I believe the Sultan vs the Al Azhar professor debate was an attempt by Al Jazeera to discredit anyone who thinks differently about Islam. By putting these 2 together, Al Jazeera was forcing its viewers to choose between Sultan and the professor. 99.9999% of viewers had no option but to side with their fellow Muslim the professor.
We don't need former Muslims, we don't need atheists, we don't need lesbians, what we need are reform minded Muslim thinkers. Only these people have the necessary legitimacy to pull us from the dark abyss we're in now.
The problem is that Islam has all sorts of rather extremely prejudicial ways to exclude/silence such voices. Some "moderate" Muslims have been known to die as a result of their "moderate" views. So, maybe the only criticisms that can be seen in the West are from those who have managed to escape from Islam's coerced uniformity of religious thought. It's either Allah or nothing, it seems.
Death fatwas have a tendency to discourage innovative thinking on the subject.