Arabian Paganism and Islam’s Pagan Origins

written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

(Mohammed and his followers went on a rampage to destroy every trace of Paganism in Arabia, but at least a few survived! A relief of AlLat, 100 AD)

Muslims call the time pre islam “jahiliyyah” – age of ignorance. In turn what muslims are ignorant of is that the Allah/Al-ilah they worship is but an ancient Pagan deity. 

Most of what we know of Arabian polytheism is from scanty reliefs and stone inscriptions and from Ibn al-Kalbi’s “Kitab al-asnam”, Book of Idols.

The name Allah is the personal name of the God of the moon. He was married to the Goddess of the sun and had three children with her, the “daughters of Allah”.
His daughters’ names were AlLat (“The Goddess”), Goddess of harvest, fertility, and love. Like her mother she was associated with the sun. She might be related to Greek Leto, mother of the sun God Apollo.
AlUzza (“the Mighty One”) was the Goddess of honor, justice, war, and passion. She was associated with the stars.
Manat was the Goddess of fate, death, and the afterlife. Like Allah she was associated with the moon. Medina is named after her.
The Gods in this divine family were considered “high Gods”, meaning they were at the top of the pantheon of Arabic deities.

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Some view them as separate although connected deities, but most non-islamic scholars agree that Allah and Hubal are one and the same God. One of Hubal’s names is also “Lord of the seven oracle arrows”, the number seven representing the moon.
The “horns” of fertility of the moon deity Hubal towered atop the Kaaba as the most powerful deity of all. The horns were made up of the crescent moon with its tips (horns) pointing upwards. The same crescent moon that is now adorning so many flags of islamic countries and is essentially the symbol for mohammedanism today. On the same Kaaba quadrat annually circled by Muslims instead of Pagans now. The religion changed, the God they worship is still the same old lunar deity though.

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It is important to note that muslims, christians and jews do not worship “the same God” hence! Christianity is a religion that pieced together its beliefs from Osiric, Dionysic, other proto-Indo-European and samaritan-jewish tribal ideas of a savior figure.
Judaism’s YHWH was actually the unity of the heavenly couple. Yeh was another name for El, the fatherly God. His wife was Ashera or also sometimes called Hava or Shua. Their union was Yeh(ha)va YHWH or Yehshua. Think about it… – Yeshua is the Aramaic name of Jesus…

But back to Arabian Paganism.

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Central to polytheist Arabian belief was the idea of ‘barakha’. A holy and animating power or blessing instilled into humans through Gods or djinn (spirits). This power cannot be seen with the eyes, it is a universal soul (power).
The only proof for the existence of the Gods was the effects of their deeds in this world, by natural occurrences, miracles and so forth. They are for the most part messengers and mediums of Allah who is “not of this world”, so consequentially the original source of the barakha is Allah himself. Like Catholics pray to God through the Virgin Mary, angels and saints the Arabic people prayed to Allah through these other, “lesser” Gods and spirits.

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Originally the tawaf was a pilgrimage to and the circling of the Kaaba to worship the 365 God statues inside. (One for each day of the year.) The Kaaba pilgrimage for once united the different tribes and their different practices and Gods.
The Kaaba was circled seven times in honor of the seven planets (of the week) and the four lunar phases which each took seven days. The heavenly bodies, as was established earlier, were central to Arabian Pagan worship.
Lesser tawafs were made to other holy places, shrines (hajj) all over Arabia also.

Typically, worship and rituals were not planned in advance and occurred spontaneously. and can occur at any time. However, there were fixed holy days all revolving around astrology and especially the moon. Common practices included meditation, divination, the erecting or visiting of a temple, swearing an oath or oaths to one or more deities and curiously lion hunts. (If anyone knows more about the connection to lion hunts to Arabian worship please enlighten me!)
Also upon entering another village an offering to the local Gods and landspirits had to be made.

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In the islamic religion the talbiyah (invocation to their god) is the same as during Pagan times. Allah is praised as the highest God. In conclusion if there is a “highest” then there must be lesser Gods. Talbiyah is a prayer formula that Mohammed appears to have neglected to alter accordingly when creating his new monotheistic religion.

During the Pagan janazah (funeral) ist was customary for women to shriek, wail and beat at themselves. Some say this was to ward off evil spirits, others say it was so the spirit of the deceased would not enter and possess a living body. Women were considered to be especially susceptible to spirit possession.

The ritual animal mass slaughter-bloodbath by the hands of woman, man and child (after the holiday of Eid) is widely known in islamic culture. This, too, stems from Pagan times when the first goat of the flock was sacrificed to AlLat, Goddess of harvest, after summer’s end. It might be best to comment that only men and sometimes women sacrificed to AlLat, never children.

Ancient Arabian lunar chart

Aqiqah is the islamic practice of sacrificing a sheep or lamb to Allah when a child is born. The Pagan meaning of this sacrifice was to appease Allah so he would take the lamb instead of the child. (Infant mortality was high in ancient Arabia.)

Idols called wathan (hence the new name Wathanism for Arabian Neo-Paganism) were interpreted as the temporary house of the baetyl, deities, not as the specific deity itself. They were power points at which the worshipper could invoke the presence of the deity.

Wathan for a baetyl

The deities and beings of Arabian polytheism are too many to list on here, a list and more thorough description of who they are and their interrelations can be found at sacred-texts archive online or on Wikipedia for example.
Many of the later ones already bear the hallmarks of Christian influence. For example Uj ibn Anak is a jabbar, giant, said to have bred with humanity. The whole story reminds a bit of the tale of the nephilim, whereas in the Bible it was angels that had bred with mankind and brought forth the giants (nephilim) hence.
Maryam (Mary) was acknowledged as a deity in Arabian Paganism and many Gods from other cultures in the general area were adopted into the pantheon of Arabian Gods as well.

Other ways of devotion were tree, animal, phallic worship and the devotion to the Mother Goddess. Unfortunately, despite such rich tribal pantheons of female deities women were still treated rather horribly in the Arab society. Something that the mohammedian religion only made worse evidently.

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It’s questionable whether there is an actual existent Arabian Neo-Paganism to speak of. There are no written records of it, only accounts of what once was. It is rumored that in the Levant Neo-Paganism is growing, albeit in secret as apostasy from islam is punishable by death.
I have found only one person online that described himself as a Wathanist and he was a third generation Jordanian American from a non-muslim family already.

Does anyone know of an online forum or Wathanist blog other than the blogspot one, which appears to be dead? If you do, please drop me a line.

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What is Norse Wicca?

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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Most Heathens gasp in terror at the notion of Norse Wicca and are quick to point out that Wiccan principles and Eddic ones could never merge, while not even raising a brow at Egyptian, Hellenic , Roman or other types of Wicca.
What riles the majority of them most is Wicca’s alleged “fluffy” nature – the rule of three and harm ye none.
Our Germanic and Norse ancestors were a harsh yet playful people and the revival of the Norse spirituality often forgets the playful and joyful part and instead focuses on the warrior-like nature of it. But ripping one element out of context of a whole spirituality of course makes little sense and thus I proclaim that Norse Wicca comes much closer to our ancestors’ spirituality than what today’s – especially American – Heathens have turned this faith into.

