Muslim doctor booted off Egyptian t.v. show for not being extremist enough

Do watch this really interesting 4.5-minute clip from Egyptian television. The clip was originally on MEMRI TV, which has the note:  “Egyptian TV Host Kicks Guest Out of Studio for Expressing Controversial Ideas on Religion; Al-Nahar TV (Egypt) – May 13, 2014.” And the title of the clip is “TV host Riham Sahid interviews Egyptian Salafist-[a branch of Sunni Islam]-turned-skeptic Dr. Noha.”

In it, a Muslim doctor is interviewed by a seemingly liberal Muslim television presenter, but it all winds up in a heated debate about what “real” Muslims believe, with the presenter, Riham Sahid (as opposed to the interviewee Dr. Noha, who wears hijab to hide her identity), taking the hard line: Allah and not Muhummad wrote the Qur’an, and sharia law should be implemented everywhere. It’s quite startling to hear Sahid, appearing as a modern woman in modern Western dress, favor chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning an adulteress  to death (she doesn’t mention the adulterer).

But it’s heartening to hear Dr. Noha stand up for her views, calling much of Islam “a myth,” asserting that Muhammad himself and not Allah wrote the Qur’an, and claiming, based on experience, that Allah doesn’t respond to prayer.  In fact, Noha seems to be a hairsbreadth away from being an atheist—and, given the punishment for that under sharia, maybe she is.

Sahid gets really exercised at the challenges to her faith and winds up calling the courageous Dr. Noha “ignorant.” In fact, Sahid says, not realizing the irony, “I am proud to be an ignoramus.” Finally, the exasperated Sahid boots her interviewee out of the studio, saying that she had wasted her time with a “crazy woman.” But it is Dr. Noha who is rational and Sahid who is deluded.

Reader Hardy sent me that clip with a note:

I’m awestruck by the bravery and decency of the guest in this interview. What can we do to support, encourage and protect people like her? Because, as much as we all like to imagine that we’re fighting the good fight against ignorance and superstition, she really is on the frontline… and the risks for her are very real.

Indeed! Kudos to the very brave Dr. Noha. It’s easy to go after Islam from the safety of our computers in the West, but it’s people like Noha who take the very real risks that we don’t bear. That’s why it was so ludicrous for Brandeis to withdraw its offer of an honorary degree to the courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who travels with an armed guard 24/7 because of her apostasy. Yet Ali continues to speak out against the oppressive sexism of Islam.  I wish Noha health and safety.

A side note: to complicate matters, Sahid herself, as I posted some months ago, crossed swords with an Islamic cleric on another t.v. interview, refusing to wear the veil to conform to the cleric’s beliefs  (the clip is here). In that case, Sahid walked off the show. It is so curious, and a mystery to me, that a woman who refuses to wear the veil nevertheless advocates sharia law’s call for aputating of hands and stoning of adulteresses!

When someone like Sahid holds such bizarre views, it really confuses me about what a “moderate” Muslim really is.

26 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. eric
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    It is so curious, and a mystery to me, that a woman who refuses to wear the veil nevertheless advocates sharia law’s call for aputating of hands and stoning of adulteresses!

    Could be she got pushback for her previous show, so decided to take the hard line in the more recent one to improve her islamic credibility.

    And while its risky to extrapolate from a sample of two, it sounds like ‘walking out’ may be a gimmick of the show. Kinda like (in the past) tuning in to Springer to watch the fight, maybe people tune it to this show to watch someone (host or guest) walk out.

    • Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      That’s my impression, from watching a couple of clips from this show.

  3. Glenn
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I watched both and am speechless! Religion appears so ridiculous to me. Fundamentalism of any stripe alarms me greatly!

  4. Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m awestruck by the bravery and decency of the guest in this interview.

    I think all of us (like yourself, JC) echo Hardy’s thought: What an incredibly courageous person Noha must be.

    • Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Hm. It could of course be that the thing was deliberately staged and that Sahid is equally courageous . . .

  5. krzysztof1
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    My favorite part was when the female host said “I’m ignorant and proud OF it!

    I never thought I’d see such honesty from a doofus.

  6. Greg Esres
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps there is a bit of subterfuge going on here whereby Sahid gives a liberal a public platform, yet avoids being seen as a sympathizer.

    • s.k.graham
      Posted June 2, 2014 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      I agree, I sensed a ploy here also.

      I heard one or both of them laughing a bit in the middle of the heated arguing — though it may have been a laugh of disbelief at the others views.

      I had a brief suspicion that Sahid might be a female egyptian version of Stephen Colbert.

      But I do get a strong vibe that the show is manufactured drama, and designed to expose viewers to liberal, critical views of Islam.

  7. Posted June 2, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    When someone like Sahid holds such bizarre views, it really confuses me about what a “moderate” Muslim really is.

    Me, too.

    We have empirical evidence that a moderate Christian is a Christmas-and-Easter Christian, or somebody whose Jesus is the fluffy-bunny Sunday School love god, or some combination of the two or basic variation on that theme. They generally accept modern scientific explanations for pretty much everything, but might carve out the occasional exception for an healing prayer and the Resurrection and the like. Ask people who self-identify as moderate Christians and whom others so identify, and that’s where they cluster.

