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“The biggest pleasure in life is to have your worst enemy, who you were raised to hate with all your heart, become a dear, supportive friend,” said Sultan, a Syrian-born psychiatrist who emigrated to the United States in 1989. “I owe America my love. It gives me the right to express myself, unlike the repressive, Islamic society that suffocated me as a youth.”
Speaker of the Truth Awards were also presented to the Syrian dissident Farid Ghadry and Istanbul-native Zeyno Baran.
“I am extremely gratified to be part of EMET’s cause,” said Ghadry, the elected leader in exile of Syria’s Reform Party. Farid is a widely published critic of the current Syrian regime and an outspoken supporter of Israel. After his May 2007 speech to the Israeli Parliament – the first time a Syrian was invited to the Knesset – the Syrian government permanently revoked Ghadry’s citizenship.
“I admire Israel because I love Syria,” said Ghadry. “In Syria, I was taught to hate the Jewish people. But my 33 years in America have taught me to admire them. After all, has any other people overcome centuries of hatred and oppression to create a democratic country that, within a mere 60 years, has become renown as a center for science and medicine? My dream is to see the people of Syria learn from Israel and, one day, have a real peace, where children cross borders to play and people share knowledge and ideas.”
Zeyno Baran’s life work is the promotion of a tolerant Islamic faith that is fused with critical thinking and a respect for democratic institutions. As Director of the Center for Eurasian Policy at the Hudson Institute, the Stanford-educated scholar has published many articles and spoken frequently of the need to distinguish between Islam as a religion and Islam as a political ideology. Baran is a strong supporter of close ties between Turkey and Israel and is working on strategies to thwart the spread of anti-American ideology in Europe, Eurasia, and elsewhere.
“Islamists are not mainstream Muslims,” said Baran. “We must be vigilant against extreme versions of Islam that seek to deny millions of Muslims their aspirations to think and live freely.”
Other honorees at the Second Annual EMET Gala Dinner included Rep. Jim Sexton (R-NJ) and Shelley Berkley (D-NV), who were recognized for years of steadfast support for Israel, and Cal Thomas, the most widely syndicated columnist in the U.S. They spoke before a record turnout of approximately two hundred people.
“These are all people at the forefront of the fight against Islamic extremism,” said Sarah Stern, President and Founder of EMET. “Reps. Sexton and Berkley are the best friends Israel can have and true champions of freedom. And Cal Thomas’ well-known support of the Jewish State and Western civilization in the face of Islamic extremism deserves our recognition and appreciation,” she said.
“But the highlight of the night for me is the courage and heroism of our three Muslim honorees,” adds Stern. “They are literally risking their lives every day to speak out against Jihadism. I am delighted that EMET is giving them these awards because they not only richly so richly deserve the recognition, but I hope that by doing so, we will be encouraging more open-minded Muslims to speak out against the hatred, tyranny and oppression within their own communities, and join among the path of the Reformers.