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„We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians“ – Nelson Mandela


Don’t ask me why, because I just don’t know. I don’t know why I’ve never written a word on this blog about my short but deeply moving trip to Palestine (not to Gaza unfortunately) five years ago during Ramadan. Back then, I was in the midst of some life changing decisions and experiences, not sure what to make of these memories, how to handle them. What to say, what to write. Even now, I’m struggling. This time for different reasons though. I’m drowning in the sea of words that will not leave my mouth, that my fingers won’t type. There is anger, desperate anger. And I know, me writing down these words will most likely help no one but me and my conscience. Nothing I will write, will save a life. Nothing I write, will stop the terror that is happening in Gazza right now. And as I write, bombs are being dropped on civilians. And as I write a mother is loosing her child, a brother his sister, a daughter her father, a loved a loved one. With every heart that stops, another one is wounded.

And as I write, I feel foolish for taking up space and time, when I’ve got actually nothing to say. Nothing in comparison to people in Gaza. Nothing in comparison to those whose hearts have witnessed the ugliest face of our kind. I feel shame.

Five years ago on Laylat al-Qadr I asked Amal, a Palestinian girl I met when we – once again – had been locked up in the Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli soldiers over night (which we actually didn’t mind. This way we got to spend more time in the mosque praying), what I could do, she smiled and said: „Don’t forget us. Pray for us. Come visit us.“

I don’t want you to be forgotten. I don’t want these images to be lost. I want Palestine and Palestinians to be seen. I want them to be part of our collective memory. Hence our collective future.

Want, want, want…

Back to prayers…



Oxford Union Debate Winners

A few weeks ago (23rd of May 2014), I was debating at the Oxford Union along with i.a. Myriam Francois Cerrah & Adam Deen opposing the motion „This house believes Islam is incompatible with gender equality.“ We won the debate with great results: 166 opposition : 51 proposition!

I was waiting for the audio recording to be released, but that doesn’t seem to happen anytime soon. So, here we go, this is the transcript of my speech:

Ladies & Gentleman,

Here I am, claiming that Islam is compatible with gender equality. And it might seem a little absurd saying that – looking at our world today.

After all, isn’t Islam seen as the religion of sexual oppression? Not only tolerating but fuelling violence towards women? The religion of forced marriages, death stoning, female genital mutilation, polygamy, depriving young girls of their right for education – a women hating ideology? – As the proposition might indicate in the following hour.

I am not arguing today that misogyny in Muslim communities does not exist. Because it does exist. However, many women today here in this room and around the world have not only witnessed these awful practices, but have also fought against them – based, encouraged and empowered by their religion, their faith, Islam.

Today I will start by providing you with three common examples which are misused to argue that Islam is to blame for misogyny:

1 – Forced Marriages
2 – Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
3 – Women’s Deprivation From Education

Forced Marriages

At least half of the forced marriages that have been reported to UK’s forced marriage unit in 2012 involved communities that are predominantly Muslim. And unfortunately, in many cases, Islam is being misused to justify this awful custom.

However, forced marriage is a cultural practice. And it violates your right as a woman and – surprise surprise! – as a Muslim. The vast majority of theologians, scholars, Sheikhs and Imams condemn this practise and agree: Islam does not allow anyone – male or female – to be married without his or her own consent. According to a Hadith, narratives detailing the life and practise of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), when a girl who was married off against her will, came crying to our Prophet (PBUH) saying she hadn’t agreed to the marriage, he promptly declared the marriage invalid.

Female Genital Mutilation

And scholars, Sheikhs and Imams have also condemned many times female genital mutilation.

Let’s have a look at the case of Khalid Adem, an Ethiopian American, who was convicted for female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States in 2006. He is charged for personally removing his 2-year-old daughter’s clitoris with a pair of scissors. At court his wife explained his motivation: „He said it was the will of God.“ FGM however, does not come from the scripture of Islam, but in fact from an age old tradition in many regions in Africa, based on the assumption that women’s enjoyment of sexual intercourse might turn them „immoral.“

And up until a few decades ago nearly 4 out of 5 women in Ethiopia were victims of FGM. In a country whose population is 63 percent Christian. Can we now blame Christianity for FGM – when Christians in Ethiopia argued it was the will of God? No. This inexcusable custom that is unfortunately practised today in many other regions in Africa predates, Islam, Christianity and even recorded history.