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(From the shrines of the Matrons and the Nornen we have the “threefold Goddess”)

Simply because most of our ancestors were in fact farmers, traders and craftsmen rather than Kings and/or heroic Warlords. They lived a life full of austerity during the long, bitter winters, a life filled with hard work and the struggle to survive all year long. They enjoyed games, contest and competition and a rather unceremonious but light-hearted spirituality to compensate for that.
The (folk)lore and sagas were traditionally passed on to the next generation orally and the Eddas themselves were written down in the 1300s by an already christianized Icelander named Snorri Sturlason.

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He was in the quandary of having to abide by the strict church laws declaring everything non-Christian heresy and blasphemy under the penalty of death, while still wanting to note down the tales and beliefs of his Norse ancestors.
It may very well be assumed that he had to “compromise” in certain areas, so everything that has been written about our ancestors and that wasn’t taken directly from rune stones must be taken with a grain of salt.
However, the Eddas and especially the Hávamál, the Words of the alleged “High One” aka self-proclaimed “AllFather” Wotan/Odin, regularly speak of retaliation towards one’s enemies as well as a strong moral code of loyalty, honesty, truth, honor and defending yourself and your own, whilst praising physical as well as mental strength.
And it is also by death and carnage, by Wotan’s murder of the Jotun (giant) Ymir, that the nine worlds and ultimately mankind were created.
Wotan’s son Thor is another “giant murderer”, faring to the lands of the Jötnar whenever boredeom strikes him in order to wield his mighty hammer Mjölnir and kill everything in his way.Surtr will burn the worlds at Ragnarök, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon, and there are many more of that nature.
In other words: War definitely IS a common theme in the Eddas, yes. But by far the only one.

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There are just as many Gods and Goddesses of a gentler nature, whose stories find lesser recognition amongst the war-struck Heathens of new.
There’s Eostre from which the holiday of the same name, better known as “Easter”, comes from, Hönir who (ast least in the Edda) helped Wotan create the worlds together with Loki and is referred to as “The silent one” which may also be translated to the meek one from old Norse. Eir is the Aesir Goddess of healing, Baldur the God of rebirth, peace and beauty. And on and on it continues.

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If we now go back to the principle of “An ye harm none do what you wilt” I personally don’t know one single Wiccan who would attest to that without explaining this a little further. The principle here is not much different from Buddha’s golden rule, Christianity’s “Don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and many other religion’s central law. It is even rather close to philosopher Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative.
It is a “Do your best not to harm anyone” or also a “Try to find a solution which will do the least harm to everyone involved.” Harm none otherwise is impossible. Many Wiccans I know eat meat, wear leather shoes, unlike me use a flyswatter, make Freudian slips or get on people’s bad side every once in a while, so to take it completely literal makes little sense of course.

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As for the rule of three, “Whatever you do it will come back to you times three” the core of it may just as well be found in the Eddas as “What goes around comes around”. What else is Lokasenna about?:
In this chapter of the Eddas, the Aesir Gods along with Loki, sit in Valhalla enjoying a large feast, when Loki rises to turn to every single God to remind him/her of his/her mistakes, misdeeds (sins) and concludes his statements with personal insults.
And right he is, the arrogant tribe, the reigning “caste” of the Aesir Gods with Wotan – the God of corruption and crime, as their King – will face all their mistakes made out of fear to lose their status and superiority. At Ragnarök, the worlds’ will end. What goes around comes around indeed.

Wicca is not a dualist but a very inclusive religion, it accepts that all of nature and all elements of the circle of life are necessary and beautiful in their own way, not just the stars, the moon, spring blossoms and majestic sunsets, but also thunderstorms, tornados, the food chain and death just as much as life. Gerald Gardner was eager to promote a more positive image for witchcraft and Wicca and emphasized its meeker, gentler and more joyful qualities, but it is more than just that.

Germanic and Norse beliefs are partly very similar to that concept, although they, too, have been twisted and willfully misinterpreted by most “Heathens” or rather Heathen converts.
The Aesir Gods are always holding back the Jötnar and Rökkr Gods (those who will bring about Ragnarök). They are usually deemed chaotic, but in truth they are the evolutionary forces of nature; stagnation and evolution constantly struggling with each other, some say keeping each other in check.
The Vanir are somewhere in between these two, after the Aesir/Vanir war the Vanir were basically annexed but still were not at war with the giants at least. A trinity of balance if you like.

Of course the next thing extremist Heathens will attack is magic (or, as one spat at me, “Your Pagan magjickckk or whatever you call it”.), claiming that our ancestors did not practice magic.

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Really!
And what would you call Seidr, Spae and Galdr? Why are there magical incantations or inscriptions on drinking horns, battle helms and weaponry and even other everyday items, found of nearly a thousand  years ago?
Did not Wotan himself learn the “womanly” practice of casting the runes, of the magical practices named above? Oh, we had magic alright.
Even a simple Blót by the use of blood already had something magical, meant to weave a connection between man and God or to call upon a certain God or Goddess – hence the name “Blót” simply meaning blood.

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Some Heathens, especially those on the fringe of it like Odinists, criticize Ásatrú’s practice of calling upon the four dwarves when creating a Vé (holy space) or beginning a Blót, ritual or holiday celebration, because it is most likely not historical and reminds of calling the four corners. In fact, there is much critique trying to establish new rituals based upon our ancient moral codes, beliefs, lore and the little we know about our religion and magic.
Sadly almost all of it was destroyed due to violent Christianization and thus we have to piece together the facts and fill in the blanks where facts are missing. Maybe it is less about “right and historically authentic” ritual, but much more about the intention behind such a ritual? At least in the case of…simply not having any historical sources to go with?! … After all, over the ages our ancestors had developed and kept developing their practices as well, quite naturally and over time.
And not every tribe held the same beliefs, believed in the same Gods or even knew of them. So maybe a tad more acceptance and open-mindedness would suit our angry Heathen brethren regarding the ideas and concepts of Norse Wicca.

Sadly it is especially an (American) Heathen issue to keep the mindset of monotheism, the “versus mentality” of “If you are not for me you are against me”. Dealing with the Heathen community feels a lot like my time at Catholic church or the mosque. A repressive atmosphere with all too many sugary sprinkles of self-righteousness mixed in. Bon appetit!

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As for the celebration of Sabbats, while not all overlap, several of the Germanic and Norse ones are similar to Wiccan ones. Differences would be the Germanic Cake Fest on the first new moon after Yule and the Horse Fest on Sept. 22 (especially important to us Saxons) for example. And the Germanic peoples had no Imbolc but especially in Sweden the Disablot was celebrated around that time of year. So yes, there are a few differences here and there, but there are a few – more than a few – differences in the Germanic, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic traditions too, although they were all related. Anyhow, Nordic Wiccans and Germanic and Norse Pagans alike have come up with ways to incorporate the Germanic holy days into the Year of the Wheel and I was happy to witness the merging of Brighid/Imbolc with a wonderful ritual dedicated to Baldur and his wife Nanna. A very thoughtful choice to celebrate Baldur on that day.

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What else Norse Wiccans will or will not do varies greatly. As many Heathen kindreds, hofs, cults, sub-cults and the like there are, Norse Wicca is just as versatile, albeit on a more individualistic level without the righteous Heathen condemnation of everything and everyone who disagrees with their views and practices.

