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Rabbi's interpretation of Muslim critic's talk

July 01, 2006

Re "Meet Islam's Ann Coulter," Current, June 25

Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein was right on the mark with his insightful analysis of Wafa Sultan.

People like Sultan turn extolling the virtues of Christians and Jews not into an exercise in educating fellow Muslims but into an exercise in self-promotion. They take the praise to the point where it's exposed as cheap ingratiation meant to advance their personal careers. The rabbi noted: "Progress in the Muslim world was not her interest." And I would add that the only progress she's interested in is her own.

How could exclusively portraying Islam and Muslims as evil improve or bring Muslims any closer to Jews and Christians? It does the opposite.

To those applauding Sultan and her like, I suggest embracing honest, sincere Muslims who are genuine in their endeavors, rather than those opportunists who are out to promote themselves.

HESHAM SABRY

Kitchener, Canada

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Stein's idealism is to be admired, but denying the harsh realities in the world is dangerous. Both Sultan and Ann Coulter describe realities in today's world that many refuse to hear. To deny that women are subjugated in the Muslim world, that ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted or that the majority of world conflicts involve Muslims is simply to engage in self-delusion.

Stein's two exceptions of Californian Muslim independent women are nice anecdotes, but they don't mitigate today's crisis in the Muslim world.

RICHARD FRIEDMAN

Los Angeles

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I attended Sultan's talk and believe Stein misinterpreted the meaning of her message. Her personal testimony was a cry of anguished anger from one who grew up in the Arab Muslim world and wants it reformed and modernized. It seems inappropriate for a man from a different faith and culture to demean and discredit Sultan's personal experience, her call to Muslim women to stand up and demand change, and her courage in speaking out despite fatwas against her.

The rabbi also charges that Jews would be justifiably angered if another Jew criticized Judaism before a Muslim audience. But Sultan is also protesting that far too many mosques worldwide and in the U.S. regularly demonize Jews and other "infidels." Instead of denouncing Sultan, the rabbi should reach out to her, try to understand her experience and incorporate it in his views.

How unfortunate the rabbi didn't stay long enough to ask Sultan his own questions.

ROBERTA P. SEID

Santa Monica

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