#8 KÜFÜR | 50

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Insanlarin dil algıları herzaman ilgimi çekmiştir. Kelimeler ile kurduğumuz dünyalar birbirlerinden bazen cok farklı anlamlar taşıyabiliyor. Birisine önemsiz, digerine dünyayı anlatıyor aynı kelime.

This week’s thought is about our perception of language – how we build our own worlds through words, worlds that are profoundly different from one another. Sometimes one word doesn’t mean anything to one, but the world to another.

/ I know this one has been delayed. It’s been a superbusy week, that keeps me superbusy until late in the night. Probably until the end of this month even. Sigh.

One thought every Friday for a year #8 | 50


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I know I’m not the first to discover this. I know that there have been loads of other women, minorities & „social climber“ who have experienced and reflected on this. But I feel, you have to go through it to truly understand it. It is the fear of arrogance, of becoming someone you never wanted to become, that has always stopped me. But you will never not be in danger of arrogance. It is a constant challenge.

Seeking humbleness & claiming space at the same time – it doesn’t need to be an oxymoron.

PS: I know the thought has been delayed, I wrote it last week but I was traveling so I didn’t have the typewriter with me. And my husband was giving me that look when I asked him if he thinks it’s a good idea to take it with me. :)

I will be traveling this week & the next weeks, too – so I hope I can manage to write the thoughts in advance.

One thought every Friday for a year #7 | 50

#2 UMBRÜCHE | 50

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Writing this thought down, I felt the need to do it in German. It is about those times in which you eagerly work towards a certain aim, whilst knowing that you’ll have to wait for that change in your life. You know it’ll come one day. But it’s not there yet. Hence you continue with your life the way it is. And all of the sudden you fear: What if I, whilst waiting, forget what it was that I was waiting for? What if I lose my aim while on my way?

Those moments remind me of „The Alchemist“ by Paul Coelho. This book made me think about my past, about my ambitions and the reasons and motivations I’ve had when I started my journey. I wonder if I got lost on my way. I wonder if I’ve lost sight. But as Coelho says: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I’ll just have to remember what it is that I wanted. When I was 17 these were my dreams (in German).

One thought every Friday for a year #2 | 50




IMG_1149 Kopie

There are thoughts in my head seeking ways to be heard & seen. I started drawing a lot recently. But still, there are so many thoughts unshared, for different reasons. Sometimes I fear it’s incompletion:

After all, aren’t all our thoughts, whether we consider them complete or not, just a state of mind? Aren’t we in constant change, revising and rethinking who we are, want to be and what we think is right? Or at least: Shouldn’t we aim to be in constant development? Being full of energy and ease – full of energy to develop ourselves; full of ease about our flaws and imperfection. Aren’t we just on our way anyways? We will never be complete. And not even death will bring this to an end.
But it is us all who neglect our imperfection. We – as a whole – don’t give each other the freedom to be a traveller on the path of change.

(an excerpt from „Thoughts On Their Way“)

Sometimes simply because I didn’t know I have had this thought. And sometimes because I didn’t have the courage to write it down. Hence this year I have decided to share a thought with you, words, sometimes clear and meaningful, sometimes maybe not so much – every Friday for a year. I decided to write them on my Turkish typewriter not because it looks nice (which I believe it does) but because I don’t want to care about spelling, grammar, structure of the sentences, I want to write carelessly and just let the thought flow without me looking back at it and editing it until it has become something different. I might write in English, in German or Turkish, depending on my mood. I want the thought to be out there, naked, incomplete and vulnerable. Sometimes wrong, silly and even dumb. But at the end of the day it’s a moment I’ve lived. A thought I found worthy to share with you.


mipsterz screenshot

Habib Yazdi / Somewhere in America

I was holding my tongue. Trying to ignore the #Mipsterz (≈ Muslim Hipsters) debate, hoping it would be over soon. Frankly, how long and intensely could the Muslim community (mainly in the US & some Western European countries) possibly discuss a two minute video about some Muslim fashionistas in the US driving skateboards, motorbikes, jumping and posing on trees? But it continued and continued and got worse…

Yes, the (original) music was inappropriate. Yes, you might have a different take on how a Muslim veiled woman should dress. Yes, there was a (apparently controversial) man behind the camera but it wasn’t entirely produced by men. Yes, I, too, am very concerned about our societies‘ materialistic approach to fashion, wealth and life in general. So, yes, some things have been rightly criticised.

