Güner Balci Fights for Women in Germany’s Parallel Worlds: An Interview with the Author and Filmmaker
“To question a religion and its impact on people’s lives is neither a sign of anti-Semitism nor of Islamophobia, but rather, in keeping with Enlightenment principles, a reflection of an individual’s right and ability to exercise reason.”
Introduction: Güner Balci and Her Activism
For over a decade, author and filmmaker Güner Yasemin Balci, born in 1975 in Berlin, has given a voice to victimized second- and third-generation Muslim immigrant women in Germany. In her texts, documentaries, and public appearances, Balci draws attention to women living under the threat of honor killings, forced marriages, and oppressive gender roles. Balci, who was brought up in an Alevi household, advocates for change in traditionalist Muslim communities and vehemently warns against tolerating what she considers to be intolerable, things like gender apartheid in German schools and turning a blind eye when girls are forced to wear headscarves. Güner Balci participates in the Initiative PRO Berliner Neutralitätsgesetz (PRO Berlin Neutrality Law Action Group), which boasts many popular supporters, such as feminist filmmaker Helke Sander, the terre-de-femme speaker for integration and gender equality Dr. Abir Alhaj Mawas, and district leader of the Leftist Party Alexander King. The Neutrality Law guarantees state neutrality in public offices, which means for civil service employees the ban of all conspicious religious symbols, including the headscarf. Conversation around banning headscarves, especially in German schools, has recently sparked heated debates on both sides of the political aisle (Vieth-Entus). Opponents of the law argue that it is unconstitutional and therefore in need of revison. It is important to note that Balci does not see a problem with women choosing to wear a headscarf for religious or cultural reasons (other than in public service positions),  but women should also have the right, according to the author, not to wear the headscarf. In her 2016 “Essay on the headscarf” (“Essay über das Kopftuch”), Balci comments that she has not observed a Muslim interest group publicly advocate for the latter. She criticizes this oversight, which she views as an alarming sign that women’s self-determination is not on the agenda of many Muslim organizations claiming to promote gender equality.
Throughout her career, Balci has routinely chosen to debate controversial topics, such as street violence in underprivileged Muslim-dominated neighborhoods and the spreading of radical Islamist thought. In one of her early articles in the FAZ, she openly criticizes the controversial Al-Nur mosque in Neukölln for boycotting the integration of Muslims into German society. Balci writes in “Integration in Berlin: In the Shadow of the Al-Nur-Mosque” (“Integration in Berlin: Im Schatten der Al-Nur-Moschee”) that Islamic preachers propagate Sharia law to the Muslim community and openly foment hatred toward purported enemies of Islam. She also reveals that members of the Al-Nur mosque dispense questionable advice to parents on how to get their young daughters excused from physical education classes and swimming lessons. Balci recommends that teachers not give in to these demands from conservative Muslim parents who view a strict gender separation to be essential in maintaining their daughters’ sexual integrity. While many Leftist politicians and representatives of Muslim organizations argue that these parental requests fall under the right of exercising religious freedom, Balci argues that they are not compatible with Germany’s constitutional rights. According to the author, excluding Muslim girls from learning opportunities in schools disadvantages them both socially and academically, which restricts their personal freedom.
Balci belongs to a large group of intellectuals and social activists, many of whom are practicing Muslims, who warn German politicians and the public about giving in to the demands of conservative Muslim associations upholding traditional views on gender and women’s roles. The author is known for her direct words and open criticism, such as in the headscarf essay where she declared conservative mosque officials misogynistic and hostile towards women who lead a Westernized lifestyle. Her award-winning documentary film Der Jungfrauenwahn (2015; The Virgin Obsession) criticizes these conservative Islamic voices and draws attention to the suffering of women forced to maintain their sexual purity. According to Balci, Germany must protect and defend its hard-earned enlightenment ideals when reactionary Muslim fundamentalists threaten individuals’ freedom. Within Balci’s cohort, we find popular figures such as the human rights lawyer and imam Seyran Ateş, psychologist Ahmad Mansour, and social activist Zana Ramadani. Feminist and editor in chief of EMMA, Alice Schwarzer, and the political scientist and publicist Bassam Tibi also share similar views. They believe that the German Left has practiced and preached, in Bassam Tibi’s words, a “state-prescribed love of foreigners” that declares any criticism of Islam to be Islamophobia (Tibi 110). This attitude of the Left, according to Balci’s camp, stifles differentiated discussion regarding an effective integration policy of Muslims in Germany. It is generally rare for Leftist politicians to publicly critique conservative mosque associations and their demands. One popular exception, however, is Cem Özdemir, member of the Bundestag (Bündnis 90/The Greens), who has openly criticized the Turkish umbrella organization DITIB (Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion; Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs) for its close connection and support of Erdogan’s AKP party (Partei für Gerechtigkeit und Aufschwung; Party for Justice and Progress), declaring its collaboraters a “Turkish Pegida” (“Türkische Pegida”), quoted in a Focus Online article by the same name.
