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March 15, 2006

The Clash of Eras

We tend when talking of the beliefs of others to be cautious, to mince words, show respect. That's part of what's interesting about the recent statement (made on Al Jazeera!) by the Arab-American psychiatrist, Dr. Wafa Sultan (quoted, most recently, by Tom Friedman). It is blunt; it is bold; and it has earned Dr. Sultan (as if to prove her point) numerous death threats:

"The clash we are witnessing ... is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations.Wafa_Sultan.jpg It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on the other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings."

No cultural relativism here. No fear of seeing progress in history. No fear of questioning or judging another's beliefs -- the fear that sometimes seems to paralyze anthropologists. (Wilhelm Schmidt: "There is but too much danger that the other [the nonbeliever] will talk of religion as a blind man might of colours.") Dr. Sultan, a nonbeliever, talks about religion.

(If you absolutely require a cynical perspective, try the Daily Kos.)

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at March 15, 2006 12:30 PM


funny ringtones

Posted by: fpzfujy@dmoz.org at September 14, 2006 8:32 AM

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