Women’s Deprivation From Education

In April this year the militant Nigerian group „Boko Haram“ caused outrage around the world when they kidnapped around 276 female students from their school – again, inexcusable. I will leave their use of violence and terror aside and focus on their justification for stealing these children:

They claim that education for girls goes against Islam. This, however, has no basis whatsoever in Islamic scripture. On the contrary, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wisely emphasised that every Muslim man and woman has a duty to seek education. In fact, the very first command that was revealed was „Iqra!“, “Read!” symbolising the duty of every Muslim: to pursue and seek knowledge. And there is no difference being made between men and women.

As a matter of fact, women of the Prophets community had the right to comment forthrightly on any topic, even the Quran. And both God and the Prophet (PBUH) assumed their right to speak out and readily respond to their comments. They, too, have participated actively in the creation of religious knowledge in the early days of Islam.

Muslim women have been scholars, Muftiyahs and Qari’ahs for centuries. Some of the greatest male scholars, like Hasan alBasri, Ibn Hajar and Ibn Taymiyyah, all had female scholars as teachers and contemporaries – like Rabia al-Adawiyya, one of Islam’s first mystics.*

And I could give you hundreds of other examples, starting from the first person to convert to Islam, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife Khadijah. A woman who was married three times and had children from all her marriages. A successful business woman, 15 years older than her husband Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Imagine the reactions today, a young man marrying his 15 years older boss and single mother.

What I argue

I am not denying that Islam can be (and is) read in patriarchal modes and be misused to justify privileges to men and inhumane practises against women. But I firstly point out that those readings are being challenged by respected religious scholars and are disputable. Secondly I argue that Islam can and is being read in anti-patriarchal modes and hence is indeed compatible with gender equality.

And thirdly I argue that the readings I am referring to are not a tool to belittle and sugar-coat Islam and please a Western audience – it is an appeal to certain Muslim communities to look at the texts, keeping in mind that the readings are not the words of God, but the holy Quran is. The readings, tafsir of the Quran are interpretations of humans, influenced by society, history and politics. Who has dominated the readings of the Quran in the past decades? Men. Men who have lived and were socialised in patriarchal societies. Naturally, their readings have been influenced by those factors, too.

Nevertheless, male and female scholars have been challenging in the past and continue to do so in the present, patriarchal readings of Islam.

Yes, as I have said earlier, misogyny does exist in Muslim communities. And it also does exist in communities of other faith and no faith. These practises are not unique to Islam, they are not rooted in the Islamic scripture.

By eliminating religion, you cannot eliminate misogyny.
By clinging on to a “misogynistic Islam”, you will not bring any change to society.


When I’m talking here to you today, I am not primarily addressing a Western audience explaining the misuse of Islam; I am also talking to a Muslim audience explaining our misuse of Islam. And that it is us and the way we read the Holy Scripture that will bring an end to misogyny.

If the motion today were: Many Muslims are not acting in compatibility with gender equality, yes, I would wholeheartedly agree.

But the motion today is: Islam is not compatible with gender equality. That is, to put it simply, wrong.

By voting for the motion today, you are turning on the volume for those misogynist Muslims who misuse Islam to justify their practices. You are turning on the volume of orientalist and euro-centric Islamophobes who reduce Islam to those who misuse it.

By voting against the motion today, you say that, yes, Islam is compatible with gender equality. And you will turn on the volume for thousands of men and women around the world, who have been and are fighting against misogyny. on. a. daily. basis.

Thank you.

*Great read: Women in history who rock – by woodturtle

#15 ICH | 50

liebe leben

I haven’t had shared thoughts for a few weeks now due to travels & work. This week’s thought is about living love. I believe, you can’t live love without giving up your ego, your pride. Yes, a good relationship involves a lot of work. But it’s work mainly on yourself, on your ego. It is your struggle to become a better person.

