Interview with Mina Ahadi on criticising Islam in Germany

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.

Mina Ahadi and Vitali Klitschko

Atheist Refugee Relief: Mrs. Ahadi, you were honoured this year on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the BILD newspaper together with the Klitschko brothers, Joshua Wong and Raed al-Saleh as a fighter for freedom. This is significant insofar as criticizing Islam used to be defamed with the politically instrumentalizing term “Islamophobia”. You yourself were often put in the political right corner. What has changed?

Mina Ahadi: I think it plays a major role that large demonstrations are currently taking place in Iraq and Iran against political Islam. The people in the so-called Islamic countries are protesting and this is also perceived in Europe. In my home 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 campaign against the headscarf, it is these demonstrations in the so-called Islamic countries that confirm my position. Now millions of people have understood that this is about humanism, freedom and women’s rights. Anyone who ignores or denies this is supporting right ideology. I cannot understand how anyone can accept stoning, oppression and forced veiling 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 due to the fact that many courageous women have shown their faces. That has really helped us.

Atheist Refugee Relief: You fought against the mullah regime in Iran with left-wing groups, in the same way as in your updated and reprinted book “Ich habe abgeschworen(I have sworn off). Your husband was executed as a communist. So it would have been possible to realize earlier that you are not on the right 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 to stop the defamation?

Mina Ahadi: I think the problem was mainly German and European politics. They have been working with the Islamic organisations for a long time. The consequence was that all migrants from these countries got labeled as “Muslim”. The result was that human rights were no longer regarded as universal, but rather depended on their origin. Thus the Islamic organisations were now the contact partners for integration. Now it becomes clear that we had evaluated the situation correctly and that there are huge problems with the Muslim population living in Germany.

The second problem was the position of the elites in Europe, who put a very strong focus 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 witnessed 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 told that as a European one 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 people in power, who have a very particular understanding of the world, and the ordinary citizens. We have always worked successfully with NGOs. They understand that stoning is not a cultural good. Politicians have other interests, political or economic. I want to emphasise in particular the parties, The Left Party (Die Linke) and the Greens (Die Grünen), which have failed here, even though they were meant to be committed to human rights in particular. Through their multicultural or post-modernist glasses, they could not see what I criticized by the example of stoning. 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 just because an Islamist regime is in power.

That is why we have problems with right-wing movements. They use the issue to campaign against immigrants. 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 proclaimed. It was a demonstration by the AfD and it was very threatening for me. These people rage against all foreigners, no matter where they politically stand. To them I am also just a foreigner. This is the climate created by the long denial of the problems. That is why I for a long time had pointed out the dangers arising from the AfD and distanced myself from their 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 goal is to pursue a rational integration policy. For women’s rights, for LGBT rights, for children’s rights – in other words for universal human rights. It is also unacceptable that in Muslim communities some people would 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 recognize 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 the 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 has clear political positions, they refused to cooperate with us so far. The Left Party continues to invite representatives of Islamic organisations, but never contacted us. But I think it is very important that this political party should take a clear stand, for example on children’s headscarves. They should also fight to ensure that children do not get any confessional education in schools. They should also make it clear that not all refugees who have come here are devout Muslims. I myself have seen in my neighborhood what happens when integration is left to the Islamic organisations. There is a family living there and their mother did not have a headscarf when they arrived.First she had a hijab and now she is veiled completely. I find that frightening. The Left Party and also the Greens must realize that we are dealing here with a political Islam. And we must not sit passively and watch the people who have come to us being radicalized in Germany.

My actual demands are that cooperation with Islamic organizations must be stopped. Instead, we should cooperate with migrant associations and communities that represent the progressive part of our 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 a consequent separation of state and religion. What distinguishes them from the earlier 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 by 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 very different in secret than the government dictates. It is these people who are currently taking to the streets and demonstrating in many Arab countries. I think this is a great opportunity. These young people are tired of Hamas and Hezbollah. They no longer want to be oppressed.

Atheist Refugee Relief: Thank you for this interview.