Generally, to Norse Wiccans all Gods are still essentially the one God and all Goddesses the one Goddess. Nature is sacred, the Eddas and sagas are the texts they draw strength, wisdom and inspiration from, there are Norse Wiccans focusing more on the Aesir, many on the Vanir and some even on the Rökkr, depending on their personal preferences or inclinations.
Norse Wicca is a small faith, often practiced by solitaries and even covens are not very outspoken and a little shy to speak about their practices. They are sometimes slightly feared by other types of Wiccans because those have already mostly made very negative experiences with Heathens, as much as they are hated and ridiculed by Heathens, labeled “Wiccatru”, fluffy bunnies or much worse.
The use of Norse symbols and symbology is a given, in addition to that Norse Wiccans just like every other Wiccan have the pentagram. Often assigning their patron and matron deities or just the Gods they work closest with to the single points. For example: Fire – Surtr, Air – Loki, Earth – Fjörgyn, Water – Ran and Ether – their personal high god, sometimes Odin as the “AllFather” for the Aesir-oriented Norse Wiccans or Freyr for the Vanatrur or Loki for the Rökkatrur.

It is my sincerest hope that while the hardcore Heathens keep bickering and excluding everyone who dares disagree with them at least Wicca and other Pagan traditions will slowly start being more open towards Norse Wiccans, and that the latter will finally start stepping out of the shadows and claim what is theirs – a rightful place in the worldwide Pagan community.

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Edit/P.S.: Just for reference, I’m not Norse Wiccan. I got a dozen replies of (American of course) Heathens, half of them all in capital letters (…) the other half offering to teach me “their ways” and told me my religion was as “real” as believing in the Jedi. To those I say: I grew up in the Firne Situ, so I really don’t need your convert opinions on our Northern European ways, thanks. And thanks for proving me right regarding everything I’ve written about you folks on here. 😉

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Second impressions from the mosque

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012. Do not republish or quote from without contacting author.

There seems to have been some kind of misunderstanding amongst those who actually read my 5-pages long experience.
While it was first impressions at THIS mosque, it wasn’t my first time AT one.  For everyone who accused me of bigotry and not having read the Quran. You are wrong again. I have not just read but studied the Quran. Home alone as well as with others interested in religious science, many of them coming from Muslim backgrounds.

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It’s funny how the only religion that ever caused difficulty within our family was indeed the Islam. Not the Catholic, otherwise Christian, Jewish members of our family. Let alone the Buddhists and Pagans in our family. My uncle was not a moderate, he wasn’t really a Muslim at all. He celebrated a few of the Iranian holidays like agnostics and even atheists celebrate Christmas, as a Western tradition or family holiday. He didn’t believe in the Quran and he was fed up enough with the Iranian regime that he had escaped it. His family, however, was different. They were Muslims alright. Portraying themselves as moderate while visiting us in our country, but not so moderate after all when confronted about their specific beliefs. Excusing terrorism, extremism and being Israel-haters. To those that cry for “coexistence” I hear you. And I agree. However, it is important to make a distinction between religion or spiritual paths and politicized warcults. Islam is such a warcult, cloaked as religion and founded by a pedophile. History attests to that.

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But! – Enough with this little introduction. Back to the Sunni mosque.
So today I came „better dressed“, long Abaya (traditional baggy kind of dress), Islamic overcoat, and perfectly tied hijab.
Sister Rhada, our Islam class teacher, along with the girls I’d already gotten to know last time, greeted me with hugs and kisses and I got a few more from complete strangers. Rhada asked around who would teach me the rest of the namaz (contact prayer), since I don’t remember all the words anymore, and just to see how they would react I asked whether I would be allowed to pray Shia style out of respect for my Iranian family. There was a slight pause and apparent discomfort on their behalf, but my request wasn’t officially denied. We’ll see what happens next Sunday when sister Sara, who volunteered, teaches me how to pray.
This class also included the praise of Muslim life in contrast to Western life which was made out to be sinful, the road to hell and infidels should be avoided if they couldn’t be converted. Fervent nodding at all of this.

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Sister Rhada also mentioned good deeds being key to Muslims, and not just the zakat but deeds that were voluntary and came from the heart. “But!” She remarked loudly, “These deeds only have worth if you are Muslim. Remember how the people in this country are crazy about Mother Theresa and such people? Well, that’s very nice she did good deeds, but she’s an infidel and will still burn in hell for all eternity.” She laughed insanely after that, shaking her head and everyone else chimed in. Oookay…
We were also taught about the “big devil” America, the evil Jews and that it was easy to call the “Mujahedeen” terrorists when they were really just “fighting back”. And on it went. I’d heard enough, but still decided to wait until this “class” was over. I had to admit they were being very clever about selling their extremism. Explaining it with personal tragic stories, calling it rebellion instead of extremism, freedom instead of oppression, speaking of how everyone in Islam was family, the advantages of the “Ummah”, love bombing the crap out of possible converts. Clever, clever, clever.

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At the end of the class one of the converts asked for donations for a sister from Bosnia who had been lured to Germany and had been forced to prostitute herself. (By who I never found out unfortunately.) I was not surprised, but still shocked when I heard her say,  „Well, unfortunately she doesn’t wear hijab, but maybe you would still like to donate, if not I understand though.“ I’ll leave this uncommented at this point.
Later, the same sister (one of the ones who’d told us about her conversion last time) approached me. I’d seen her look over at me and lurk in one corner of the room, fidgeting with her hijab, waiting for me to pass her. I liked her even less after today’s comment.
„You are sister Penny, aren’t you?“ she asked.
I nodded and asked her name in return. At this point I wasn’t even surprised anymore to hear that her (convert) name was Arabic. So much for culture taking over religion/spirituality.
She’d heard me ask Rhada and a few other Muslim-born women about the hijab.
I made a short remark about this in my last „blog“ or „inside report“, so I’ll try to keep the following short: I had made my case and quoted the Quran as best I could from memory about there possibly being no  duty to wear the headscarf but to dress modestly instead. The original word used in the Quran actually also translates to „curtain“ and the paragraph that hijab-supporters rest their case on is actually about male guests at the prophet’s house. His wives were encouraged to „draw a curtain“ between the guests and themselves in order to be left alone and not get hit on. (Which was common at that time apparently; I read in another book that just like in many cultures all across Arabia it was custom to lend your wife to guests and that Muhammad did not want to share his wives, child brides and prisoners of war with other men.)

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For reference: the suras I’m referring to are 24:31-32, 33:59, 24:60. The word zeenah in Arabic was actually not natural beauty (physical/personal) but meant jewellery, make-up, etc. Interestingly in 7:31 the Quran speaks of the believers WEARING their zeenah to celebrate God. I highlighted the word „wearing“ to further argue my case that zeena does not mean hair or face, body or natural beauty.
Unsurprisingly, most women at the mosque disagreed. Many interpreted the word not to mean curtain or in that sense veil but really headscarf/abaya, even the word burqa was uttered. A very few of them said that the headscarf nowadays, especially in a non-Muslim country (is it?! I think Germany is becoming more and more Muslim, we have 3,000,000 born Muslims and thousands of converts every year, and Muslims openly called it “sexual” or “birth jihad”, too) was a symbol and a means of recognition amongst each other. One of them said, „When I go outside I don’t want to be hit on by non-Muslim men.“ Well, if it’s only non-Muslim men you don’t want to get hit on going back to your home country would of course be the logical alternative. In addition to that I can only attest to the fact that Western men generally do not hit on Muslim women in my country. Why? Simple. Out of fear of their male relatives and physical harm.

