Ahmadiyya community promotes positive image of its Muslim women

May 4

 

Known for its reform-oriented approach, the Ahmadyyia community of Berlin has initiated a campaign to counter negative prejudices against the image of Muslim women. The community declares its distance from parallel societies; it prefers education of its Imams in Germany and promotes education for women. The Ahmadiyya community, which is said to have 220 adherents in Berlin, has financed posters in the city public transport; advertising for respect towards women and against religious force. Also, there will be a public event titled “Woman in Islam” on May 9th.

 

In recent years, citizen initiatives had rallied against the construction of the Ahmadiyya mosque in the East Berlin district of Pankow. The clergyman of the Khadjia-mosque Imam Abdul Basit Tariq, denied this image campaign to be a reaction to the Koran distributions of the Salafists. Ahmadiyya adherents try to improve the image of Islam and promote a reform-oriented and pro-integrative approach. In countries such as Pakistan, they have been victims of violent Islamic fundamentalists.

 

About 210.000 Muslims live in Berlin with 90% being Sunni Muslims. Most of the Muslims come from Turkey. There are 80 mosques in Berlin, five of them with a cupola and minaret. Most of the mosques are situated in the districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg.

 

Are Berlin’s Muslims a Model for Integration?

Far from living in closed-off communities, Muslims in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district live in a culturally diverse area. However, a new report finds that they still suffer from high levels of discrimination, particularly within the city’s school system.

Berlin’s Kreuzberg district has a reputation for vibrancy, creativity and multiculturalism. Yet in the public imagination there is often a flipside to the area’s cultural diversity with a perception that its large Turkish and Muslim populations live in “parallel societies,” cut off from their ethnic German and non-Muslim neighbors and enclosed within their own communities.

A new report from the Open Society Institute (OSI) takes some steps to dispel this notion. This week, the organization released its “Muslims in Berlin” study — with Kreuzberg firmly in the spotlight — and the findings point to a decidedly positive story of integration.

The report is part of the organization’s “At Home in Europe” project — which focuses on 11 cities in Europe with sizable Muslim populations, including Paris, Marseille, London and Amsterdam. The OSI, a non-profit founded by billionaire financier George Soros, aims to protect and improve marginalized communities as part of its stated mission is to work toward “vibrant and tolerant democracies.”

Measuring Kreuzberg’s mosque tolerance

Germans in several cities are complaining about plans to build new mosques, but Ben Knight finds it’s the integrated Muslims in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district eyeing a new house of worship there most sceptically. Sitting in his makeshift office, Birol Ucan has developed an unshakable optimism for addressing the media. At a time when many Germans seem increasingly hostile to Islam putting down roots in their country, this kind of attitude is probably necessary for the big-bellied spokesman of an obscure Arab organization building a new mosque in the heart of Berlin. We thought this room would make a good hairdresser’s, he says, indicating the waist-high power sockets and the plumbing in the wall beside us. We don’t have a tenant yet, but it’s cheaper to install fixtures in advance. This potential barbershop is one of the shop-fronts being installed on the ground floor of the shiny new Maschari Centre currently being built by the Islamic group al-Habash next to G_rlitzer Bahnhof in Berlin’s multicultural Kreuzberg district.

Ankara headscarf reform hot topic for Berlin’s Turks

Turkey’s plans to lift a ban on Islamic headscarves in universities has become a hot topic of conversation among young Turkish women in Berlin, home to western Europe’s biggest population with Turkish roots. Turkey’s parliament gave initial approval on Thursday to the move, fiercely opposed by a secular elite that fears religious encroachment on the state and moves towards sharia law. “It’s a human right to wear a head scarf,” said Derya Issever, a second-generation Turkish fashion student from Berlin’s southern district of Kreuzberg, the heart of the capital’s Turkish community. “But you’re more likely to see people wearing a headscarf here in Berlin than in the centre of Istanbul,” said the secular 25-year-old who was born in Germany. Many of the Turkish immigrants in Kreuzberg came from conservative Anatolia, where the headscarf is commonly worn, rather than the more Europeanized cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. Turkish culture flourishes here in cafes, grocery shops, clubs for young Turks, political groups and mosques. Sarah Roberts reports.