But nothing felt more disturbing than some of the arrogant, judgemental and hateful comments I’ve read in the last couple of days. Hence, I do not want to discuss the video, but our reaction to it. I want to discuss our behaviour. The way we treat each other. Because I believe, this debate says less about the producers of the video and the protagonists, but more about the Muslim community in the West and the state we are in.

Why can’t we (happily, but that’s probably too much to ask for) accept that there are US American Muslim fashionistas celebrating their lifestyle in a video – like every other fashion scene – with its flaws and mistakes?

I believe it is, amongst another reasons, due to two problems.

One: Controlling Our Public Image

For a long time others were telling us Muslims in the West what we are, how we are and who we were going to be. Western media talked a lot about but rarely with Muslims. Having Muslims speak on mainstream TV channels or write in national newspapers was a novelty, a rare opportunity for „our image“ to be corrected. Keeping that in mind, I understand the urge to control how „we Muslims“ are being portrayed in media. But we need to stop being exaggeratedly self aware. We need to stop doing to our people what others have been doing to us for too long: Forcing every public (and private) Muslim to be the representative of an entire religion, mistake them for an advocate of Islam, expect them to speak for „us“ and wrongly be mad at them for not having sought our approval before speaking on „our behalf“. With this we not only take away their individuality, but neglect our very own nature:
We Muslims are not uniform, we are not homogenous, we are diverse. This is our asset. This is what makes us unique. And the only way we can demonstrate this, is to stop being control freaks. Eventually, having multiple voices and faces of the Muslim community in the public will correct „our image“.

Two: The Choice Not To Be Political

But beyond that, and more importantly, I feel an underlying problem is our inability to accept that a public Muslim might choose not to talk about „hard facts“, politics, Islamophobia, discrimination and racism in our societies but „give in“ to popular mainstream culture, even if for a two minutes video. It is somehow regarded as a „betrayal“ if a public Muslim is not acting first and foremost as a Muslim but seems to be carelessly enjoying the amenities of comfortably living in the West, glorying in it’s wealth, celebrating fashion and life in general – „while our brothers and sisters in (insert a country & problem) „…

To be honest, I understand this reaction. Again, being a religious minority, subjected to racism (often hidden as „rational“ and „intellectual“ criticism of Islam) has not given most of us the choice not to care. We had to. Especially as visible Muslim women wearing the Islamic headscarf we were constantly reminded of being the „Other“. Our loyalty, belonging, intellectual ability and independent thought were constantly questioned. So of course, there were times I felt betrayed when other Muslims did not carry the burden I chose (and was very often forced) to carry. But there were also times in which I was told, I had a responsibility to talk about problem x and y, because I had access to mainstream media and hence a responsibility to address x and y.

It was my (more or less conscious) decision to tackle Islamophobia and racism in our society, to publicly pursue my cause in becoming a writer, journalist, storyteller and activist. It’s tiresome, at times it took away all my energy and positivity, it was and still is a heavy burden. But why did I choose this path, sacrificing the luxury of not caring when I could?