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I thought about this some more just now, especially since some rogue Middle Eastern looking guy whistled and winked at me on the subway when I was going back home today, (I was wearing hijab of course, coming from the mosque). So the head scarf doesn’t seem to do ANYTHING at all in that regard. (On a side note: I googled the issue and apparently there are indeed surveys/statistics by several universities proving me right, in addition to rape statistics of Muslim countries where women veil themselves.)
Back to the convert sister approaching me when I was still in the classroom: She asked me if I wanted to have a cup of tea with her and we went to “Kabul” restaurant across the street. It was interesting for me to notice how much more „involved“ the waiter seemed. Was it paranoia, I asked myself honestly, some sort of prejudice that „they“ all stick together? But then I’d never had the waiter/s at that restaurant stop to chit-chat and laugh, definitely not call me sister, or slightly bow every time he refilled our drinks or brought more Baclava. He definitely was more attentive and more appreciative also. „He doesn’t even recognize me,“ I mused increduled. I’d come to this restaurant for about a year, simply because it was cheap and usually the buffet was really great.
„You know, there is a reason I wanted to talk to you today,“ Nuriyah said after half an hour of polite small talk. „I heard you ask all these questions about the head scarf and covering up in general. And I thought that my story might help you understand this from a very different perspective”.
I leaned back with my Dugh (better known as “Ayran”) and she started talking.
„I hope you don’t mind my brutal honesty. I realize this might scare or intimidate you, but I see no point in sugar-coating things. There is a particular reason I’ve been looking for God the way I did. Desperately. Looking for a love that wouldn’t hurt or cheat…looking for rules in a very confusing world – or life – that would just give me back some dignity and a sense…of…well…I dunno. Reason to go on maybe. But anyways.
I don’t mean to bother you with details, but let’s just say that my childhood was very violent. And that that was the reason I always felt like meat. Like an object. I’m sure you know where I’m coming from with this…
When I became a teenager I started sleeping around. I was looking for trouble, and I always found it. Or it found me, even when I wasn’t looking. I hated myself for living that way, but I didn’t know any other way. I wanted to be loved, but at the same time I was terrified. I guess I had to prove to myself with every „relationship“ or affair that there was no human love and that this was a way of toughening up. I thought at some point I would be okay living alone. I did pick the most terrible guys after all. I knew how to get them. Short skirts, do my hair…“ she laughed haughtily. „Guys are so easy. They are slaves to their urges, they are so weak, they really have to be protected from us.“ I couldn’t help but frown, luckily Nuriyah was still staring out into space, lost in memories.
„At the same time I was asking myself why God would ever allow bad things to happen. Why me, bla bla. You get the idea. I started reading the Bible, going to church. But I just didn’t feel it.
I remember sitting on the subway one day, years later, and looking around. I saw a woman enter at the current stop. She wore a head-scarf and a long coat with her abaya. And I noticed for the first time that no one paid her any attention. The guys on the subway weren’t checking her out. It was like she wasn’t even regarded as a sexual being. She was just a thing, but not like I was, a piece of meat-thing so to speak. That was just so…FASCINATING to me,“  Nuriyah exclaimed with vigor. „And I thought, if only I could be this invisible. If only I didn’t get greasy bastards checking me out, asking me out, thinking they could just do that to me… And I just got this very strong sense that I had found the solution to the problem”.

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I couldn’t help but interrupt, because while I felt for her harsh experiences as a child I know the kind of fanatic religious insanity this can cause. I’ve seen this in converts before and I’ve felt it myself, I just knew how to stop myself and not let fanaticism and fear take over.
„The problem.“ I stated, not askd. „The problem of men abusing children and women is…them not wearing a  headscarf?“ I tried to make myself sound a little friendlier, despite the obvious message of the latter question.
„Sister,“ she said softly, taking my hand into hers. My hand was ice-cold from the Dugh I held till a few seconds ago, but also just a little chilled from what she just insinuated. Hers are hot from her glass of chai. I can’t help but think, ‚Just like in reality. Hot and cold. I’ll never be on the same page with women like that.‘
„Sister, I know what this sounds like to Western ears. But look around you. We have become so desensitized to men ogling women or publicly hitting on them, even just touching them, no matter if it’s the famous slap on the ass or even „just“ touching someone’s arm. We are so lonely here without strong family values, that we will do anything to form some sort of bond, however superficial and wrong it is. We crave the attention and approval of others. Of men! Because that is the love we think we need and want. It is advertized everywhere, isn’t it? In the media? To get love you have to be sexy. Slim. Dress scantily. It is just another form of indoctrination. – ‘You are your body and nothing else.: And a means to destroy a society. Society is made up of families. Man, woman, children. Society is in fact, or should be, one big family. That is why we call each other brother and sister in Islam. We know that we are all one big family.

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Why do men cheat? Because they are slaves of their urges. For once. And also because women make it easy for them. Their wives do not know how wonderful it is to obey your husband because God made him superior, a protector, a nourisher. And because the other women aren’t taught how to protect their bodies and minds and souls anymores, so they end up mistresses. There are no girlfriends, they are all mistresses. The prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, was greatly concerned with women’s rights, you know!? He gave us the right to protect ourselves and also the men.“ She kept leaning forward, kneading my hand as she spoke, her eyes widening fanatically and smiling the brainwashed smile of a suicide bomber.
„Sister  Nuriyah“ I sigh heavily. „I understand how with your past and experiences you ended up in that kind of mindset. But even Rumi, a famous Persian poet of hundreds and hundreds of years ago wrote that if you cover something up, hide it away, make it unavailable the natural urge to see it will turn into obsession to uncover it, to possess it. And I agree. Men and women both have urges. Because the male urges are stronger WE are supposed to cover up in whole-body-condoms in order to protect them from themselves? That doesn’t make any sense and is not the conduct of responsible and self-aware adults. But alright, you want me to argue less than a “Westener” and more quranic. Then let me tell you that the Quran speaks of „modest clothing“ for BOTH sexes. I agree that is a good idea as in today’s world we rely way too much on outer appearances. On the other hand there is nothing modest about a woman wearing a sparkly hijab, diamond-covered bonnet underneath and skinny jeans with half a ton of make-up, bright-red lipstick included. I’ve seen some of the sisters in Little Orient when they weren’t attending mosque but were just out grocery shopping. The „goodies“ are all packed up, but the dress is meant to draw attention, it’s not modest and the only thing covered up is the hair and neck when they’re shaking their asses in their all too tight body-condoms.
There is no way around sexuality. God gave us this as a gift. It is what we make of it that is a problem, true. But what good does the strict separation of the sexes do? In most Arabic countries a man doesn’t have any contact to women on a personal basis except his mother and sisters, should he have any. Then he is expected to marry. Without knowing ANYTHING about women, how we work, what we like, how to treat or touch us. These are things a mother cannot teach you obviously, and as far as I know from friends, sex or talk of it absolutely is a taboo anyways. It is better to be honest and open about these urges and try to deal with them constructively. Oppressing them is psychologically as well as physically unhealthy. And it is far more dangerous to women, because if the accumulated urges and yearning take over no rational thought in the world can stop it anymore. Regular interaction, “the two sexes learning each other”, is important.
You speak of the hijab or Islamic clothing as the solution to the rape issue. I’m sorry for what you have had to endure, but that is offensive to every decent woman not covering herself up head to toe who got attacked by a man. I am definitely NOT a supporter of the rape theory which says that if the skirt was too short, if the hair was too shiny, if the smile was too tempting it’s the woman’s fault something happens. Or it was her fault simply because she is a woman. It should go without saying that you do NOT rape women, that walking down the street doesn’t equal “Take me now” and that NO means no.
Have you heard about the rapes in Afghanistan during the war? Women in burqa, let us not forget! Why the denial of rape crisis centers or domestic violence centers in Muslim countries? Qatar banned the idea, Dubai frowned upon it and doesn’t allow the issue or the first and only center to be mentioned in the media, in order not to „sully Islam.“ Islam condones violence and rape. Rape of children, of prisoners of war, of infidels”.

