Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quotes of the Day

Simoqi disdained any kind of religious practice now – though he was proud to be a Yazidi. “Religion is politics,” Simoqi said.

“I didn’t go to mosque in Gaza because they use mosques as a way to control people. On Fridays, they talk politics, not religion,” Qaddas said. “They’re using Islam for their own interests. If someone is really Muslim, you serve and help others. You don’t kill lots of other Muslims.”

Al-Kahldy, a Shia Iraqi who’d also fled ISIS, nodded. “People need humanity, not religion.” He explains, “When I came to Germany, I thought Muslims were the best people. This is what our society taught. We’re the chosen people. Everyone else is an infidel,” al-Kahldy said. But the people who had helped him most as a refugee – finding a place to live outside the shelters, learning German, facing his trauma, making friends – were all non-believers. Al-Kahldy became an atheist in Germany. “Look what’s happening to Iraq, Syria and Palestine. Every day we’re waking up and praying, ‘Ya Allah,’ and there’s no answer. Germans aren’t praying, but they have freedom and choice and they’re not Muslims.” 

Hakim Zade lived in Iran for 18 years after fleeing the Taliban. But in 2013, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps visited him one night and asked the former military doctor to go fight in Syria, “I said, ‘I’m a Muslim, but I left Afghanistan because I’m tired of fighting. I don’t want to fight. This is not my war,’” Zade said. Under pressure from Iranian authorities, he returned to Kabul, only to be threatened by the Taliban, so the family left for Europe.

Yara Aldebeyat, a 23-year-old from Hama, Syria, wore a black tank top with matching eyeliner, snacking on chocolate despite the Ramadan fast. “I’m Muslim, but sometimes I wear a cross necklace in the ‘Arab Street,’” she said, referring to a street in Berlin that has become a hub for Arab businesses. “Otherwise Arabs are telling me, ‘Sister, why do you dress like this? Are you fasting or not?’ Some of them are Lebanese, Palestinian, not even refugees, and they think they can tell me what to do.” Syrians have brought their divides over religion with them to Germany, she said. “The liberal, secular people are still fighting the sectarian and religious people. The pressure we feel is not so much between Germans and Syrians as it is between Syrians,” Aldebeyat said.

27-year-old Avin Alyusuf felt more pressure from Germans than back home in Syria’s Qamishli, where she says she hadn’t even thought about whether or why her friends wore hijabs. When she arrived in Germany, a friend who’d arrived six years earlier advised her to take off her hijab. “I felt really uncomfortable wearing it. I was pregnant and we didn’t have papers, and people looked at me like an alien,” said Alyusuf, who is Kurdish and now living in Cologne. “Religion is something private and personal here. No one asks if you’re Christian or Muslim. But if you put on a hijab, it’s like you’re saying, ‘I’m Muslim.’” Alyusuf didn’t have a religious leader that she trusted in Germany, so she turned to the Internet, researching different opinions for a year before she decided to remove her headscarf. “When I took it off, I felt fine, like I could be anyone,” Alyusuf said. 

 29-year-old Syrian archaeologist Jabbar Abdullah felt afraid when a spate of sexual assaults in the city on New Year’s Eve 2015 prompted backlash against migrants. “Sometimes I feel the whole world is against me, even though I know that’s not true. I hear the media and feel the whole world is talking about it, that refugees are harassers and criminals,” Abdullah said.
He rarely goes to mosque in Germany; he didn’t like that someone would always ask his name and whether he was a refugee. “You feel immediately like you’re just a number. Then they try to convert you, to make sure you’re part of their sect or confession or religion,” he said. “You’re a project. You’re not a person.”
“I want to go to mosque like I go to a cafe – like a normal person, anonymous, with no one asking where I’m from or what I am,” Abdullah said. “That’s how I want to talk about Syrians, too: not Syrians as Muslims, Syrians as refugees, but Syrians as Syrians. Syrians as people.”


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