    The story is much the same for moderate Jews. There’s even an official label for them: Reform. And they’re about a third of American Jewry.

    But in Islam? Even so-called “moderates,” self- and other-identified, call for the Caliphate, universal Sharia law, and the like. Even the most liberal of the moderates rarely will even go so far as to unequivocally condemn death for apostasy.

    Maybe they’re “moderate” in comparison to mainstream Islamists (how?), but, frankly, that’s like suggesting that Phoenix (where it’s 104°F as I type and headed for 110°f) is “moderately” warm, because it’s not as hot as Yuma (where it’s already 109°).

    b&

    • Posted June 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, well said. A moderate Muslim would not stone you to death for apostasy, but he/she is quite happy for a fundamentalist Muslim to do it to you.
      I have quite a number of Muslim acquaintances, who never condemn the monstrosities committed in the name of Islam. They just never seem to open their mouths against it.

    • DireLobo
      Posted June 3, 2014 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      I have a co-worker, here in SoCal, he is a Pakistani, living in Cali almost 8 years now. Calls himself a Muslim. Went to the big walk around the square thing in the giant mall with thousands of other Muslims. One of the pillars of Islam, he explained to me, to make the trip, etc., etc. ok, now grasp this – we talk openly about every issue, forms science denial to right wing politicians and gay marriage, to terrorism and us wars in the Middle East and right down the line he and I are is sync as any two Cali liberals could be (except he eats only the vege while I excell at devouring meat – yet we break bread together regularly). Maybe because he is a software engineer (and a damn good one) that he is so level-headed. How he squares his rationalistic worldview with his worship of Islam, that’s the one question I have never ventured to ask. But he does it. So, not only do I believe moderate Muslims exist, but I know that liberal Muslims also exist. Perhaps they are a tiny minority. Minuscule even, and living outside their home countries.

  8. Filippo
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    sub

  9. gravityfly
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    It seems that atheism is making inroads in the Islamic world. Noha denies being an atheist but she sure sounds like one.

  10. boggy
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I thought it was Mohammed’s wife Khadija who wrote the Koran as Mo was illiterate, though why she wrote so much that was derogatory to her gender is bizarre.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 3, 2014 at 3:51 am | Permalink

      Maybe Mohammed (who;s not illiterate – I’ve seen the cartoons of him in bed with Jeebus, reading “Stone Throwers Weekly” and the like ; maybe he’s learned in the last 1400 years. Or his “body double” has made a continuity error?) got one of his buddies to read back what his wife wrote down?

  11. Faustus
    Posted June 3, 2014 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    Sahid gets everything she prays for? Well why hasn’t she preyed for world peace? How selfish to have the ability to create world peace (at so little cost to yourself) and not do it. Well, either selfish or talking bollocks.

    • Posted June 3, 2014 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      I’m afraid the presenter would pray for Islam to be the single religion on earth and for everyone to live under Sharia law so that prayer would never be proven either way.
      If the conversation wasn’t so heated, perhaps Dr Noha could have given her a prayer challenge – cure someone’s cancer or other incurable disease for instance – and come back on TV to announce the result.
      Dr Noha is a truly brave lady to be so strident in national TV, and now permanently on the internet, although I’m confused as to why she should use her (presumably) real name then say she’s hiding her face.
      I hope she stays safe.

  12. Posted June 3, 2014 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Seriously, do you think that the interviewee would risk her life in such a staged show? After all, from that moment on she is a marked woman.

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 3, 2014 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    After all, from that moment on she is a marked woman.

    That hijab is a marked hijab. The woman underneath …
    Maybe she was already in the process of getting out of Dodge? The show isn’t described as having been broadcast live.

  14. Posted June 3, 2014 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    Here is a link to an interview in an Egyptian newspaper from last year with (I believe) the same Dr. Noha:

    http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/salafi-woman-turned-atheist-recounts-her-journey

    I think it puts to rest any suspicions that she may not be authentic.

    The description of her loss of faith is very touching: She was beaten by her husband, and when she appealed to her father for help, she was told that her husband’s actions were sanctioned by the Qur’an. That appeared to start a process of questioning that ultimately led to a rejection of her religious beliefs.

    The article also confirms that she really is an atheist: “A human being is a series of cells with DNA that generate, get old and then die. After death is like before being: simply nothing.”

    As an aside, Dr. Noha mentions a very interesting phenomenon that I’ve heard described by other Muslims who’ve experienced crises of faith. Namely, the standard response of their families and communities is to have them treated for mental illness. Some, apparently, even start to believe this diagnosis.

    Dr. Noha sounds alone, marginalised, and fearful. Yet she is a brave, compassionate, and rational human being, facing terrible threats (a clear counterexample to the maxim that there are no atheists in foxholes). I often wonder to what extent the survival of liberalism itself depends on the existence of people like her.

    I don’t know how we in the West can assist brave women like Dr. Noha. But our best efforts surely do not involve silencing the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

  15. Diane G.
    Posted June 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Nice contribution–thanks.


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