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I noticed that suddenly it was my hand that felt hot and sister Nuriyah’s that was rather cold and clammy. She swallowed hard, her face twitching, close to tears.
„Be that as it may…“ she stuttered, „I can only tell you why to me the hijab was a godsent.“
„But it wasn’t!” I threw my hands in the air in exasperation. „It was a man-sent! It is just another way of oppressing women, the physically weaker sex. They look at „us Western girls“ without it and think we are easy. Because that is what they are being taught, with the help of you converts. I know all those women who say they WANT to wear the hijab, that they are proud of it, that it is a feminist symbol. These women have no idea what feminism is. They know the liberal media and brainwashed majority of the population just needs to hear certain keywords and they will bow down repeating it like an invocation, defending the dumbest and most dangerous things. Like the hijab. I understand that you want to be or feel safe. Respectable. But I,“ and here I couldn’t take it anymore, the bonnet and head scarf just felt like a sweaty prison and I yanked them down and took a deep breath, „cannot support covering up one whole sex while the other gets to run around in muscle shirts and tight jeans with shaved chests, bling bling and porn sunglasses. That is simply hypocrisy. Women aren’t supposed to look appealing? Not to themselves either? Why not?! If menare that weak that they can’t control themselves it is the men that need help and altering, not us. Well, then maybe the emotionally weaker sex should start averting their eyes as is said in your Quran, eh”, I concluded. Nuriyah was very pale and very silent.
Look,“ I tried a more polite approach. „If a man stares at me I stare him down. Or I look away shaking my head. If he tries to talk to me I turn around and walk away. That should get the message across in most cases. I don’t need a head scarf for that
Nuriyah remained silent. She was staring down at the table. At some point she had let go of my hand.
The waiter approached, raising his eyebrow in surprise at me sitting there with my hijab down my neck and my hair all askew, face sweaty. I couldn’t help it. „Yo brother,“ I drawled in the broadest dialect of my hometown, leaning back on my chair, „how ‘bout some more tea, eh?“
He blinked, then nodded hectically to scramble away with a worried glance at his “sister” Nuriyah.
„I know you’re not completely wrong” she said finally. Her voice was thick with tears and I felt guilty about it. „But for me there was no other option anymore. Islam got me away from the drugs and the alcohol, the parties, the lonely nights, the not so lonely nights that gave me even lonelier days…“
I felt sorry for her and sorry for having spoken so honestly, then pulled myself together reminding myself that this was all about studying and phenomenologically bracketing. Nothing else.
When I had been in my teens I’d made the mistake of wanting to „help“ my study objects. And I got reeled into things I’d had no control over anymore. Converts were the worst, they were beyond reasoning. Only then did I notice that I never met a convert that didn’t have a tragic life story filled with loss, abuse or other.
We resumed to small-talk as the tea arrived. I carefully tried to avoid any kind of „heavy subject“. When we left KABUL it definitely felt like leaving a war zone. The irony was sort of tragic… We stood outside for a few seconds, awkwardness between us. „Where are you headed?“ I asked. She pointed to the left. „Ah, I’m going the other way.“ Callous lie. But I had to get some space to think. We exchanged quick, dutily hugs and each walked our separate ways. I turned into an alley, looked around, pulled out my mirror and pulled out my bright pink lipstick. I needed that now.  After having tried to live like a Muslim for weeks on end I had an incredible urge for a hot dog and some beer and made my way to the nearest vendor I knew. Taking the first bite I felt like shedding the oppressive rules and customs of Islam. I felt free again, my heart was lighter instantly and I never felt happier about living in a secular democracy.

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And to the fascists calling themselves liberals: STOP saying “It’s not all of them, the majority is moderate” – millions of victims throughout history and daily deaths, rapes, mutilations today disprove that. If you love Islam so much go live in a Muslim country and see how long you will last there. You want true tolerance? Petition for churches, synagogues or Pagan rights in Saudi Arabia.

http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/sina51021.htm

http://freethoughtnation.com/why-is-islam-so-intolerant-and-violent/

First impressions from the Mosque

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012.

After my attempts to get in touch with the Iranian/Shia mosques had been unfruitful in the past I googled for a list of all the mosques in my hometown to try again. I was astounded and felt slightly uneasy at the amount of mosques present in my hometown alone. I found one in Little Orient close to the train station, which was a relief. It is a bad neighborhood nowadays and even with my hair covered my blue eyes and fair complexion would “give me away” as a German and I didn’t want to be amongst the many German girls that had been attacked due to their being “infidels”… Image I e-mailed the Imam and got a reply only a few hours later to come to Islam class at the mosque today. So I covered my head somewhat and went up there. I avoided directly looking at the guys flocking outside the mosque, and out of the corner of my eye saw they either politely ignored me or glanced at me and swiftly looked away again. The women I passed in the hall all smiled, greeting me with „Salam aleikum, sister“.  I took off my shoes (hoping they would still be there when I returned) and stood in the tiny hallway leading to the prayer room. I wondered whether I should have done Wudu, the ritual washing, before class and if it would be held in there. When another woman entered the hallway with her two kids I asked her whether she knew about the class. She told me she was the instructor, that the Imam was her brother and told me to follow her. „I’m sorry I didn’t ask you if you were new, you kinda looked like you belonged“, she told me. That stunned me a little, but as my slightly paranoid mind works I thought this might be just some flattery to „get me on board“. The carpeted room to the left of the prayer room had no chairs or benches. There were already a few other girls sitting on the floor, talking avidly. A few of them looked up at me as I passed them to find a spot in a corner and also greeted me with „Salam aleikum, sister“. I sat down, wondering how my once broken spine would handle two hours of class on the floor. Since sister Rhada was busy with her children I started looking around. The room filled up pretty quickly. There were girls in Abayas or long skirts and tunics mostly, some wore Khimars, some of them even long gloves and the Niqab (facial veil) that they slung back over their overhead Abayas once they entered. About 30 of the seventy women and girls looked German or „European“, and interestingly those were the ones that wore the most traditional dresses, being covered from head to toe in either black, brown or grey. The girls I guessed were in their late teens or early twenties wore fancy bones (boh-nays = headbands worn underneath the hijab, veil) and colorful hijabs, who they had each tied or arranged individually, just like Western women arrange their hair in various styles. Assessories like purses and jackets or coats (brands is the word, baby!) and cell phones/cell phone „jewelry“ were essential I noticed. I guess I’d never taken a closer look out of fear of being accused of „staring“ when I’d seen veiled women on the streets. I was the only one with make-up. The second thing I noticed was how many small children were running around. The women all looked at them like they were a revelation of some kind, and the children went around to get hugs, candy, and sit down on various girls‘ laps, just to get up a few moments later to play amongst each other. In every conversation I „overheard“ the frequent use of phrases such as „Subhan Allah“ „Insha’allah“, or when speaking of the prophet – „Salla lahu va lehi va salam“. It seemed a little bit like some kind of competition on who could throw in the most of those phrases to me. I was the only one sitting by myself, but soon a chubby girl with a silver headscarf, who’d been looking over at me a few times, came over and asked, „Salam sister, may I sit with you?“ When I got up to make some room she hugged me three times and introduced herself, then asked if I was new and if I was Muslim. A few other girls sitting around joined in the conversation, and I was amused at how they all seemed to *want* to misunderstand when I’d said repeatedly that my uncle and his family were from Iran. „Ohhh, Iraq!“ they exclaimed several times, „how fantastic!“ I thought it best not to correct that mistake, since I knew I was sitting in a Sunni mosque that might just not be too fond of my Shia family.