Balci and those who share her views are outsiders in every sense of the word. They face attacks from both ends of the political and societal spectrums. Both orthodox Muslims and the majority of Leftists feel that they spark unwarranted prejudices or promote Islamophobia, and some radical Islamists have even threatened them with murder. Ateş, for instance, received multiple death threats after publishing her pamphlet Der Islam braucht eine sexuelle Revolution (2009; Islam Is in Need of a Sexual Revolution) and has been under a second round of police protection since establishing Berlin’s first liberal Mosque. Balci, well aware that multiple factions also consider her a target, states in the voiceover of Der Jungfrauenwahn that she has—for safety’s sake—no sign with her name on her front door. Despite the dangers, Balci fights fearlessly for women in need. Her novel Aliyahs Flucht (2014; Aliyah’s Escape) tells the true story of a Kurdish woman whose family threatened to kill her for having a boyfriend. Balci herself took great risks in assisting the young couple with their dramatic escape, later publishing the story that would reveal her involvement in their plot.
In an effort to aid forward-thinking Muslims engaged in liberalizing Islam in Germany, Balci and her supporters assist Muslims in reconciling their progressive lifestyles with their faith by reforming Quranic teachings to be compatible with twenty-first century German values. Although in the minority, traditionalist Muslims have, from progressives’ point of view, claimed to speak for the entire German Muslim community and successfully swayed public sentiment as a result. In Aliyahs Flucht, Balci points out that many Muslims indeed feel intimidated by those conservatives who, for example, bully Muslim girls for disobeying Islamic chastity laws. Balci and her supporters claim that some Leftist voices have involuntarily become complicit in the oppression of many Muslim women because the Left has failed to openly address problems in conservative circles. And even worse: due to the Left’s silence and passivity, right-wing populists now have free rein in spreading Islamophobic sentiments by lumping the majority of German Muslims together with fundamentalists and even radical Islamists, as will be addressed in this interview.
Within this extreme climate of oversimplified views on Islam, Balci and other Muslim reformers found success with the establishment of the Muslimisches Forum Deutschland (Muslim Forum of Germany) in 2015, which includes well-known supporters such as psychologist Ahmad Mansour, the Head of the Center for Islamic Theology Mouhanad Khorchide, and the journalist Düzzen Tekan. The forum promotes a humanistic Islam that welcomes Muslims and people of different faiths alike, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Coincidentally, the forum’s founding occurred almost simultaneously with the establishment of the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Moschee, Berlin’s first liberal mosque, with Seyran Ateş as its female imam. Balci is currently working on a documentary about the mosque and its significance to Germany.
As none of her novels have been translated yet, Balci is relatively unknown outside of Germany. Only Der Jungfrauenwahn is available with an English voiceover, read by Balci, and English subtitles. It is my goal to take a closer look at this controversial author and filmmaker who in 2005 initiated a campaign against religious violence that included a sensational postcard project with the title “Honor means to fight for the freedom of my sister.” As Reimann describes, Balci circulated these postcards throughout Germany in order to call attention to the honor killing of Hatun Sürücü who was shot by her brother in 2005. So who is Güner Balci, and why does she take all these risks to raise awareness for women living in what she refers to as Germany’s “parallel worlds”?
The author’s commitment to oppressed groups can be traced back to her own childhood. In the 1960s, her parents immigrated from Anatolia to Germany and moved to Berlin; her father worked as an ambulance driver and her mother as a custodian. Güner Balci was born in 1975 as the youngest of three children. Raised in a predominantly Muslim community in Neukölln, she observed that girls in her neighborhood had to adhere to strict traditions, many of them designed to control female sexuality. Balci, by contrast, enjoyed a liberal upbringing in which a solid education was top priority. Today, she hesitates to proclaim her religious identity. Since childhood, her engagement with Islam has been a private enterprise, detached from any pressures to determine her spirituality: “It was a call for me to find my own spirituality, or what I understood as such. And one day, I decided it was wonderful that everyone in Germany be allowed to express their spirituality as something very private.” Balci wanted to pass down this early gift of personal freedom and expression to other women who lived according to a completely foreign set of rules. When Balci went on to study comparative literature and pedagogy, she never forgot the Muslim girls she had grown up with in Neukölln and still remembers with horror hearing about an honor killing that happened in her neighborhood when she was a child, as she confesses in the preface to her 2008 debut novel Arabboy (16). Determined to make a difference in the lives of girls deprived of the opportunities she had enjoyed as a child, Balci recounts how she set about giving guidance and resources to those young women who wanted to leave their homes (16). Her determination to help others paved the way for her involvement in Neukölln youth projects. For four years she worked at a youth center named Waschküche where she looked after young boys from predominantly Turkish and Arab families, committing herself also to social projects at the girls’ club MaDonna. Balci never whitewashes the role she played in these youths’ lives. Disillusioned, she states, again in the preface to Arabboy, that despite the efforts of the social workers, young boys often joined the older teenagers of the neighborhood in leading lives of crime (17). The girls’ destinies were different but no less frustrating to her. Most of them ultimately gave in to traditionalist expectations that they please their families and put their professional aspirations aside. Balci’s ultimate moment of defeat came when she witnessed a social worker being violently attacked by a teenager (16). Although Balci left her workplace, she never lost her commitment to helping teenagers and drawing attention to their struggles. She started a successful career in directing film for television and has since become an award-winning independent filmmaker, author, and activist. Her upbringing and her close encounters with young adults in youth projects have inspired her films, books, and newspapers articles.
