Outspoken Feminist Critic of Islam Frustrates Some, Fascinates Others

July 16, 2006

Source: Women's eNews


On July 16, 2006 Women's eNews reported, "While [Wafa] Sultan's focus on women's issues has received less attention in the West, she considers it one of her top priorities. Sultan argues that women in the Middle East are hostages to their religion and culture and believe they are less than men. The most bothersome thing, she says, is that 'they are slaves, but they believe they are free.' Sultan--who describes herself as simply a secular human being--says she hopes to become the 'savior' of Muslim women. But few Muslim women would welcome such a rescue attempt, says Sabiha Khan, a 28-year-old Muslim woman who recently finished a five-year stint as the spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Los Angeles. Khan says that while Sultan may have captured the attention of Western media many Muslim women consider her mistaken and irrelevant to their community. 'I don't believe I am less than a man,' says Khan. 'I am not a slave. I am a very educated Muslim woman who believes in her religion with all her heart.' Millions of Muslim women feel the same way, she added... Khan and others say that real leadership is provided by Muslim women who seek social change according to Islam within their communities. For examples of women working to reform Islam from within, Muslim women point to Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and Canada's Shahina Siddiqi, who has published a booklet on making mosques friendlier to women... Some Muslim women, however, feel that Sultan has something to offer. Asra Q. Nomani is a Morgantown, W.V., journalist and author of 'Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam.' She describes herself as a Muslim feminist and says she believes in separation of mosque and state. She said she initially balked as did another Muslim journalist when asked by Time magazine to write a profile about Sultan for the magazine's issue on its annual roster of influential people. But after conducting extensive interviews with her, the Indian American journalist decided that Sultan contributes to the discussion of the need for reform of the Muslim world 'even if she is outrageously politically incorrect.'"