Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam.
By Wafa Sultan,
St. Martin’s Press, 2009, 244 pp.

Reviewed for Christian Renewal, March , 2010

"Be quiet! It's my turn!"

Five simple words. spoken in Arabic on the Al Jazeera discussion program “The Opposite Direction” on February 21, 2006. But they made history and were heard all over the world, catapulting Wafa Sultan into the centre of a controversy that is of world significance.

Imam Ibrahim Al-Khouli was used to dominating the discussion about Islam, especially when interacting with women. He was dumbfounded when Wafa Sultan challenged his authority and demanded that he listen to her. As she explains: “Never in the history of Islam has a woman clearly and forcefully asked a Muslim man to be quiet because it was her turn to speak. Women in Islamic custom and tradition don’t have a turn” (113)

Many viewers have seen the video of this encounter since it was widely circulated with English subtitles on blogs and through e-mail. In 2006, Time Magazine included Wafa Sultan in a list of 100 influential people in the world “whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”

Who is Wafa Sultan?

Who is this woman who had the nerve to contradict a learned Islamic expert? She tells her story in A God Who Hates, and what a fascinating story it is. It is also a profoundly disturbing story that shines a light on the humiliation and systemic abuse imposed on women living in an Islamic culture.

Wafa Sultan was born into a Muslim family in Baniyas, Syria, in 1958. She saw firsthand the mistreatment of women that wrecked the lives of her grandmother and her own mother. Headstrong and determined to learn all she could, she vowed never to acquiesce to a life of virtual slavery in a male-dominated culture, as her grandmother and mother had done. Two sisters of her husband were forced into marriage at the age of eleven and thirteen. One of Wafa’s nieces, a mother of four children at the age of 26, escaped her miserable existence by committing suicide.

One experience hit Sultan hard when she was growing up. She overheard her mother, in a joking sort of way, tell others that when Wafa was born, she and her husband were disappointed that the baby was a girl, and they were unsure what to name her. One of her uncles then told her mother. “Why don’t you call her …. [a crude word for feces], it’s the only name she deserves.”

While she was still in medical school Sultan began assisting in medical clinics where she became directly acquainted with the sufferings and humiliation of many young girls and women. They were often treated like dirt, at the mercy of older and cruel men. A women came into a gynecological clinic with burns on her thighs and abdomen. Asked to explain them, she told the doctor that her husband stubs out his cigarettes on her body to punish her for being stupid. The doctor without hesitation said, “You must deserve it. He wouldn’t do it if you weren’t really stupid.”

Ugly Secrets

On graduation from medical school in 1981, Sultan became a doctor in a mountain village far from the centre of the country. After she overcame the villagers’ skepticism about a female doctor, she soon began to see the secrets behind the locked doors. She was shocked by the inhumane way the men treated their women. They worked in the fields and suffered greatly especially during Ramada when they were forced to go without food or water even in the heat of the day. Sometimes they gave birth in the open field.

Sultan was even more troubled by the widespread sexual abuse women suffered. Because she was a woman who gained their confidence she heard many stories a male doctor would not hear. Many had been raped, often by their own family members. Unmarried women who then became pregnant were murdered as soon as their condition became known. Sometimes they would be poisoned by the pesticides used on local farms. The death certificate would read: “Death from natural causes.” No one asked any questions.

Sultan writes that she left that village after her three year term of service was completed with a bleeding heart and “seething with fury.” She had become a more experienced woman, she writes, “well schooled in the human rights abuses that took place in the society in which I lived.”

Stolen Childhood

Islam teaches that the Koran and the words and example of the prophet Muhammad (hadith), are to be obeyed and treated as instructions from God himself. Sultan is convinced that Muhammad’s relationship with women has created a trap for all Muslim women. Muhammad married nine wives, possibly more. One of them was Safia Bint Hayi, a Jewish woman who was forced to become his wife the same day her husband had been killed by Muhammad’s warriors.

In addition, he married the wife of his adopted son Ali because he fell in love with her. This arrangement was conveniently sanctioned by a message delivered by the angel Gabriel: "and when Zeid satisfied his desire, we gave her to you in marriage.” (Koran 33:37)

Muhammad also married Aisha, who was six years old and nine years when this “marriage” was consummated. This fact is a source of embarrassment to many Muslims today, but it has legitimized a terrible abuse of girls for fourteen hundred years. Islam culture attaches no value to childhood, and a child has no rights. It is a piece of property to be dealt with without any regard for his or her desires and wellbeing.

Even today, in Arab countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, the childhood of many young girls is violated by men from the Arabian Gulf states. These men with their money and no moral standards take advantage of the poverty in these countries to buy underage girls. These girls then begin a life of suffering which often ends with their being returned to their families after their childhood, their womanhood, their honour, and their reputation are destroyed. Such girls then return to a society that has betrayed them and does not respect their plight.

The situation for boys is obviously different, and in a sense less destructive. But they too suffer under the often cruel treatment of their fathers. Sultan encountered men who had been reduced to emotional wrecks by their fathers. She tells the story of a man now living in America, but suffering from severe depression and other psychological disorders. He told her: My childhood still haunts me.” He is filled with hatred toward God, because his father had treated him harshly in teaching him obedience to Allah.

