Islam in its modern state is a prison for Muslims worldwide, Syrian-American psychologist Wafa Sultan told Danish TV channel DR2 in an interview last week.
"We as Muslim people have been hostages of our own belief system for too many centuries. We have been hostages of our own prison. We have never heard other voices outside of our box. We are not used to hearing other voices. We barely are allowed to hear our own voices," Sultan said.
During her now famous debate with an Islamic cleric on al-Jazeera in March 2006, Sultan said the clash between the West and Islam was "a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings."
Addressing the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper of Islam's prophet, Muhammad, sparking worldwide unrest, Sultan told DR2: "Publishing the cartoons was the first crack in the walls of our prison. Because as a prisoner it's almost impossible to break the wall of your prison. You need someone outside of your prison to help you break in it."
"We need to teach them (in the Muslim world) how to listen to other people's opinions, even if they don't like what they hear," Sultan said.
Asked about the cartoon's "negative aspects," Sultan replied: "I don't see any negative. Publishing the cartoons again and again will push Muslims to take deeper look at their religion. And this is the only way to improve our culture, to improve and our religion... So many people criticize Christianity, Judaism, and who cares? So why not Islam."
'Islam not only a religion'
"I believe, you know, that the problem with Islam, is deeply routed in its teachings. Islam is not only
Asked about moderates in Arab countries, Sultan replied: "I believe, wrongfully they were called moderates. I don't believe there are moderate Muslims. Because in Islam you have to believe in every teaching as a holy teaching you cannot change, you have to accept it the way it is, because otherwise simply you are not a Muslim.
Discussing threats sent to her, Sultan told her interviewer: "I receive death threats on a daily basis. And deep in my heart I feel the peace inside me. I'm not afraid. I believe in what I am doing, and I have decided to keep doing it for the rest of my life, even if I have to sacrifice my own life. Because I believe we are here for a purpose, and we're going to live this life only once, so it has to be a good life. You have to be here for a good reason."
Asked if Islam had a role to play in the modern world, Sultan said: "I'm going to say it directly… I don't believe Islam can be reformed, I really don't. I believe Islam shall be transformed, and it will take fearless religious leaders and very well educated people to cause that transformation. If Islam was transformed absolutely, it will have a role to play."