Germany: "We Muslims have to lead these discussions, because they are about us"

Germany: "We Muslims have to lead these discussions, because they are about us"

In the run-up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, German-Turkish writer Seyran Ates discusses her new book, which describes the necessity of a sexual revolution in the Islamic world, the recent integration debate in Germany and the arrogance of German women's rights activists.


SPIEGEL: It's also difficult to pass judgment about a community that may not be all that homogeneous. Thilo Sarrazin, a board member at the Bundesbank (Germany's central bank), came under fire recently when he complained about German Muslims, particularly in Berlin. Was he right?

Ates: I believe that Mr. Sarrazin's remarks were to the point and correct. We have serious problems in our multicultural society. Mr. Sarrazin isn't the first to have brought them up.

SPIEGEL: In other words, he was completely in the right?

Ates: No, it's more complicated than that. Mr. Sarrazin is a German, and when a high-profile German publicly refers to Turks having no "productive function," there is great potential for misinterpretation. I know Turks on the street who say things like that, but they're allowed to. Mr. Sarrazin isn't -- no matter how good the rest of his article was, and regardless of whether everyone who is so upset about it now actually read it. But we Muslims have to lead these discussions, because they are about us.


SPIEGEL: You call for a revolution, but doesn't that take a lot of time?

Ates: Look at the student uprisings here in Germany. Something happened, and suddenly young people took to the streets. We saw the same thing in Iran after the election: The young people were prepared to protest. We now have this one opportunity to drive up the boiling point, using all the democratic and political means at our disposal.

SPIEGEL: But there is one thing you can't change: The lack of simultaneity between the West and parts of Islamic societies in terms of cultural development.

Ates: That's the big problem we have: the acceptance of this lack of simultaneity in religion and culture. If we could at least acknowledge its existence. They've come a lot further at universities in Turkey than the protagonists in the integration debate here in Germany have.

SPIEGEL: What troubles you about that?

Ates: Particularly here in Germany, there are some very deep archaic self-images -- including those among leftist German feminist women -- of the whites who behave like big sisters. It's very arrogant. These women rail against the Catholic Church and its rigid sexual morals, but they insist that we tolerate Turkish women wearing the headscarf, because they believe that this enables the women to preserve their culture. But as far as I'm concerned, this headscarf is nothing but an expression of oppression and inhibition, and of the fact that the men would prefer to hide the women.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe in God?

Ates: I believe in God.

SPIEGEL: Did you fast during Ramadan?

Ates: I do not fast during Ramadan.

SPIEGEL: Do you pray five times a day?

Ates: I pray, but not five times a day.

SPIEGEL: Do you go to the mosque?

Ates: I don't go to a mosque, because there are no mosques that appeal to me. One of my latest ideas is to establish a free, progressive mosque.

SPIEGEL: With a female imam?

Ates: Exactly, with a female imam and with equal access to all parts of the mosque for men and women. There must be an end to the presence of conservative Muslims, who want to reserve Islam for a specific group. We liberal Muslims don't want the separations among Shiites, Sunnis and Alawites. We want to participate jointly in a contemporary interpretation of Islam.


Source: Spiegel (English)

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