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(photos: Traditional infant mutilation during Shia Ashura-fest)

Sister Sara told me that Sister Rhada who was lecturing would gladly write down my e-mail address for the newsletter and that any questions I might have I could ask her after the lecture. She showed me her note pad of the previous lessons and she looked at me in surprise when she tried to explain a few things in detail that I already knew. I found the familiarity and regarding to each other as „sisters“ to be something very new to me. I can’t say I only had positive thoughts about it, though. Of course this kind of „love bombing“ is very appealing, especially to „newbies“ or possible „converts“ . On the other hand I wondered if it might be that this was not just an environment where people „cared about each other“ but „controlled each other“ as well. Of course that might just be prejudice. Might be. The lecture was about Al-Hassan, the prophet Fatima’s son. Sister Rhada told us that all the Kalifs we learn about in class had special positive traits that we would want to try and integrate into our own lives, to become a bit more like them who had served Allah the best. Al-Hassan was allegedly known for his clemency, mildness and generosity. I remember how mothers had hectically escaped church and also the Synagogue when their babies or small children had started wailing. Here, whatever woman was closest to the child would pick it up and cradle it or put it on her lap, comforting it. Interestingly, the ones to wail were the little boys. And often their sisters, hardly older than their brothers, came over to take them from the women’s lap and take care of them. Again: as many good as negative feelings and thoughts about this. I didn’t know how I felt about the little girls seeming so „trained“ to be the emotional „nurses“ of their brothers. As if sister Rhada had read my thoughts she began telling us about a Hadith which described how the prophet told his grandsons Al-Hassan and Al-Hossein how much he loved them, showed affection, even in public (which was revolutionary back in the day. Or well…not just back in the day, I guess.) She explained how important it was also for men to show affection to their sons, grandsons and also of course daughters and granddaughters without exception. „If we can’t give love we can’t accept love. And if we don’t give love to our children we condemn them to the same fate. That is how society is demolished. Love is key to everything.“ Since she had encouraged questions during the lecture I raised my arm and asked whether that was a statement including all of mankind or just Muslims. “Only Muslims” she replied. “We owe the infidels nothing”. Well, that was good to know, especially since I’d heard her talk about how hard it was living off of “this ridiculously small amount of welfare with 4 little children”. Welfare that infidels paid for.

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After 1 ½ hours the lecture ended and Sister Rhada asked how many new students there were today. Shyly, I raised my arm along with a very frightened looking German girl wearing a huge Khimar that seemed to swallow her completely. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was Polyester and how inconvenient the niqab and gloves would be in every day life. Image
Sister Rhada then asked how many converts there were today. 27 women raised their hand. „And how many of you found their way to Islam not because of a man, husband, but by themselves?“ 6 raised their hand. She then invited the sisters to tell their story. The first sister to speak told us how she’d met her Algerian husband, a Tuareg, on our annual Cultural Festival. He’d escaped his home during the civil war as he didn’t want to fight his Muslim brothers. She’d been impressed by his „forgiving nature“ and how patient he was with her when she had first refused to hear anything about Islam. The second sister had met her husband here as well. He was from Mali and wanted to introduce her to his family early on, so they went to Africa to get married in a rush. Her father in law said she would have to convert before becoming married, so she spoke the Shahada (credo) but didn’t start practicing Islam until months later. She’d only started wearing the veil a little less than a year ago. I asked her if her husband had demanded her to start wearing the hijab but she negated that. “I just feel better around him now that I do, but he had nothing to do with it.” Ah yah. Makes perfect sense. The third sister to speak was an 18-year old girl in a brown Khimar. She’d converted 4 years prior to that. She said she’d always liked head-scarves and the women in her neighborhood in traditional Islamic dress for as long as she could remember. When her Dad had married an Indonesian woman he converted, she was 12 then. She started crying when she told us how her father and her birth-mother had come to the mosque to celebrate her conversion with her. Her father had held her hand while they were both reciting the Shahada. She’d been crying so heavily she could hardly finish. And she was crying as she was telling this story as well. The only thing she managed to say was that she was so grateful for all the sisters and especially sister Rhada who’d taken so much time to talk to her about taking the veil, and she felt so much happier wearing it since October last despite having been “stubborn” about it before. One woman was Bosnian-Hungarian, raised in here in my country and hometown though. She’d married a Turkish man who hadn’t been religious at all. In fact she was the one to „re-convert“ her husband. In the end he hadn’t been religious enough for her so she divorced him. I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows a little at that story, but I guess with the hijab down my forehead that wasn’t noticeable. Hopefully. Another girl spoke of how she’d had a hard childhood and she’d always felt like meat to men (…), she’d been into drugs and alcohol and parties and her life had been meaningless. Then she’d met a guy who’d introduced her to Islam and within weeks she’d been a believer and she’s started covering herself head to toe immediately. The sister who’d converted at age 14 raised her hand to ask if sisters wearing a niqab but showing part of their feet in ballerinas were actually committing a sin. Sister Rhada retorted that there were several opinions about this amongst alameen (Islamic scholars). Most said that everything should be covered except face and hands, some said just the eyes were alright to see. And she knew of one scholar (whose long Arabic name I unfortunately forgot as soon as I heard it) who said the feet were alright to show. „Let’s remember, sisters, just because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean we are right and they are wrong. Scholars are not at one with this question, so it is up to the individual what to choose, but even if we disagree to show our feet for ourselves, we may not judge sisters who do so.“ After the matter was „resolved“  sister Rhada said that since there were new „members“ present  she’d explain that after the lecture they were collecting. That was voluntary. There were three envelopes. One was for a Quran school in Mali, one for Palestine (I physically shuddered at the thought of what my Jewish family would think if I donated for the imaginary “Palestine” and to what cause that money would go in the end…I could hardly raise my hand and state that I support Israel, now could I…)