Although Balci acknowledges the hardships and pressures Muslim boys in segregated communities endure, I argue it is more difficult to empathize with the male characters in her fiction than with the female ones. Her female characters are usually victimized by sadistic fathers, brothers, and uncles ready to exercise their power over the women in the family. In her works we find many examples of men’s moral and sexual corruption: in Arabqueen (2010; Arab Queen), the teenage girl Fatme, who grows up under strict patriarchal control, falls prey to her uncle’s sexual advances; in Arabboy, the protagonist Rashid, a serial offender from an underprivileged Muslim background, films his rape of a Turkish girl; and in Das Mädchen und der Gotteskrieger (2016; The Girl and the Jihadist), the whole neighborhood declares girls fair game if they do not submit to an idealized life of chastity. Balci’s brutal depictions, based on her experience with young adults, have found an interested audience. When her first novel, Arabboy, appeared, the majority of reviews praised Balci’s hard look into a world dominated by teenage street violence. Here, the author avoids pointing fingers at Germany for its longstanding inattention to the structural problems in underprivileged Muslim neighborhoods. Her critique of societal and political failures remains subtle, almost in passing. She, for example, mentions briefly in the preface to Arabboy that it was common practice in German schools in the 1980s to hire Turkish teachers who had no knowledge of German because the students would one day return to Turkey. Needless to say, these students never fully integrated into German society due to their poor German language education. Another episode that contributes to the alienation of Muslim youth has to do with the early childhood memories of Rashid, the protagonist of Arabboy. When Rashid’s father brutally beats up his mother, she flees with her children to a nearby bar and asks for help. Rashid recalls the Germans’ cold reactions to her in her vulnerability. He understands from their behavior that they seem resolved in their prejudices against Muslim families.
While Balci acknowledges that most of her aggressive protagonists were previously subjected to domestic violence themselves, she never loses sight of the trauma they inflict on their victims. It is, therefore, unsurprising that her documentary film Der Tod einer Richterin – Auf den Spuren von Kirsten Heisig (2011; The Death of a Judge: Following in the the Footsteps of Kirsten Heisig), which won the highly acclaimed Civis Prize, sympathizes with Heisig’s accomplishments as a youth court judge. The film shows how Heisig, whose accelerated court proceedings against multiple offenders earned her the nickname “judge merciless” (“Richterin Gnadenlos”) was highly praised by activists of the Türkische Vätergruppe (Turkish Group of Fathers), whose members work to prevent violence in Neukölln. Balci’s documentary captures group leader Kazim Erdogan and member Mevluet Asir’s grief over Heisig’s death. Asir can hardly hold back his tears when he expresses his admiration for Heisig, who, as he remembers, always reached out to the community and engaged with Muslim fathers. He declares that her spirit lives on and that the Türkische Vätergruppe is determined to continue her work.
Despite her constant criticism of conservative Muslim families and fundamentalist Islamic traditions, Balci remains well respected in her hometown’s Muslim community. With pride, she declares in an interview with the Berlin newspaper taz “I am still one of us” (“Ich bin immer noch eine von uns.”). Maybe that identification is Balci’s recipe for success, as she manages to enter into parallel societies with ease, allowing for an authentic depiction. For instance, she directed a documentary film, titled Selbsternannte Richter (2013; Self-Proclaimed Judges), about Mustafa Özbek, an enforcer of Sharia law highly respected amongst traditionalist Muslims. Although she disagrees with Özbek’s ideologies, Balci never takes the moral high ground during her shoots or interviews with him. Instead she gives him space to tell his story, allowing the audience to comprehend his cultural upbringing and the motivation behind his religious profession. Balci does not exploit Özbek for her own ends and even explores how the judge bent strictly enforced Sharia laws himself by taking care of a young Muslim woman who had been shunned by her family. Still, the filmmaker’s critical stance on fundamentalist law is clear to her audience, as her documentary sheds light on the German police’s frustration and helplessness when their legal authority is disrespected or undermined by Muslim religious authorities like Özbek.
