Stop Fighting on our Bodies

I spent New Year’s Eve 2015 in Egypt, one of my favorite places on the planet, a source of great inspiration and self-fulfillment; at the same time, a place of pandemic sexual harassment, a country that often has me cringing with frustration over the way women are treated inside the family or out in the public, a country that was also the inspiration for my Bachelor thesis about sexual violence against women in the political realm.

Now, on that same New Year’s Eve, Cologne in Germany became a staging ground for mass harassment and even rape of women by allegedly North African men, possibly refugees, possibly living in Germany for a couple of years already—the details remain unclear as news of false accusations surface while others are proven to be true. What is very clear, however, is the public debate that arose from this incident and the instigative way that it was portrayed in the media. Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the most read and respected German newspapers posted an image of a black arm reaching between white women’s legs (they later apologized for the racist way this could be interpreted); FOCUS, a .. well, let’s say not the most unprofessional, and equally popular German news magazine showed a similar image on their cover of a white woman’s naked body with black handprints on it.

focustitelSo returning to Germany after my holiday, I had no desire whatsoever to engage in any debates on the topic, because I knew that I was going to face a front of hysterical white people. And by white I don’t mean skin colour, being quite pale myself. By white I am talking about people who grew up in Germany and understandably have little or no experience with Arabic or Muslim societies. And whether they are ignorant racists that protest against refugees using public swimming pools, or fairly open-minded students of political sciences, most of them will easily fall for the rhetoric of the barbaric Arab man who just does not fit into our civilized, progressive culture, where women are supposedly empowered and free and respected… Continue reading

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A country of masters and servants

DSC00628„Today we are washing the dishes“, says my German friend as we are sitting in the middle of the desert after a great meal prepared by our two Bedouin guides Sameh and Sayed. „I don’t like being served“, she continues and I know exactly what she means. I have been feeling like that countless times during the weeks and months that I spent in Egypt. After some discussion – and because we were lazy – we figured: If we were in a restaurant in Germany we would also see no reason to help in the kitchen after our meal. Sameh and Sayed are being paid for doing this job. And yet, there is something that just does not feel right about it.

I think about this a lot in Cairo, because my Grandmother has a driver, Hassan, a maid, Mona, and a cook, Soheir, who work for her regularly. I like them all very much and they like me, too. Maybe because I behave differently than other Egyptians that could afford employing them. I always sit next to Hassan, never in the back seat. He is almost like a grandfather to me. I never give orders to Mona. I sit with Soheir in the kitchen and learn recipes from her. And these things are not to say that I am such an awesome, generous person that is even kind to the servants. No, it means that these people to me are not servants, they are people who are employed at my Grandmother’s and who are in every way equal to me. But unfortunately that is not how society sees them, sees us. Continue reading

Muslim Pride

What does religious faith mean to young Muslims in European countries like Germany?

        

That is a question I tried to answer as part of the exhibition “Muslim Pride” (www.muslimpride.org), an exploratory project by French university students, that has committed itself to intercultural and interreligious dialogue. There will be an exhibition containing artistic and scientific ways of showing how Islamophobia has developed, why it is unnecessary and how Muslims live in Europe. Continue reading

Home, sweet Home

Moving out of a room is hard but leaving behind a whole house is harder. As my mother and I are preparing to move out and the rest of the family already has in the past years, I watch my room become less and less of a room and more and more of just an empty space. It looks like I will be the last one to leave the sinking ship at the end of next week. I am scared of the moment where I will leave the house for the last time and know that I will never come home to it again. Who knows, I might visit the new owners one day but after twelve years of living here it will never be my home again. I feel like every single fibre of this house belongs to me or is even an extended part of me. I can’t imagine anybody else living in here, using it in a different way, developing their own memories in it when it is already soaked with mine.

It is unbelievable how much stuff one piles up in four floors or even just a few squaremetres over the years. That makes it really difficult to empty a whole house at once. Sometimes I wish I had a huge trash can to throw everything into. All that stuff that you will never need again but because you needed it once, you just can’t get rid of it. Well, I guess the more things you take with you, the faster your new living space will feel like a home, too. Continue reading