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and the last envelope was for another mosque in our home town that needed a new roof. Then one sister raised her arm and asked if we could say dua (petitionary prayer) for a sister who’d passed from cancer the night before. „On Lailat-al-Miraj?“ I burst out, and saw too many arms to count reach for me and hands patting me on my arms, shoulders and back assuringly. „Subhan Allahs“ were uttered and sister Sara delightedly exclaimed, „You know about that? You are destined to become a Muslim!“ Image
So we all turned to face the Qibla (direction of the Kaaba) and before sister Sara could tell me what to do opened both palms as another sister started saying a dua. Again everyone appeared impressed and asserted that I was born to become a “good Muslim woman”. I would have loved to tear off my hijab right then and there to tell them that one wasn’t “destined to become a Muslim” simply because one educated oneself about customs, prayers, holidays of that religio-political cult. As I always do when I study a new religion or cult I tried to feel the words, but mainly I felt what I always feel with anything dogmatic, organized and often monotheistic. Oppression, narrowness, God slipping away from me. I guess I must have been lost in thought, but suddenly everyone was getting up and leaving. My head was reeling from all the information. Sister Sara hugged me goodbye – three times of course – and said she was looking forward to seeing me again next Sunday. A few other girls waved, „Goodbye, sister Penny!“ I think that was the first time I noticed that all the converts had introduced themselves with Arabic names. I vaguely remembered hearing that most converts assume a new name. I’d once had a very heated discussion about this with a Muslim philosopher. My claim was that  converts were the worst religious people in general and especially Muslim converts. „Why do they think being a Muslim has anything to do with being an Arab?!“ I had exclaimed. „And then that ridiculous claim – ‚the language spoken in heaven is Arabic‘ – I’m begging you, this is the 21st century!“ I had talked myself into a sort of frenzy after he had dared call me an infidel headed straight to hell and how he could save me like he had saved so many Western whores if only I let him. „Why all the Arabic exclamations and terms, why do they say ‚Subhan Allah‘, why not say ‚praise be to God if there IS only one God as they say?! It is as if they renounce everything they once were. Religion isn’t supposed to be like that. There is no one true religion but A religion that is true to basic godly principles is for every culture, language and country, because it is about love, understanding, enlightenment, tolerance and peace. Religion should change your life in a way, sure, but not erase it!“ Of course I had fared just as well talking to a wall. There were few Muslim scholars pretending to be “liberal” (impossible to be if you follow the word of the Quran), but in fact I’d known almost nothing but Muslim scholars who weren’t even bothering pretending to be liberal. All they spoke of was death to infidels, Jews especially, glorifying honor killings, acid attacks, child marriage and infant rape, “corrective” rape, jihad and the mutilation or amputation of bodyparts of thieves, liars and the like.
I packed up my note pad, put on my jacket and approached sister Rhada to give her my e-mail address and ask her a few other questions. As I left I passed a few men who were all looking past me. The funny thing is that although I knew it wasn’t supposed to be unfriendly or make me feel ignored but safe it was still sort of offensive. I was invisible because I was a woman. I had to cover up in order not to “tempt” anyone. Luckily Western men mostly aren’t wild animals who can’t contain themselves whenever they see a strand of hair or naked legs in a pair of shorts on a hot summer’s day. The way the Muslim men bowed their heads or averted their eyes had something submissive, as though they were aware of their “guilt” of having “filthy” i.e. sexual thoughts. It’s not a culture that will ever soften, that will ever be watered down or integrate. How could it. If the Quran is the unaltered and only true word of God altering it would be outright “satanic”.
I remember the many times I’d walked down the tunnels at central station after work to get home. And how spring time would bring out the worst in so many Muslim guys that were known to hang out there to sell drugs or hit on Western women without hijabs. Staring, calling things to me, approaching me and asking me out, trying to start some silly and pointless conversation, pick up lines, some even trying to hug or kiss me, blargh. Not every time of course. But often enough to piss me off and scare me. Scare all of us “infidel” girls. I remember how I’d pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and chest and tried to make myself smaller on weekends when I’d tried to get home after Persian class, just to avoid the loudly babbling, yelling, laughing and not too seldomly intoxicated Muslims. But they wouldn’t eat pork, no, no… I tried to imagine what kind of society I would like to live in. One were women were wearing tents so they wouldn’t „seduce“ men by their simple existence? No. One where women ran around in tiny tank tops with the strings of their thongs showing above their hot pants? No, admittedly, not that either. Somewhere inbetween maybe. I thought about the times that I used to go out to party. Why did I put on a short dress or tight pants? „Be honest, Penny“ I told myself. In the hope that a guy would notice me and talk to me? Or simply because I felt pretty, slim, healthy and dressed for myself mostly? A little bit of both? Isn’t the physical appearance the first thing we notice after all? And why was alcohol a given when going out to dance? Well, in my case it was rather simple, I was too shy to dance without a glass of champagne. I liked the taste of champagne, a cocktail or beer, too. And I had never danced with guys, only with my female friends when going out anyways. My friend once told me that the only way to de-stress from her very demanding job was to put on a fancy dress, go dancing, get drunk and just let loose. Everybody was her friend, the world was great and she had no troubles. Whatever one may think of that, it is her right to choose that for herself. Without anyone assaulting her and then saying she wanted it because she was drunk.