Balci’s evenhanded style figures prominently in her short documentary film Sarrazin in Kreuzberg on Thilo Sarrazin’s visit to Kreuzberg. Sarrazin, the former Senator of Finance, published the controversial book Deutschland schafft sich ab (2010; Germany Abolishes Itself), which was praised highly in right-wing circles. In it he points the finger at immigrant communities for, in his opinion, intending to islamisize Germany by putting their religion and traditions above Germany’s constitutional law. In response, Balci invited Sarrazin to a predominantly Turkish district in Berlin in order to engage with the very minorities he criticized. Her goal was to challenge his generalizations and bring him in contact with, in Balci’s words, “the base.” Sarrazin and Balci’s stroll through Berlin, however, came to an abrupt halt when they encountered angry demonstrators protesting him. Despite this clash, Balci is confident that her film went beyond simply depicting two worlds colliding and instead showed nuance in the conversations between Sarrazin and the Turkish community.
For Balci, differentiated discussion is necessary for the unveiling of uncomfortable truths. She does not fear heated debates with politicians when they overlook or even downplay the problems in Muslim communities and has expressed her frustration over the white-washing of realtities in all of her literary works. In Arabqueen, for instance, she depicts an upper-middle-class liberal German family residing among working class Muslims. The author makes the family members look utterly naïve when they fail to admit to themselves that the gang in their neighborhood is in fact not a band of friendly kids merely enjoying the outdoors. In Arabboy, Balci’s social workers are no less out of touch with reality. Although they appear to show concern for the kids’ futures, these social workers choose to ignore the violent crimes these youths commit on a daily basis out of fear of retaliation.
In 2010 Balci appeared as a guest on the ARD talk show Maischberger, along with Hans-Christian Ströbele, member of the German Bundestag (Bündnis 90/The Greens). Under the episode’s title “Schleier and Scharia” (2010; Veil and Sharia), the guests debated hot topics such as integration, violence in German schools, and the role of religious and parental control over children. The usually calm and eloquent author struggled to keep her voice down after Ströbele declared the enforcement of headscarves for young girls a benign and rather harmless side issue in Germany. He disputed Balci’s account of the problems plaguing conservative Muslim communities, including the growing gender apartheid in many German schools depicted in Balci’s documentary film Kampf im Klassenzimmer (2010; Conflict in the Classroom), calling them exaggerated. Balci sharply reminded Ströbele that false tolerance is not helping female victims who suffer under fundamentalist laws, and Germany needs to act in order to protect their rights.
Admittedly, the following interview only captures a narrow glimpse into Balci’s upbringing in Neukölln, her creative works, and her strong opinions on the current events that have dominated the German media of late, topics such as increases in antisemtic crime, the rise of the right-wing populist party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), and the refugee crisis. I also questioned the author on her opponents’ arguments regarding the controversial headscarf debate. Here we are able to see what Balci is most known for: direct and sometimes even sarcastic rhetorical jousting in defense of her vision for Muslim women’s rights under German constitutional law.
Anja Wieden: You are an advocate for girls whose parents force them to submit to an ideal of femininity that you denounce as archaic. Where for you is the line between exercising freedom of religion and perpetuating an Islam that is, in your opinion, antiquated and misogynistic?
Güner Balci: We encroach on people’s personal freedoms when we disregard their human rights and/or fundamental rights. When it comes to children, I find the parental right to determine a child’s religious affiliation particularly problematic. It should be part of Germany’s education policy to convey to all children clearly and emphatically what their rights are. People should be able to choose their religious affiliations when they come of age. Above all, religious education should never preclude the right to equality. Believing one’s own religious identity superior to all other ideologies is also a problem. This understanding, which we often find in Muslim communities, is sometimes used to justify violence against others.
A.W.: I would like to take a closer look at the problem of religious supremacy. We are hearing a lot about anti-Semitism in Muslim communities at the moment. The controversy erupted when two kippah-wearing men were attacked in Berlin this past April. Were you surprised by this incident?
G.B.: Assaults on kippah-wearing men and ostensibly Jewish people do not surprise me. They are the logical consequence of the political elite’s decades-long indifference toward the pathological hatred too many Muslims harbor against the Jews. I say “too many” because this is what I have observed these last two decades. There is, unfortunately—and despite the attacks—still no sound research on the subject, which goes to show how irresponsibly these issues are being handled. Up until now, it has been mainly Jewish organizations dealing with this topic, which itself is evidence of Germany’s failure. But in addition to Muslim anti-Semitism, we should take care not to overlook mainstream Germany’s hatred towards Jews. We still find anti-Semitic stereotypes and rascism disguised as critiques of Israel in large swaths of the population.
A.W.: As a child, you befriended several strictly devout Muslim girls. In which situations did you realize you had more liberties than they did? Did more conservative religious families show distain for you on account of your liberal upbringing or order their daughters to shun you? How did your childhood experiences in Neukölln shape your life today?
