The article that won Cinnamon Stillwell her first
Today's True Feminists
As we marked another International
Women's Day this month, commemorations took place around the world. In
the West, the feminist movement held its own events to honor the occasion.
, a group called the Radical Women honored International Women's Day with
a March 11 "Tribute
to Sister Resisters." These included a "playwright, actor,
and model for 'Women en Large: Images of Fat Nudes,'" an
"abortion advocate," a "labor and anti-war feminist
poet" and a "retired socialist feminist educator and
revolutionary writer." In other words, the same old tired '60s
model ad nauseam.
Meanwhile, the real
radical women in the world go largely unremarked by the feminist movement.
Today's true heroines are those who do battle with the gender apartheid,
violence and oppression practiced against women in the Muslim world.
There, women face not just phantom infringements to their civil rights and
perceived slights to their sensitivities, but threats to their lives. With
call for reform in the Muslim world come the inevitable requirements
of round-the-clock security.
psychiatrist Dr. Wafa Sultan is the latest to enter such dangerous waters.
Ever since Sultan took
part in a
debate on Al-Jazeera with Algerian Islamist cleric Ahmad bin Muhammad
in February, the world has been riveted.
The two debated
Islamic teachings and terrorism. But instead of the usual excuses, Sultan offered
moral clarity. She blasted the Muslim world for being mired in a
"medieval" mentality and she dubbed the war on terror not simply
a clash of civilizations but "a clash between civilization and
backwardness … between barbarity and rationality … between human
rights on the one hand and the violation of these rights on the other,
between those who treat women like beasts and those who treat them like
Debate a Hit on Web
Sultan exhorted fellow
Muslims to reject this mind-set and join modernity. She also urged Muslims
to free themselves from the shackles of anti-Semitism. Perhaps most
stunningly, she compared the behavior of Jews and Muslims in the face of
oppression. She said, "The Jews have come from tragedy and forced the
world to respect them with their knowledge, not with their terror."
Thanks to the Middle
East Media Research Institute, which makes Arab media available for a
wider audience at its Web site MEMRI.org,
the Al-Jazeera debate received over 3 million hits. Sultan went on to do an
interview with Rabbi Tovia Singer on Israel National Radio and
eventually became the subject of extensive media attention, including from
CNN and the New York Times. Her frank appraisal of the problems in
Islam has had a huge impact on audiences starving for such voices of
But along with the
acclaim have come numerous
death threats and the need for additional security. Sultan was
denounced as a "heretic" by the cleric with whom she debated on
Al-Jazeera, and he later dubbed her "more dangerous to Islam than the
Danish cartoons," thereby unwittingly providing a glimpse into the
very mind-set Sultan criticized.
Unfortunately, the New
York Times article
did not help matters by tipping off Sultan's potential enemies to the
suburb in which she and her husband reside, as well as other personal
information. A blog called Neocon
Express has since started a campaign to get a number of private
security firms to donate equipment and services for Sultan's protection.
to a middle-class family and raised a Muslim, Wafa Sultan began to
reexamine her religious beliefs after a traumatic incident. A respected
medical school professor was murdered before her eyes by two Muslim
Brotherhood members shouting "Allahu akbar!" (God is great!).
Eventually, she became a secularist and started writing for the Arab
American Web site Anneqed.com.
She became a strong critic of the intolerance and violence increasingly
associated with the Muslim world. She also tackled the taboo subject of
Muslim anti-Semitism, rejecting the hatred with which she had been
indoctrinated as a child.
Sultan is now working
on a book that she says "is going to turn the Islamic world upside
down." Indeed, such upheaval is needed now more than ever. If one
woman can have such a great impact, think what hundreds, thousands or even
millions could do.
But Wafa Sultan is by
no means the first Arab woman to tackle Islamic intolerance. Lebanese
Christian journalist Brigitte
Gabriel has traveled the world sharing her experiences of persecution
at the hands of Islamists in
. She and her family eventually found refuge in
, where she underwent an epiphany and, like Wafa Sultan, rejected the
anti-Semitism she had grown up with.
Gabriel has since
become a staunch defender
of Israel on American college campuses and a powerful voice for
restoring Arab-Jewish relations. Now living in the
, Gabriel founded the American
Congress for Truth, an organization devoted to providing information
conflict and the dangers of "Islamic totalitarianism."
another Arab woman who has sought to bridge the gap with
as well as defend
's battle against Islamic terrorism. A former Muslim born and raised in
and the Gaza Strip who later converted to Christianity, Darwish has lived
for more than 25 years. In addition to writing articles and speaking in
public, Darwish set up the Web site ArabsforIsrael.com.
Darwish routinely calls
upon her own background to tackle the problems associated with the Muslim
world. As she put it in a recent
article, "Hundreds of millions of other Muslims also have been
raised with the same hatred of the West and
as a way to distract from the failings of their leaders."
Manji is also a
woman worth recognizing. A refugee of Pakistani descent from
, Muslim journalist and activist Manji grew up in
. She went on to pursue an impressive career, which now includes being a
visiting fellow with the International Security Studies program at