When I started my activism in my teenage years, it was because I aspired to live in a society in which we Muslims did not have to fight stereotypes and prejudices anymore, in which we could choose not to fight daily battles about who we are – but just be. Back in those teenage years I had dreamed of going into arts and design. At 15 I sent my fashion design sketches to competitions, at 16 I worked with an haute couture designer and a milliner, where I designed my very own hat for veiled women. Art and design have had always been a deep passion of mine I haven’t followed publicly – yet. Because I felt it wasn’t the right time. Some problems needed to be addressed first. The public image of Muslims needed to be corrected. It was my very own decision to battle, but why would I want others – or everyone! –  sacrifice the same? Hadn’t I first started off pursuing my dream of a society in which I didn’t have to do what I did: Defending, fighting and battling? Why would I want every other Muslim to carry this burden? Don’t I do it, so that our future generations hopefully don’t have to? Haven’t you had the same aspirations? I believe some of the rants are routed in this inability to let others enjoy what you are fighting for. And I find this very bitter.

Despite all, I am happy to see our sisters in fashion, arts & design. It makes me proud, it makes me smile. These women (and men) are important to the Muslim community, not more or less than our advocates, fighters and battlers, because they give back some of the positivity, hope and ease we sometimes lack.

And as my husband likes to quote C S Lewis: Poetry and art might have no survival value. But they give value to survival.


It was around 3 or maybe 4 in the morning after a long journey, climbing and hiking, when we finally sat down on top of the mountain Nemrut. We sat down to watch the sun rise, lighten the dark, announce itself through sparks and light shadows, grow and warm us – like so many of our kind before us. It was probably the most magical moment of our trip through the East of Turkey, a trip that made me discover another face of my country, another face of mine.

In a slightly quicker timelapse I would like to share with you a moment that happens every day, everywhere around the world. But it’s beauty lies in your eye, in your heart.

Music: The Cinematic Orchestra – First Light


Ramazan’ın her günü için şartlandırdım bu sene kendimi, bir saniye bile olsa kısa bir çekim yapacağım. Bazı zamanlar sahura kadar aksıyor, bazı günler çekip çekip doyamıyorum. Yine en güzel görüşmelerin, gezilerin bir çoğu kayıtsız kalıyor çünkü onlara kamera lensinden değil bizzat kendim şahit olmak istiyorum. Böylece bu hatıralarla dolu güzelim İstanbulumuzun Ramazan videosu oluştu. Hoşgelmiş.

This year I decided to record at least one second a day during the month of Ramadan while wandering through the mystical city of Istanbul. However some of the most beautiful scenes and experiences haven’t been recorded as I wanted to witness them with my very own eyes, rather than filtered through a lense.
This is how this video full of memories and beautiful moments in the mesmerizing city of Istanbul was born.

Music: John Zorn – Mispar



A few months ago, I had the honour to speak at TEDx Oxbridge in Oxford. When I thought about what I’d like to share most, what lessons life had given me and what had touched me most, I decided on „The Power of Stories.“ After years of debating, political and social activism, I came to realise that although these are important and essential tools for a healthy discourse, there was something more important to me, something more powerful: stories. A lesson taught to me by a man I have never met.

As the talk went online yesterday, I was and still am overwhelmed by the wonderful and beautiful e-mails, comments & words from family, friends & strangers all around the world. My husband Ali and I are currently traveling through the East of Turkey, discovering new stories, new worlds & lives. What a beautiful place this world can be.

And I’d like to thank Him, my family & loving husband Ali, Niraj & the rest of the awesome TEDx Oxbridge team, my supportive friends (you know who you are)  & maybe most importantly: All the people not only I have met, but who have also met me, who have opened the doors to their lives and stories, made me wander around their world and see through their eyes. Although I might never have truly understood how it is to be them, never fully grasped what I saw through their lenses, walking in their shoes made me walk past horizons I didn’t even know existed. Thank you.

PS: On Fb, I had promised to share a juicy behind-the-scene-story about elephants & bicycles. Here we go!