G.B.: Indeed, many conservative Muslim girls avoided me because, to them, the way I dressed and engaged naturally with boys was transgressive. From time to time, self-appointed “moral enforcers” would also admonish my parents to discipline me better. There were girls who openly disapproved of my way of life, and I believe that many of them were envious of me. There were even teenagers who thought it their job to teach me that my behavior did not accord with the common moral ideals of Turkish and Arab families. It became clear to me very early on that I would not, under any circumstances, live longer than necessary in a community in which a girl’s value was dependent on her virginity. I also knew that education and learning about art and culture were the only ways out of that milieu. My role models at the time consisted almost exclusively of female teachers and other educators; but my mother, who always worked and was never dependent on a man, was also an enduring role model. At the same time, it is because of my early childhood experiences that I cannot look away when girls and women are denied rights the other gender enjoys. I am working to address this unfairness, beause this disenfranchisement, this gender apartheid, culminates in a society that disadvantages women.
A.W.: Your debut novel, Arabboy (2008), deals with juvenile crime in areas of Berlin where Arab and Turkish immigrants make up the ethnic majority. Your protagonist Rashid becomes an idol to the boys in his neighborhood through his violent crimes. In this novel you recycle stories you heard during your time as a social worker in Neukölln. You describe in detail these teenagers’ enormous potential for violence and their indifference towards victims. It is striking that you not only refer to the realities of the streets but also deal with the protagonists’ patriarchal upbringing, which, as you point out, is marked by corporeal and psychological violence. What role do parents play in the criminal careers of teenagers like Rashid? Should we hold parents responsible for their children’s behavior? Or does the parents’ abusive behavior exonerate these teenagers in their propensity towards violence?
G.B.: Children who grow up with violence in their families learn early on that might makes right. Trust, comfort, and love are foreign concepts to these children. Violence is destructive, and it strips from them any form of emphathy. Many of the children and young adults I was in contact with had been victims of domestic violence. Addressing this trend will be integral to raising responsible and self-confident citizens. It is a self-perpetuating cycle that can only be broken by raising awareness of that problem publicly and politically. Unfortunately, there have been few studies on this topic. There are societies that, unlike Germany, have few or no prohibitions against domestic violence.
A.W.: In your documentary Tod einer Richterin – Auf den Spuren von Kirsten Heisig (2011), you talk about Heisig’s work with regard to violence prevention. Heisig not only demanded that repeat offenders be more harshly and swiftly sentenced but was also in close contact with families in crime-ridden areas. What do you think Heisig’s suicide meant for the victims of habitual offenders? Did families feel less protected in problem neighborhoods after Heisig’s death? Does Neukölln feel her absence?
G.W.: Kirsten Heisig’s death created a void in Neukölln’s violence prevention movement and left a lot of people feeling desolate, especially the activist migrants who had felt her compassion and who viewed her as an ally in the fight for the right to a better life. She is dearly missed today—her tireless dedication is irreplacable. In the meantime Neukölln has learned a lot from Heisig’s example, and there are now local attorneys ready to expedite any necessary litigation. Without her, we would not have that in place today.
A.W.: In the ARD political talk show Anne Will on the subject of “50 Jahre Ali in Almanya: Immer noch nix Deutsch” (2011), you contradict the journalist Günter Walraff and the actor Tayfun Bademsoy, who blame Islamic youths’ failure to integrate into German society on decades of discrimination against Muslims. According to you, this allegation is untenable because there has been no contact between Muslim-German youths and other Germans for many years. You argue further that we need different integration policies that deal more directly with the day-to-day realities Muslim-German youths experience. What do you think about the situation today? Has German politics since 2011 succeeded in breaking down the barrier between these parallel worlds?
G.B.: Cultural segregation has escalated, most markedly in larger cities. The split is most noticeable when we compare poor neighborhoods and migrant communities to middle-class areas, particularly when it comes to daycare centers and schools. Self-respecting people do not send their children to schools in migrant areas, and the same goes for migrants themselves. Stating the fact openly is not politically correct, because it always comes back to the question of the so-called “culture clash,” as poverty alone cannot account for these problems.
Admittedly, we see advances happening in the handling of conservative, reactionary representatives of Islam, as the debate has evolved and problems are now openly discussed without hesitation. Major contributions to this debate have come from outspoken individuals who are themselves of Muslim descent but do not want to see Germany’s free democratic constitution undermined.
A.W.: You mentioned a “culture clash.” What exactly are you referring to? Who is colliding with whom, and why?
G.B.: I’m referring to the clash of incompatible moral ideals that surface when what is private is made public, when, for example, parents do not want their daughters attending physical education classes with boys or taking part in swimming lessons, etc.
At first, it might appear as though these restrictions would apply to only a limited number of people. Later on, however, we begin to see that through these rules we establish a stance that affects others in the vicinity when the exception becomes the rule, when suddenly girls in swimsuits cease to be the norm at public swimming pools and are instead replaced by girls in burkinis and fully-veiled women sitting poolside.