One thought every Friday for a year #15 | 50


Who are you, digitally?

We present ourselves differently on every social media platform – they highlight another feature of our life and character. Each platform has its own rules and norms we adjust and comply to – to their stars, topics and dynamics. It is fascinating how different kinds of people flourish and become influential on each platform. People with seemingly interesting lives will float Facebook, if words are your strength you’d go for Twitter and Instagram is for the visually talented amongst us who look at life not in words but through images.

We all behave (even if only slightly) differently, depending on where we are. However, the spaces on the internet – unlike the different spaces we act in real life – are not autarkic, they interact and can be viewed simultaneously. Are we coherent in who we present to be on the Internet? Do we take this into consideration when (inter)acting?

Sometimes, when we become aware of this, we censor ourselves. We reduce ourselves to our common denominator to hide those opinions and perspectives of our life that would be conflicting with certain circles of friends, groups or audiences – fearing their judgement, disagreement, disapproval and maybe even arguments. But more often than not, we reveal more than we normally would, falsely imagining to be speaking to a private audience. It is like shouting through a bullhorn on stage at a crowded stadium and misbelieving no one would hear us, except for the five people in the front row who are applauding you.

We know more about each other than we want to. This, however, we only realise when we actually meet. Have you ever met in real life a person you were „friends“ with online and had to pretend not to know what that person did last week because you weren’t really „friends“? Not to know that he/she had just split up, lost his/her grandmother, went on a vacation in X and finally found a job? If you have experienced a similar situation, you know the awkward feeling I’m talking about. The moment you meet that person, it feels so wrong to know so much.

I felt very alienated from Facebook for a long time, as the amount of information some people were posting was overwhelming and they gradually occupied more and more space on my timeline and consequently in my life and privacy. People who I wouldn’t meet up with in real life. It was, as if Facebook was forcing people into my life. Those on the other hand who mattered to me ended up being quite and sometimes even invisible. As I was yearning their presence in my life, e-mails and phone conversations grew to be more important.

Twitter serves as my daily newspaper, the platform I use most actively. The fact that you are not – at least in theory – limited to friends and acquaintances in your conversations but could address anyone who is on the platform and engage in a discussion, is unique. It is always fascinating to watch how people come together and leave through conversations – those who would’ve never met otherwise (speaking of social bubbles).

Instagram – to me – is a creative space that challenges me to look at life from a visual angle. I love sharing stories, but I usually change names and places to keep people anonymous. How can I continue telling stories? I’m still figuring that out. How can words become images?  I think I’ve found my personal answer. The 50 thoughts project has turned into a playful way to combine both visuality, thoughts and texts into one piece: Adding another layer of meaning to your words through the way you choose to place them on a sheet of paper. I thoroughly enjoy experimenting with this.

But the 50 thoughts project has also turned into a wonderful opportunity for me to leave my self-constructed boxes about what I am legitimised to speak and write about and what not. I love the freedom it unintentionally gives: I have a space to fill. Every single week. One thought I can share. This project has allowed me to communicate myself differently and made me more conscious about how I let myself be defined in the digital space.

As I observe my presences and actions on different platforms, as I observe the actions of others, I discover a world in which we tell different stories of who we consider we are, slowly uncovering ourselves, standing in front of each other – naked and vulnerable. Almost as if we were waiting for a little child to wake us up and scream „But they aren’t wearing anything at all!“

But we will not stop any time soon, I guess.

#14 JOY | 50

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And you are humbled by the gratitude you are granted to feel deep in your heart.

This is for a number of dear friends who allow me to be part of their pursuit and journeys. I am grateful for every second they share with me. I hope to be there for them in their darkest and brightest moments. I am not with my friends every day. I am not with them every week. Sometimes not for months, sometimes not for a year. But they know and I know, this is only a physical description of our reality. Thank you.

One thought every Friday for a year #14 | 50