Gay Muslims Pack a Dance Floor of Their Own

By Nicholas Kulish BERLIN – Six men whirled faster and faster in the center of the nightclub, arms slung over one another’s shoulders, performing a traditional circle dance popular in Turkey and the Middle East. Nothing unusual given the German capital’s large Muslim population. But most of the people filling the dance floor on Saturday at the club SO36 in the Kreuzberg neighborhood were gay, lesbian or bisexual, and of Turkish or Arab background. They were there for the monthly club night known as Gayhane, an all-too-rare opportunity to merge their immigrant cultures and their sexual identities.

Berlin’s Turks support EU membership

The Turks of Berlin are strongly in support of the accession of Turkey to EU membership. This is supported both for personal and business reasons. The Turkish Community of Berlin, an association representing a fifth of the 200,000 Turks living in the German capital, estimates that 90% are in favor. Les Turcs De Berlin Pour L’adh_sion De Leur Pays S’il ne tenait qu’_ elle, affirme Mukadder G_ktas, elle serait d_j_ rentr_e vivre dans sa Turquie natale. “Mais il y a les enfants, qui veulent rester ici” , _ Berlin, o_ vit la plus grosse communaut_ turque d’Allemagne. Alors cette quadrag_naire, install_e de longue date dans le quartier de Kreuzberg, prend son mal en patience. Puisqu’elle ne peut pas retourner dans son pays, que la Turquie vienne _ elle, en entrant dans l’Union europ_enne (UE)… “Ce sera plus facile pour les gens de l_-bas de venir travailler en Allemagne et dans d’autres pays europ_ens” , pr_dit-elle. Sans parler des aides communautaires qui, selon cette boulang_re, irrigueraient sa patrie. “Ils veulent tous venir ici, c’est bien l_ le probl_me !” , interrompt Jelis G_tkas, qui aide sa tante _ servir la client_le dans la boutique familiale. “Les Turcs croient qu’il n’y a qu’_ d_m_nager ici et ramasser l’argent qui tra_ne par terre… Mais il y a d_j_ suffisamment d’_trangers en Europe, on n’a pas besoin de ch_meurs en plus” , s’enflamme-t-elle dans un allemand impeccable. V_tue d’un t-shirt rose qui lui d_voile le nombril, cette jeune femme de 22 ans fait partie de la g_n_ration des jeunes Turcs n_s en Allemagne qui s’y sont plut_t bien int_gr_s. A l’entendre, “la Turquie n’a pas encore adopt_ le mode de pens_e europ_en, elle n’est pas assez m_re pour entrer dans l’UE” . En pointant le doigt sur une femme voil_e qui passe sur le trottoir, de l’autre c_t_ de la vitrine, Jelis ajoute : “Regardez, les gens qui arrivent des villages turcs gardent leurs traditions, ils ne veulent pas s’adapter. On ne va pas aggraver les choses en faisant venir plus de monde.” De ces deux points de vue, c’est sans doute le premier qui pr_domine dans les magasins, les amicales et les appartements de Kreuzberg. La Communaut_ turque de Berlin, une association repr_sentant un cinqui_me des 200 000 Turcs vivant dans la capitale allemande, estime que 90 % d’entre eux sont favorables _ l’adh_sion de leur pays d’origine _ l’UE. Beaucoup d’hommes d’affaires la souhaitent. Toutefois, pour Ahmet Iyidirli, candidat malheureux aux _lections l_gislatives du 18 septembre sous les couleurs social-d_mocrates, la r_alit_ est plus nuanc_e. RECONNAISSANCE RENFORC_E “Les gens sont en g_n_ral mal inform_s , d_plore ce moustachu qui r_side _ Berlin depuis trente ans. Il suffit de quelques informations vues _ la t_l_ turque, re_ue par satellite, pour qu’ils changent d’avis.” Ce qui est s_r, estime-t-il, c’est que l’appartenance de la Turquie _ l’Union “renforcerait la reconnaissance de la communaut_ turque en Allemagne” . Forte de pr_s de 2,5 millions de personnes, elle a passablement souffert des retomb_es des attentats terroristes du 11 septembre 2001. Pr_sident de la Communaut_ turque de Berlin, Taciddin Yatkin met un point d’honneur _ d_noncer tout acte de violence commis au nom de la religion. Cet avocat n’en trouve que plus regrettable le fait que les partis conservateurs allemands s’opposent _ l’entr_e de la Turquie dans l’UE “pour la seule raison que c’est un pays musulman” . Il le dit avec d’autant plus d’amertume qu’il est membre de l’Union chr_tienne-d_mocrate, dont la pr_sidente, Angela Merkel, candidate _ la chancellerie, plaide pour un “partenariat privil_gi_” entre Ankara et l’Europe.