A.W.: In your public appearances and in your journalistic articles, you are famous for not glossing over harsh realities. You mention in your preface to Arabqueen (2010) that the protagonist, Mariam, is based on a teenage girl you knew and whose parents forced her to marry. Why do you spare your “Arab queen” this destiny and let the novel end on a positive note?
G.B.: I wanted my book to be read primarily by girls who face the same fate as Mariam, and I wanted to offer these girls (and boys also) a new and different perspective. These children fear the prospect of freedom and self-reliance, because their whole upbringing prepared them for the opposite. Sometimes it makes sense, therefore, to at least play through this option in fantasy.
A.W.: In your documentary Der Jungfrauenwahn (2015), popular personalities Ahmad Mansour, Seyran Ateş, and Zana Ramadani, along with a group of affected youths, speak out against gender apartheid in conservative Muslim communities. Were you ever worried, right before or after Der Jungfrauenwahn was released, about how the communities described in the documentary would react to being criticized? Did you think much about what to divulge of yourself and your interviewees? How important is self-censorship in your work?
G.B.: These questions always go hand in hand with my work: How far can I go? What is too dangerous for me and my family? This is why I have kept my civil registry information blocked for many years. I have also consulted the police on several occasions, especially when I was facing serious threats. At this point, though, I am very familiar with where the boundaries lie, where and how I can move about safely in Berlin, and what my films need to respect in order to do the subject justice and not enter into dangerous territory. But this work cannot be done without some danger, that is for sure. This is why I do not let my children join me when I am invited to public events, and sometimes I withdraw from the public eye in order to focus on my work without having to appear on every talk show. When it comes to the content of my pieces, however, I do not allow any kind of censorship, as I see any kind of relativizing or diluting rhetoric as a capitulation. We have already capitulated in terms of freedom of opinion; and if we continue in this fashion, we will dismantle our hard-won, enlightened, individualized, and free society.
A.W.: The former 1LIVE show host Jürgen Domian would certainly agree with you. He also believes Germany’s enlightened and free society to be in danger. In his recent column “Nicht mehr mein Land” (“Not my country anymore”), published in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger, he even talks about Germany regressing culturally since the nineties, alluding to his observation that nowadays homosexual couples will refrain from holding hands when they walk through Cologne for fear of drawing hate from some conservative Muslim sympathizers. Is Domian right? Is Germany experiencing a cultural regression?
G.B.: If we have urban areas where miniskirts, public kissing, and homosexual couples holding hands can lead to attacks, then a regression has occurred in those areas. If we have schools where girls are discriminated against for not wearing headscarves, then we are in a state in which a subculture has splintered off and created safe havens for itself, which means that the consensus is no longer that we should preserve individual rights but that we should instead adopt collective behaviors that conflict with the values of a free society and remind us, rather, of the gendered, homophobic cultures of Muslim countries. This is probably a natural development in immigrant populations; and as long as there are no problems, the communities keep to themselves. In the US, for example in Minnesota, no one cares that there are still Somali girls being genitally mutilated—more important to the general population is that Somali gangs’ criminal activity against white Americans be contained. In general the US serves as a good case study on the subject of insular subcultures: all ethnic and religious groups can live as they please as long as they do not come into conflict with the law. Human rights violations within these communties, especially against children and women, are politically irrelevant.
A.W.: You regret that the German government has taken conservative mosque associations as its allies, which you believe has helped fuel gender apartheid at German schools. In 2010 you and Hans-Christian Ströbele (Alliance 90/The Greens) were guests on the ZDF talk show Maischberger for an episode entitled “Schleier und Scharia.” According to Ströbele, society must repeal the headscarf ban in the name of religious freedom. You summarily reject his opinion in order to protect girls from religious pressures. Do you think that voices like Ströbele’s threaten women’s equality as much as conservative mosque associations do?
G.B.: People like Ströbele ride their bikes through Kreuzberg in the sunshine, accept invitations for Döner kebab, and wave brightly at mothers in their headscarves. He lives in Friedenau, however, which is a through-and-through white, middle-class area. He would also never send his grandchildren to a so-called “Turk school” (“Türkenschule”). Germans like him carry the guilty conscience of the Holocaust in themselves, paired with a Eurocentric view of the world, which sees other cultures as welcome folklore as long as they do not barge in and start making demands.
Viewed from an empathetic distance, a blue burka can look quite fashionable, especially when the azure blue stands in relief against the desert landscape … it’s always a question of perspective. My perspective demands that we act on behalf of those who suffer, even if some regard these actions as xenophobic. But who really wants to act and risk being the target of such accusations?
A.W.: In your opinion, the romanticization of cultural diversity originates from an elitist, liberal attitude that has little to do with reality. An unqualified tolerance for the headscarf (or the complete veiling of the body) is the end of equality as far as you are concerned. Feminist Muslims, for example the journalist Khola Maryam Hübsch, would vehemently disagree with you. For her, the headscarf creates a desexualized public space that protects women specifically. What do you think about her view on the headscarf?
