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THE 10TH CENTURY AND THE 20TH Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler   
Friday, 17 March 2006

When I was an undergraduate at UCLA, my favorite professor was Dr. H. L. Kostanick.  He taught political geography.  He never used a lectern or notes.  Always dressed impeccably in a coat, tie, and sweater vest, he would stand before us, hands in his pockets, and explain the world to us.

Every lecture, no matter about what part of the world, was fascinating.  But most memorable of all was his lecture on the Middle East.  "Ladies and gentlemen, the most critical thing to understand about conflict in the Middle East," he told us, "is that it is not a conflict between Arab and Jew.  It is a conflict between the 10th century and the 20th."

Dr. Kostanick (who was not Jewish - his family was from Macedonia in northern Greece) delivered that lecture in 1965.  It was the first thing I thought of when I saw Dr. Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera TV.

You likely have heard about her by now.  Born in Syria and fluent in Arabic, she got her medical degree at Aleppo University.  With her husband she migrated to America and now lives in Southern California.  She had a debate with an Egyptian professor of Islamic Studies, Ibrahim Al-Khouli in Arabic, and Al-Jazeera broadcast it with English subtitles.

Just like Dr. Kostanick, Dr. Sultan denied that there was a clash of civilizations.  The clash is instead, she says, is "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 those rights on the other."

She was just getting started.

Many of you have heard about this and have asked me how they could see the debate.  Here's the link:  Wafa Sultan video

Dr. Sultan is a truly heroic woman.  Watch the clip and you'll be stunned by her clarity of thought and her courage.  Watching it in admiration, I couldn't help thinking how amazed Dr. Kostanick would be that here we are already in the 21st century, while so much of the Arab world remains mired in the 10th.


 

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