Mina Ahadi, Chairwoman of the Council of Ex-Muslims Germany, was honored as one of five freedom heroes by the BILD newspaper in September 2019. The Atheist Refugee Relief took this opportunity to talk to Ms. Ahadi about the changed debate on Islam in Germany.
Atheist Refugee Relief: Mrs. Ahadi, you were honoured this year on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the BILD newspaper together with the brothers Klitschko, Joshua Wong and Raed al-Saleh as a fighter for freedom. This is significant in so far as Islam criticism used to be defamed with the fighting term “Islamophobia”. They themselves were often put in the political right corner. What has changed?
Mina Ahadi: I think it plays a big role that there are currently big demonstrations in Iraq and Iran against political Islam. The people in the so-called Islamic countries are coveting and this is also perceived in Europe. In my own country, Iran, there have been two major demonstrations in the last ten years. The human rights organisations in Germany also noticed this, especially when women demonstrated against the headscarf obligation. If I now take action against the headscarf, it is precisely these demonstrations in the so-called Islamic countries that confirm my position. In the meantime, millions of people have understood that this is about humanism, freedom and women’s rights. Anyone who ignores or denies this supports right thinking. I cannot understand how one can accept stoning, oppression and concealment with the words that this belongs to the respective culture. That is why it is important to keep drawing attention to these fundamental violations of human rights. In short, something has changed because of the protests in the so-called Islamic world, also because many courageous women have shown their faces. That has helped us a great deal.
Atheist Refugee Relief: You fought against the mullah regime in Iran with left-wing groups, as you described in your newly published and updated book “Ich habe abgeschworen (I have sworn off)”. Your husband was executed as a communist. So it would have been possible to recognize earlier that you are not on the right political spectrum. Instead, you even had to distance yourself from the Afd with an open letter in order to make your position clear. Why did it take so long for the defamation to stop?
Mina Ahadi: I think the problem was mainly German and European politics. They have been working with the Islamic associations for a long time. The consequence was that all migrants from these countries received the label “Muslim”. The result was that human rights were no longer regarded as universal, but depended on their origin. Thus the Islamic associations were now the contact persons for integration. We said back then that this strategy was wrong. Now it shows that we had assessed the situation correctly and that there are big problems with the Muslim population groups living in Germany.
The second problem was the attitude of the elites in Europe, who placed a very strong emphasis on anti-imperialism. What they did not understand was that times have changed and that Islamism is not the alternative to imperialism, but a totalitarian ideology that oppresses its own people. An example of this is the stoning that I myself experienced in Iran. When I was in Europe, I thought that there would be an outcry if this were told. When I was at several women’s rights conferences from 1992 to 1995, I was shocked by the reactions to my appeals to put pressure on Iran to stop it. I was given to understand that as a European you cannot interfere in foreign cultures and that I should not be so emotional. I think these reactions are crazy.
Obviously there are two groups in the world. One is the rulers, who have a very personal understanding of the world, and the ordinary citizens. We have always worked successfully with NGO’s. They understand that stoning is not a cultural asset. Politicians have other interests, political or economic. I would particularly like to emphasise the parties The Left Party (Die Linke) and the Greens (Die Grünen), which have failed here, even though they should actually be campaigning for human rights. They could not see through their multicultural or post-modernist glasses what I criticised with the example of stoning. It is that this is a massive violation of human rights and women’s rights and that these human rights must be defended. And these must not be justified simply because an Islamist government is in power.
That is why we have problems with right-wing movements. They use the issue to campaign against foreigners. That is why women who have fled Saudi-Arabia, for example, have another problem. They are now confronted with hostility as foreigners in Germany. I have been living in Cologne for twenty years and this is the first time I have seen a demonstration in which openly xenophobic slogans have been called out. It was a demonstration by the Afd and it was very threatening for me. These people rush against all foreigners, no matter where they stand politically. To them I am only a foreigner. This is the climate created by the long suppression of the problems. That is why I had long since pointed out the dangers emanating from the Afd and distanced myself from its policy.
These are the three problems we have to deal with. We have to hide from Islamists, we do not get political support and we are the target of right-wing aggression.
Our aim is to pursue a sensible integration policy. For women’s rights, for LGBT rights, for children’s rights, in other words for universal human rights. Nor can it be that in Muslim circles some people call Germans dirty pigs. We are also strongly opposed to the children’s headscarf. We continue to talk about these problems with the political parties, especially the Greens and the Left Party. Because you have to recognise the problems in order to solve them. This also weakens the Afd, which is unfortunately very popular at the moment.
Atheist Refugee Relief: What would be concrete demands on the Greens and the Left Party?
Mina Ahadi: I think they have to cooperate with organisations like the Atheist Refugee Relief and the Council of Ex-Muslims Germany. Since the Council of Ex-Muslims Germany has clear political positions, they have not wanted to cooperate with us so far. The Left Party repeatedly invites representatives of Islamic organisations, but has never asked us. But I think it is very important that this party should also take a clear stand, for example on children’s headscarves. It should also work to ensure that children do not receive denominational education in schools. They should also make it clear that not all fugitives who have come to us are devout Muslims. I myself have seen in my neighbourhood what happens when integration is left to Islamic associations. There lives a family and the mother had no headscarf when they arrived here. First she wore a hijab and now she is completely veiled. I find that frightening. The Left Party and also the Greens must recognise that we are dealing here with a political Islam. And we must not stand idly by and watch the people who come to us being radicalised inside Germany.
My concrete demands are that cooperation with Islamic associations must be stopped. Instead, we should cooperate with migrant associations and representations that represent the progressive part of society and stand up for universal human rights.
Atheist Refugee Relief: Now there is a new wave of young ex-Muslims in the Arab world who demand the separation of state and religion. What distinguishes them from the former ex-Muslims, e.g. from Iran?
Mina Ahadi: I think it is because people from the so-called Islamic countries now have access to the world through their mobile phones. This allows them to inform themselves without the control of the police or secret services. Young people in Mecca, Baghdad or Tehran like the same things as people in Cologne or London. I think this new generation is particularly cosmopolitan. They are not necessarily political because many simply have a great need to enjoy their lives. If they don’t manage to escape, they meet underground and try to live a freer life there. Often people live quite different in the secret than the government pretends. These are the people who are currently taking to the streets and demonstrating in many Arab countries. I think this is a great opportunity. These young people have had enough of Hamas and Hezbollah. They no longer want to be oppressed.
Atheist Refugee Relief: Thank you for this interview.