G.B.: Mrs. Hübsch’s reasoning here is a very good example of the logic underpinning reactionary Muslims’ attacks on people’s—especially women’s—sexual self-determination.
Mrs. Hübsch herself disclosed to me that a free society marked by casual sex and women in revealing clothing has lost its appeal. She wishes that there were more tensions between the sexes. Women who voluntarily wear a headscarf, then, wish for a male-dominated society in which men view women as permanent sex objects, exactly as it happens in Muslim countries.
On top of that, those women who adhere to these gender roles are especially affected by sexual violence, as a study in Egypt has shown. After the riots on Tahir Plaza, it was overwhelmingly women in headscarves who fell victim to sexual violence. This is because they self-identify as chaste and are known to be too afraid of social condemnation to report the crime. At the same time, these cultures promote a masculinity that turns the man into a victim of his uncontrollable sexual drive as soon as he lays eyes on a woman.
Modern societies should aspire to make it possible for women to move freely—even naked—in public spaces without getting sexually assaulted or violated in any form. The developmental maturity of a society can be measured by how freely women and homosexuals can move within it.
A.W.: In your documentary Kampf im Klassenzimmer (2010) you report on the problems that arise in schools where Muslim habits and customs are prevalent among students. The heated debates between students with Muslim backgrounds on the one hand and students without Muslim backgrounds on the other hand demonstrate clearly that the two sides have already grown too far apart and that preconceptions about each group have cemented themselves. From time to time, you visit schools and lead workshops on the topic of tolerance. What are the ideal prerequisites for a successful workshop? Are there moments when even you reach your limits? Do the students usually confess openly that your work has inspired them to think more critically?
G.B.: The prerequisite for a successful workshop is a readiness to talk about problems directly but also empathetically. It is important to ask critical questions that relate to the teenagers’ lives and do not shy away from confronting those students with democratic values. Tolerance is limited; we need to talk about that. Equality is one of the cornerstones of our society, just like the right to self-determination: both are non-negotiable.
A.W.: Your personal report Aliyahs Flucht (2014) is based on the life of a young woman who flees from home because of her relationship with a non-Muslim boy. One could read Aliyah’s story as a practical guide on going into hiding. You draw attention to organizations that can assist young girls in running away, and you report on how authorities unprofessionally mishandled Aliyah’s personal information. Was it your intention to write a book for young women flirting with the idea of running away? Have you heard from young women who took your book as an opportunity to extricate themselves from their families?
G.B.: It would be great if the book could indeed serve as a guide for escape. I have heard from a number of girls in similar situations, and it did them good to see themselves in this story. So far, I know of no one whom Aliyas Flucht inspired to flee.
A.W.: You are one of the founding members of the “Muslimisches Forum Deutschland” (Muslim Forum of Germany) that was started in 2015. In its founding declaration, the forum states that it intends to give a voice to humanism-oriented Muslims (Muslimisches Forum Deutschland, “Gründungserklärung”). Why did you choose the word “humanist” and not “liberal”? What does the Muslim community think about the forum? Did more people sign up?
G.B.: Many conservative mosque associations claim that they are liberal. Due to their public interactions with dissidents and their engagements in interfaith dialogues, which they use as billboards for their openmindedness, one could easily think that even a mosque of the Muslim Brotherhood is liberal.
None of these congregations, however, considers itself humanist. I believe that only a humanistic perspective on religion is able to peacefully organize different religious denominations, interpretations, and tendencies, as well as point out possibilities and boundaries. The goal is to create a value system that centers on self-determined, autonomous individuals; follows the principles of the Enlightenment; and operates in accordance with the laws of our modern society. We need clear, concrete values that stand above all conceptions of God.
A.W.: I would like to refer to the last of the Muslim Forum’s seventeen Berlin Theses, which calls for a constitutionlly compliant professionalization of the refugee resettlement process. What in particular do you feel must be done to change the current situation? To what extent might the constitution be disregarded?
G.B.: The timeframe during which immigrants may become peacefully acquainted with our culture (or not) is short. If we do not manage to increase their accountability while simultaneously supporting them, we will find ensuing generations even harder to reach. In Berlin, for example, there are comprehensive German language classes offered free of charge to refugees. These classes are often sparsely attended. There are men who do not allow women to take part in integration courses. There are even still children who are not permitted to go to school. We have to integrate these people into our eduactional system even if that takes sanctions, and we must ensure that they work and that they are indeed able to work. At the same time, we have to expand our welfare state so that low-income earners can also afford to be part of our society. Our housing market seems to be the biggest problem at the moment.
I do not know of a single refugee family, no matter where they are from, that does not wish to ascend the social ladder and enable their children to lead better lives. We have to support this wish. We also have to consider the need for religious affiliation. We cannot allow these people to be brainwashed by reactionary Muslim communities. We are obligated to establish an Islamic theology that follows German scientific standards at universities, and we must support those communities who give this kind of theology a spiritual space.
