecute them and threaten their life daily," Sultan says; for those who need "pressure placed Islamic governments to guarantee individual safety and to protect everyone's freedoms." In order to help achieve this, ex-Muslims need an "immediate platform to deliver our message to a new generation," but she has found little external support. This failing leads her to conclude "that the world is not interested in us and is not interested in changing the reality of Muslims for the better."
Sultan praised the steps taken for "positive change" by Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Although Sultan criticized the Islamic countries whose leaders indulge Muslim clergy to "guarantee" their power "for the sake of dictatorship," she praised the steps taken for "positive change" by Saudi Arabian prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). The Saudi clergy has not challenged the prince, and some even support his efforts. Sultan is convinced "the [Saudi] government always [had] the upper hand to make a change," and the free world should encourage the prince to pursue reform.
The Abraham Accords advance reform, which she views as a "good step" that will force the Muslim world to improve the friction between the Sunni and the Shia. "Once they establish a normal relationship with Israel, they will normalize their own relationships," she believes.
However, Facebook sometimes thwarts Sultan's hopes of normalizing her beliefs within the Muslim community by repeatedly banning or limiting her posts. She posts articles daily "teaching people how to love each other . . . how to make this world a better place for our generation and every country." Currently, her work is mainly "limited to [the] Arabic language." "To be banned from social media ... almost killed me spiritually, mentally, psychologically" because Facebook blocked access to her readers and her "many followers" on social media. Facebook's standards, she said, are incomprehensible because of their hypocrisy. While they allow the proliferation of social media postings of Quranic verses that called for "cursing the Jews and Christians, demanding Muslims to cut their neck are allowed and permitted to spread like wildfire all over social media," a decision she calls "a disgrace." She and other ex-Muslims "hold the Western world, particularly America," accountable for failing to support them in their time of need.
Facebook discriminates against many ex-Muslims, who are "banned from fully expressing" their concerns. Many are "compelled to adopt the conspiracy theory that the West has sold us [out] in exchange for the money flowing from the Arabian Gulf." For example, since her 2006 Al Jazeera interview, which allotted her "only a few minutes" to explain her departure from Islam, "we haven't seen any experience like [mine] repeated in any Arabic media." Even more disturbing, the U.S. sponsors the television broadcast station Alhurra, which nevertheless "exclude[s] secularists, specifically those who left Islam." Rather, Alhurra "reinforce[s] the status quo and doesn't help to make any positive change" in the Arab world.
She also condemned the U.S. House of Representatives bill H.R. 5665, the Combating International Islamophobia Act, passed in 2021. "There is no such 'Islamophobia.' It is a term created by Western people just [for] the sake of being politically correct." The results of this Western invention are dire: "I don't believe there is such a thing like 'Islamophobia," she said, and one day it may be sued to "shut us up." As a result, "our fear is increasing day by day."
In the end, "no belief system is above being criticized," including Islam, Sultan said. Despite many setbacks, Sultan says she's proud of her work. "It gives me a sense of being satisfied," she said. "That's what I can say."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.