When a boy of seven, his father woke him at five in the morning for the dawn prayer, and forced him to go outside in subzero temperatures to perform the ritual ablutions in the water of a nearby well. Once he just dipped his arms into the pail of water and then rushed back into the house. But his father had watched him not performing the ablutions properly and beat him unmercifully with a leather belt while his mother looked on and cried. This man told Sultan: “I hate God more than I hate my father. My father and I are both victims of that criminal called Allah.”

Ruined Families

Sultan asks what has become of the family in a culture that is dominated by what she calls a despotic religion. What price have Muslim men and women paid for a religion driven by fear and brute force? She answers: It has shattered us and torn a whole nation limb from limb, leaving the true concepts of "marriage" and "family in ruins."

She writes that the status of women in Muslim countries is a catastrophe that has been ignored for centuries and for which we are now paying a high price. "An oppressed and subjugated woman cannot give birth to an emotionally and mentally well-balanced man." But she can and does serve as an enabler of terrorists, as did this woman who stood before a television camera and told the world: Three of my sons were martyrs and I hope the fourth becomes one, too". My sons are now celebrating their marriage with their virgins in paradise."

This woman has been deprived of her motherhood and also of good sense and conscience. No mother in her right mind would ever believe such things, but this mother has been conditioned by a religion that deprived her of her identity and womanhood. She has been taught that she is defective and inferior to men. She has been told by the prophet that hell is mostly populated by women, that she is not allowed to do anything without the approval of her husband or another male figure, such as leaving the house, feeding someone, fasting, or praying.

Sultan’s doubts about the rightness of Islam were reinforced by what she observed in her medical training and practice. Her misgivings were further deepened by reading the books of the Muslim critic Abdullah al- Qasimi, who was forced to flee to the West. She writes that his books gave her an intellectual shock that turned her life upside down. The Egyptian author Nawal el- Saadawi also made her feel that she had been revived from a drug-induced coma." .

The Path to Freedom

In 1988, she and her husband and two children immigrated to America where she continued her struggle to be liberated from what she calls her Muslim birthmark. It was not easy for her to exercise her freedom to leave Islam. But to free her unconscious from the birthmark that had been imprinted on her was even more difficult. Or as she put it: "There is still a huge scar barring my way."

On the flight to America on Christmas day, 1988, she breathed this prayer, "Oh Lord, set me on the path to freedom and I promise You that I will fight for the freedom of others." 94

The first while in America was not easy; at one time she was a gas jockey in Los Angeles. But she was thrilled with the openness and kindness she experienced at her job and the school where her children were enrolled. She began taking English lessons and read whatever she could to acquaint herself with the customs and culture of her new country..

Like everyone else, she was shocked though not surprised when the 9/11 attack on America happened. She was not surprised because she had grown up with a religion that glorifies war against the infidels so that the rule of Allah will be established over the entire world.

What did surprise and trouble her was the ignorance among the American public and leadership about the true nature of Islam. What also troubled her immensely was the hatred of many American Muslims towards their own country. Life in the West has improved their standard of living, but it is not compatible with the teachings, ideas, and religious laws they grew up with.

Consequently, when Sultan began writing for the Arab-language press, she was accused of being dazzled by America and blinded by its moral impoverishment. She found that many Muslims were two-faced in telling people what they wanted to hear in praise of America, but then among themselves express contempt for America. She once congratulated an Arabic immigrant who had just received his U.S. citizenship. He responded, "What are you congratulating me for? American citizenship is worth less than the sole of this shoe," as he pointed at his foot.

In Defence of America

She is deeply offended by such contempt and has become an outspoken defender of America. She has tirelessly explained that radical Islam, the incubator of jihad, is a threat to the free world. As a result, she has been viciously attacked in the Muslim press and depicted as an infidel who is hell-bound.

Sultan used to be quite confident about American national leadership, despite Barack Hussein Obama"s Muslim background and name. This name carries significant meaning for Islam believers, who think that a person with this name in the White House is a favourable omen for the future if Islam in this country.

She was sanguine about that until she watched a televised interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, which became a turning point in her outlook. In the course of the interview Powell expressed his displeasure with the McCain’s campaign accusation that Obama was a Muslim, and retorted: "And what if he were? What would be wrong with that?"

This remark, writes Sultan, poured salt on her wounds and posed this question: "If Colin Powell doesn’t know what it means for the American presidential candidate to be a Muslim, then who does?" She says that he has the right not to judge people on the basis of their religious affiliation. But he does not have the right to ignore the fact that Islam is not just a religion: "It is a political doctrine that imposes itself by force."

She writes that seemingly Mr. Powell has not familiarized himself with "the most malicious enemy ever to have confronted him or threatened his safety. Once Americans understand that the Koran insists that Muhammad is the ideal that every Muslim male should imitate, they will realize that a Muslim candidate for the America presidency is a very serious matter."

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This book is indispensable for all who are eager to understand the most important challenge facing the free West. The author is a courageous and determined woman who has been demonized and threatened in ways that would cause most of us to give up the fight.

She exposes in clear language, backed by real life experience and observation, the destruction of human relations wherever the teachings of the Koran and Muhammad are accepted as divinely inspired. Above all, this book provides an intimate look at the author's passionate search for the true God who is loving and compassionate.

It is my prayer that Wafa Sultan will indeed find the God who so loved the world that he sent his Son not to condemn the world but to save it. (John 3:17)

Read this book. Treasure it. And tell your children and grandchildren.