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By then I was sitting on a bench at the subway station I suddenly noticed. I was still thinking, when I noticed a huge blackness approaching me swiftly. „Salam, sister“, someone cried and bowed to hug me, before I had time to look at them. I felt ashamed right afterwards, but immediately my brain spat out the thought, „Nazgul!“ – the hooded ring wraiths of Sauron wearing long black cloaks. When the girl leaned back to sit next to me in her skillfully embroidered Abaya, I saw her face for the first time. I couldn’t guess her age. Most Arab or Turkish girls from the mosque had looked older than they’d turned out to be. I remembered my Iranian friend Farsaneh complaining that non-Muslims were saying Muhammad was a pedophile but “during those times” Aisha had basically been “a grown woman”. – Really??? Fact is that Muhammad married Aisha when he was almost 50 and she was 5 (in words: FIVE) years old and  thighed her (rubbed his penis between her thighs in order to reach orgasm) regularly, until at long last he had had regular intercourse with his wife when she’d been shy of 9 years old. I also disagreed with those that call anyone who condemn Muhammed’s obvious pedophilia a hypocrite because in medieval Europe most females married at 12 or 13 and bore children shortly afterwards. 12 or 13 girls at least were not pre-pubescent and also they did not live past their mid-thirties to forties in most cases.   „And even today,“ Farsaneh had said, „Arab and Iranian girls are more mature, also physically. I got married at 17 and was already pregnant at 17 also.” I asked her if she wanted the same fate for her two daughters. “Your oldest is 25 and unmarried, is she not? And you are encouraging her to finish collage and date although you have to hide the latter from your husband, right?” She fidgeted for a while and said that we lived differently in Germany after all. “You might, but your husband and most of your male relatives that I’ve gotten to know are still stuck in their medieval thought patterns.” She couldn’t disagree and in order to escape the uncomfortable conversation escaped to the kitchen to make tea.
I noticed I’d been staring at the girl while I’d reminisced about all this while trying to guess her age and proceeded to ask her name. Instead she burst out without smiling „I’m so glad you found your way to the mosque today, sister. How did you like it?“ There was no apparent reason but I started feeling uncomfortable around her at once. Since taqqiya was amongst the first thing I learned when studying Islam I told her how much I’d enjoyed it and how nice everyone was and that I was gonna come back next Sunday to learn some more.  „So are you Christian?“ she asked in the same monotonous voice, still not smiling. „No, I’m…no. I believe in God, but I am not Christian.“ At least Christianity was “one of the three religions of the book” in Islam, somehow I didn’t feel it was a good idea to tell her I was Pagan and very happy with that too. The train was coming in. When she asked me how old I was (she was 15 as I finally learned, but looked like 22) and found out I was getting divorced her eyes widened in shock. „I’ll say dua for you, sister. I will pray for a good husband. A good Muslim, very, very religious, maybe? Very strict! Someone who knows the way and will lead you. Someone you can look up to. You will be so happy”. Okay, that girl was DEFINITELY creeping me out… I thanked her and tried to get off the topic, asking where she would get off. She told me the stop (one before mine, where many Muslims lived) and said, „Well, my aunt and uncle are in the other car, I can see them from here, I didn’t go alone.“ I briefly wondered why her aunt and uncle would be in the other car and if it had something to do with me, but that thought pattern got interrupted by her saying „I can only recommend Islam, sister. For once you won’t go to hell. And it is the best religion, you will find true happiness there. If you are wondering anything, if you want to know more about Islam, you can youtube Pierre Vogel. He’s a German convert, do you know him?“ Holy crap on a cracker, I had trouble not gasping at that name. Of course I knew Pierre Vogel or Abu Hamsa as he now called himself. He’d been a German little league boxer before he’d suddenly converted to Islam. He was part of a group of Salafites who occupied Cologne’s streets and caused traffic jams with their public prayers. He was a violent and dangerous man and so were his followers unsurprisingly. I couldn’t force out more than a quivering, „Yes, I know Abu Hamsa.“ until she excitedly went on. „He is SO strict, but that is good, I mean, he IS only saying the truth. You’ll learn everything you need to know from him. He’s a true Muslim.“

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By then people were staring as she was speaking rather loudly and suddenly her voice wasn’t monotonous anymore but shaking with passion and her eyes had a happy fanatic glow in them. I had no trouble imagining this girl having the same expression of devotion on her face when talking about Osama bin Laden. I sat there with my head scarf and all too blue Germanic eyes, wishing I could just sink right through the subway floor into the earth. „So what else are you doing at the mosque?“ I wanted to know. „Do you just go there for class and prayer or do you celebrate holidays, hold events…stuff like that?“ I’m not sure what she answered exactly, I was more intent on watching her facial expression and feverishly glowing eyes as she was speaking to me. Suddenly she said, „This is my stop. I am looking forward to seeing you again!“ She hugged me and got off. I kept on musing about religions that dictate what to eat and how to dress and how uneasy they made me feel. I like Abayas cause they’re comfy and I use them as nightgowns and “house-dresses”, so I have a few at home. I also like Tunics and baggy clothes, but not because I’m afraid people/men might stare at me. We’re all humans and looking around or looking at each other happens, especially in a crowded city as the one I live in. I also think dressing with some sort of “modesty” is not the worst idea. In the West, jeans and shirts, blouses or tunic are pretty modest because while covering everything they are still not hiding or denying the actual body form. On the other hand  rather medieval Abayas and the dishdashas („night-gown-like“ looking gowns for men) are definitely not modest but unusual, unnecessary in this hemisphere as Northern Europe does not have the same kind of heat problem as the Middle East does. And of course it provoke stares, curiosity and slight unease, which has nothing to do with discrimination or close-mindedness or even racism but more with the fact that we all know what devout Muslims are all about. Which is nothing good as (recent) history has proven. I thought back to the first sister who’d talked of her Tuareg husband. Of course he wouldn’t veil himself here, which is what the Tuareg men do back home. The fanatic determination of the people in Little Orient clearly showed that they didn’t even want to fit in. They were happy converting people, they were happy condemning everyone that didn’t follow – not just Islam but their KIND of Islam. And they had more than once condemned democracy and the Western way of life more than once during Islam class. Very worrisome. I know that in Arabic cultures the hair of a woman is regarded as erotic, even today. I also know that the Quran has been misinterpreted by Arab Wahabites and mitranslated by MEN who like to confine women in textile prisons. What most people don’t realize is that whatever you read, Torah, Bible or Quran, Upanishads, Edda… (or whatever other holy text) you should always read it with a history book right next to it. The Arab women of that time were highly vain. They overused make-up, perfume, they dressed with a lot of cleavage showing, etc. Muhammad had advised his wives not to dress like that, but to dress modestly and „cover their chest with their cloth“ to be recognised as Muslims/his wives and hence be left alone by other men. The „cloth“ he speaks of was a lobe of the long flowy dresses (Abayas) that were in fashion during that time. There was originally no word of covering yourself head to toe, covering your hair or hands, that came later in the Hadiths. I’m always very surprised at Arabs who choose to interpret it that way. They are lucky enough to be able to read the original text after all, so they WANT to misinterpret the Arabic it seems. Same with what has been translated as „beat your wives.“ The root of that word has thirty different meanings. ONE of them meaning to beat. Most others having to do with abandon, leave, leave alone. So if a woman is being difficult or unfaithful  men are not supposed to beat her but leave her (alone), also in the marriage bed. I know there have been attempts at an Islamic reform (by people like Marta Schulte-Nafeh and Edip Yüksel for example) but why do these people not publicly speak up against terrorism and the abominable crimes of Islam historically and committed today!? They are cowards in my eyes.  Why are there hardly any Progressive Mosques? I know of TWO in the US. None here… My country has become the playground of either conservatives or Salafites when it comes to mosques. And the only Shia one, which never responded to my e-mails, phone calls and letters about me visiting it, is under the government’s surveillance as it is said to be supportive of the Iranian regime as well as the Hezbollah whose main aim is to wipe Israel off the map. No thanks. Pondering all this and more I remember what sister Rhada said today about tolerating others’ behaviors even if we don’t agree with them. It had sounded so wonderful, I’d perked up my head immediately. Then of course she had negated it all by asserting that this counted for fellow Muslims only. Even if they were wrong we had to reach out to them with love because they might eventually find the true path.  I was still debating in my head when I finally opened the front door, kicked off my shoes and tore off the headscarf. All these scattered thoughts gave me a headache, so I just stuck my head out of the window because I needed some fresh air and also because I heard loud voices outside. I looked down to see two Turkish-looking boys yell at each other, if playfully or not, I couldn’t tell. When I opened the window they looked up and yelled, „Hey bitch, wanna let us up and show you a good time?“ I wonder if they’d done the same if I hadn’t taken off my head scarf only five minutes ago…

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