WorldUnd dann stand es fest. Ich würde fortan eine Kolumne in der taz führen. Panik brach in mir aus. Eine Kolumne in der taz, einer deutschen, bundesweit erscheinenden Tageszeitung – und die sollte ausgerechnet ich schreiben, eine junge Deutschtürkin, muslimisch und noch dazu mit Kopftuch. Ja, klar. „Schreib von dir, erzähl aus deinem Leben, deine Gedanken“, sagte der Ressortleiter. Ich hörte nur: „Schreib von der muslimischen Community, erzähl aus deren Leben, deren Gedanken.“

Wie eine kleine Pressesprecherin der Muslime in Deutschland fühlte ich mich. Jahrelang hatte ich mich über die mediale Darstellung der Muslime geärgert, jetzt hatte ich die Gelegenheit, es besser zu machen. Verkrampft schrieb ich den ersten Text und las ihn am Telefon einem befreundeten Imam vor. „Hm, ja, guter Text“, sagte er, ein bisschen überfordert, was ich denn nun genau von ihm wollte. Ich wusste es ja auch nicht. Eine Fatwa, ein islamisches Rechtsgutachten, dass das, was ich schrieb, wirklich korrekt war – vielleicht?

Es brauchte noch so einige Kolumnen, bis ich verstand: Ich muss in meinen Texten nicht die Stimme der Muslime repräsentieren, sondern höchstens von einer der vielen Stimmen erzählen. Mehr ist in 3.400 Zeichen auch nicht machbar.

Über drei Jahre schreibe ich nun schon die Tuch-Kolumne. Sie begleitete mich in den bislang prägendsten Lebensjahren. Ich zog mit ihr von Hamburg nach London zum Studieren, schüttete dem Mann meines Lebens Salz in den Kaffee und heiratete ihn, zog nach Berlin, dann Kairo, Istanbul und zuletzt nach Oxford. Ich lachte mit dem Spiegel-Autor Matthias Matussek im ICE und stritt mit Sarrazin im Radio, bis er schließlich sagte: „I want yu tu intekräyt.

In den Kolumnen schrieb ich Dinge, die ich zuvor nicht auszusprechen gewagt hatte: Darf man das überhaupt sagen? Ich entdeckte, dass wir über viel zu viel schweigen. Mal wurde ich fuchsteufelswild, mal lachte ich oder wurde sentimental. Ich feierte Baynachten, wurde auch öffentlich zur Feministin und verbrachte lange Abende mit Lebenskünstlern, beeindruckenden Frauen und Männern – und jenen dazwischen. Ich lauschte den Weisheiten der Älteren, der Stimme der Stillen. Ich verlor meine Wut. Denn die Kolumne öffnete mir den Blick für die Geschichten anderer. Minderheiten. Menschen, die sich anders fühlen, ausgeschlossen.

Mit dieser Kolumne bin auch ich gewachsen. Sie umfasste nie wirklich nur mein Leben, sondern auch das der Menschen, deren Leben ich streifte und beobachtete. So viele Themen und Leben, wie sie unter „Das Tuch“ eigentlich gar nicht mehr passen. Vielleicht bin ich in dieser Zeit nicht nur mit, sondern auch aus der Kolumne herausgewachsen.

Bis spät in die Nacht hinein blickte ich auf diesen Text und wusste nicht, wie man ihn schreibt. Was schreibt man in einer letzten Kolumne? Wie verabschiedet man sich?

Diese Woche werde ich ein Vierteljahrhundert alt. Das nächste Vierteljahrhundert werde ich ohne diese Kolumne antreten. Es ist, als würde man den besten unsichtbaren Freund loslassen. Ein bisschen ungern, aber auch wohl wissend, dass es weitergehen muss, für neue Abenteuer und neue Leben.

Es war schön mit dir, liebe Tuch-Kolumne. Es war schön mit euch, liebe Leserinnen und Leser. Danke, liebe taz! Danke für drei großartige Jahre!

Tschüß, ahoi & liebe Salams!

Die allerletzte Tuch-Kolumne erschien am 24.06.2013 in der Taz. Hach ja :)

Wie geht’s weiter?, haben viele gefragt. Einiges ist unsicher, anderes ist fast in trockenen Tüchern. Deshalb kann ich zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch nicht viel dazu sagen, aber sehr bald hoffentlich hier mehr dazu! :)