The Murder Of A Turkish Woman In Berlin; A German Court Goes Face-To-Face With Honor Killings

By Sven Roebel Hatin Sürücü tried to live her own life — and may have been killed for it. The 23-year-old Turkish woman was shot point-blank in the face in February in Berlin. Many believe her own family was behind the murder and her brother is now on trial. When Hatin Sürücü was killed, walking on the sidewalk near her home in Berlin’s Tempelhof neigborhood, she was holding a cigarette. It was a French Gauloises, her favorite brand, and while emergency medical personnel tried to revive her with adrenaline shots and electroshocks, her cigarette slowly burned out between the middle and index fingers of her left hand. The photos taken by police at the murder scene in Berlin show many fine streams of blood flowing from the young woman’s head and merging in a dark, shiny pool. It looks almost as though someone had carefully combed Hatin’s long, dark hair as her head lay on the sidewalk. Her opened pack of cigarettes protrudes from the breast pocket of her corduroy jacket, a dark blue cardboard box with an advertising slogan printed on it in French: “Liberte toujours” — “Freedom forever.” The district attorney’s office in Berlin is convinced that Sürücü died on the evening of Feb. 7 because she had adopted the cigarette pack slogan as her own. Because she felt that being able to smoke in public was one of life’s ordinary freedoms. Because she had the courage to walk around without a head scarf. Because she felt it was her right to live in her own apartment and to disobey the men in her family — and to decide for herself who to love and who not to love. The murderer shot the 23-year-old Hatin Sürücü three times in the face, in rapid succession and at point-blank range, using a 7.65 mm pistol. It was like an execution. According to investigators in the case, the shots that killed this single mother of a six-year-old son represent the last stage in an Arab ritual intended to restore what the killer believed was the “family honor.” In a Berlin criminal court on Wednesday, three of her brothers will face charges of having maliciously killed their defenseless sister. Investigators believe that the defendants may have carried out the execution as part of a death sentence imposed by a “family council,” which assigned the role of executioner to the youngest son, 19-year-old Ayhan, while his brothers, Mütlü, 26, and Alpaslan, 24, were responsible for obtaining the pistol and planning the murder. The men have either denied the charges or refused to comment, but this isn’t the only problem authorities have encountered in the case. The case has long since become a matter of public debate that extends well beyond the articles of criminal law. Germans want to know what’s wrong with a country that has seen an estimated 50 so-called honor killings in the past decade. Why, people want to know, is Germany incapable of protecting its female citizens against violent attacks by Muslim husbands, fathers, or brothers? Some commentators have focused on the political symbolism that elevates the death of this attractive, modern woman to a kind of martyrdom, but they ignore the parallel world in which Sürücü was killed. If there’s any explanation for her death, the best place to look for it would be in Berlin’s heavily Turkish Kreuzberg district, where the presumed killers lived and where life follows two basic laws — the law of the neighborhood and the law of the Koran. On the one hand, there’s the Sürücü family’s four-room apartment on the fifth floor of a renovated building. The family prays five times a day and dogs, considered impure by devout Muslims, are barred from the apartment. Hatin’s archly conservative father, who comes from the Kurdish province of Erzurum in Turkey’s eastern Anatolia region, has lived in Germany for 24 years but hardly speaks a word of German. Her mother wears a head scarf, adding a veil when speaking with strangers. Ayhan, the suspected killer, grew up in this world. He is a well-behaved Muslim boy who honors his parents, text-messages secret love poems to his girlfriend and, even as a 19-year-old man, has no problem sleeping in a bunk bed in his childhood room. A different form of honor prevails in the streets of Kreuzberg. It’s the kind of honor that can be violated by as little as an unwanted glance into someone’s eyes. When this kind of honor is assailed, the way to regain respect might involve fists, knives, or even guns. Here, in the old territory of the notorious youth gang known as “36 Boys” after one of Kreuzberg’s zipcodes — Ayhan Sürücü is known by a different name. He calls himself “Carlito,” after the hero in the American gangster film “Carlito’s Way,” in which Al Pacino plays a melancholy former dealer who tries to start a new life, only to find his criminal past catching up with him. No one knows exactly how many times the Kreuzberg Carlito has rented the film, but at some point he must have adopted the notion of an “honorable gangster” as a way of life — one in which the laws of the neighborhood blended, fatally, with those of the Koran. At age 15, Ayhan was accused of throwing bricks at police officers during the May Day riots in 2000. (He complains that his friends sold him out to the police “for a lousy $500.”) Four months later he was caught handing out flyers proclaiming that “Jews and infidels” were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. Then he claimed that he was secretly in contact with Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan’s “Caliphate State,” and in October 2001, apparently in an effort to provoke the authorities, he signed a document in which he claimed that he was “also a member of the PKK” — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is fighting for a Kurdish state. Later he told the commission investigating his sister’s murder that many things in his family’s past “weren’t pretty.” His brothers, he said, “were not always happy in their marriages.” Nor was his sister Hatin. These unhappy circumstances had always made him wish for a different life, he said, a better life — just like his Hollywood hero, Carlito. The Carlito wannabe needed the right girl for his new lifestyle, and a neighborhood schoolgirl named Melek, 18 years old, seemed to fit the bill. Ayhan worshipped her like a goddess. He sent her text messages praising her “soulful gaze” and “sweet smile.” After dating her for all of four weeks he wanted to marry her. Melek’s parents weren’t so sure, especially when they heard that the young man wanted their daughter to wear a head scarf. On Feb. 7, the boundaries between Ayhan’s twin worlds dissolved. Melek later told the police about a strange conversation she had had with him: He said he was deeply unhappy and that he could only be happy were he to free himself from an old burden. Something terrible had happened in his family when he was 14, he said, something involving his sister. Ayhan apparently told Melek that if she knew what he had been through and witnessed, she would understand why he had to do something his older brothers should have done years ago: kill Hatin. Investigators now believe that Hatin was once raped by one of the men in her family. She was a victim of incest, and under her community’s crude code of honor it was not the rapist but the victim who should be held responsible. Melek said that on the evening of the murder, “Carlito” kept glancing at his watch, gave her E100, and said to pass the money to an acquaintance if she didn’t hear from him. The next day, the airwaves filled with news of Hatin Sürücü’s murder. That afternoon, Ayhan called Melek and told her to meet him at the Kottbusser Tor subway station, and the two then took the subway to the Bahnhof Zoo stop. While they sat on the train, Melek says, she asked him: “Ayhan, was it you?” and he answered, “Yes, I did it.” He spoke very quietly and rested his head on her shoulder, and they both fell silent for the rest of the trip. Only later, says Melek, did Ayhan give details of the murder — that he went to Hatin’s apartment and sat in her kitchen; that he noticed a prayer rug and was pleased his sister had apparently started to pray again; that he asked Hatin to walk him to the bu
s. Near the stop, Ayhan pulled out a pistol. Before pulling the trigger he allegedly asked Hatin whether she regretted her sins. Melek told the police that while Ayhan told her this story he mimed a pistol with his thumb and index finger and aimed at her head. Then, she says, he told her he panicked and ran from the scene, boarded a bus, and hid his blood-covered hand in his pocket. The bus passed the crime scene and Ayhan saw his sister lying on the sidewalk. The prosecutors in this case will want to know two things: Why Melek failed to report her boyfriend’s intention to commit murder, and how credible her testimony is. When Ayhan Sürücü was questioned by criminal investigators five days later, he swore, by everything that was holy to him, including his love for Melek, that he had nothing to do with the death of Hatin. One of the interrogators asked him which sentence he believes is appropriate for the murderer of his sister. Ayhan answered without hesitation: “May I be frank? If it were permitted by law, I would hang him — even if he were my own brother.”