A.W.: What exactly do you mean by “spiritual space”? Can you elaborate on that term?
G.B.: It’s similar to how modern Christian churches believe worshiping Muslims should have access to locations where they can come together to practice their spirituality. It would be an opportunity to hold services, weddings, and funerals without political propaganda, a space open also for confessional rituals and prayer. Modern Muslims need alternatives to traditional—oftentimes reactionary—mosques whose political agendas and funding come from foreign governments.
A.W.: Zana Ramadani mentioned in her text Die veschleierte Gefahr (2017; The Veiled Danger) that she believes her Muslim roots make it easier for her to bring attention to problems in conservative Muslim communities. According to her, many Germans avoid being openly critical for fear of being accused of racism. Did you share Ramadani’s experience? Do you think that you can voice criticisms more openly due to your Turkish background?
G.B.: I see that a bit differently. I think that being viewed as one of the affected people can make you particularly vulnerable, as in, “She had a hard childhood and now she generalizes.” It would be great if everybody would use his or her critical mind—on any topic. If everybody expressed their critcism on the basis of our fundamental rights, we might be able to form a constructive and cleansing democractic culture of debate.
A.W.: In your most recent novel, Das Mädchen und der Gotteskrieger, you get to the bottom of what drives young women to fall in love with jihadists and radicalize themselves. Sexual abuse figures prominently in the novel: Nimet’s sister is sexually blackmailed by her boyfriend, the convert Nour experiences sexual harassment through her uncle, and women in Nimet’s neigborhood are literally declared sexual prey once they lose their virginity. What role does the sexualization of women play in Nimet’s radicalization?
G.B.: Devaluing women and reducing them to their vaginas is not only a Muslim tradition but germane to everday life. The female body is a permanent object of sexual desire, subject to constant judgement and control, while simultaneously being a foil for any type of ruin or decline. The blemished, dishonored, unfaithful woman is the epitome of perdition.
The ideal female sexuality exists only in relation to and in conjunction with a man; he rules over her. A woman who must operate within such a worldview is forced to either play by the rules or bow out.
A.W.: Many Germans were shocked by the AfD’s success in the last federal election. Right-wing populists have deliberately generated anxiety over Islamification efforts in Germany, using the refugee crisis and the 2015 New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne to further their political interests. How do you think Germany could have prevented debates about Islam from being dominated and manipulated by right-wing populists?
G.B.: Many people were hesitant to work through the issues the AfD uses in their propaganda. Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left failed in particular. Now they are forced to wrest these narratives from the Right, an act that can itself give good politics a new start. It is about time we ban the headscarf in day care and elementary schools, as it legally violates the Child and Youth Protection Act, and because it would send a message to wavering AfD voters.
A.W.: You speak here to the collapse of Germany’s political parties. Sarah Wagenknecht recently warned in an interview that the Left “should not become a new-Green lifestyle party,” but instead take German citizens’ worries seriously and act accordingly. She refers specifically to social hardships, the establishment of parallel societies, and the spreading of an Islamist worldview that undermines basic German values. In your opinion, could the Left be successful in reclaiming AfD voters? What is your prognosis?
G.B.: One can only hope that the established parties will be able to challenge the AfD and its base without reverting to old racist patterns themselves. The fact that we do not have a single minister with a migration background and that a CSU politician, such as Horst Seehofer, can have an outdated, patriarchal, Christian worldview and still be Minister of the Interior shows that the established parties cling to a Germany from the 1980s, when we openly used the word “foreigner” (Ausländer) to refer to German-born children with Turkish heritage.
All parties simply lack the sensitivity necessary to engage in a critical and constructive discourse on immigration. Not every conservative Muslim is a threat. He has the same right as every other conservative believer, be they Yezidi, Jew, or Christian, to be accepted and respected as part of a pluralistic society. The state and its institutions, on the other hand, must stand for neutrality in all aspects. Moreover, the state must both protect individuals’ fundamental rights more rigorously and demand that no one encroach on those rights. When necessary, the state must interfere. As a result, the circumcision of children and the wearing of headscarves, for example, would be prohibited. School should be a non-denominational space, without crosses, without headscarves, or any other religious symbols and with mandatory classes that discuss religion in a down-to-earth and objective way.
Above all, our government must reassess the educational system. If at home children are stripped of their right to bodily integrity and self-determination, then it is our duty as a state and as a society to fight against that and to teach children about their rights in order to strengthen them. By doing so, we create explicit and ineluctable childrens’ rights aligned with the values of a free and humanist society.
A.W.: What future projects do you have planned?
G.B.: I will continue to work on films, and I am currently shooting a long-term documentary about Germany’s first liberal mosque. Maybe I will produce another theater play soon. I am eager to dive deeper into the world of art.
Anja Wieden is assistant professor of German and program coordinator in the department of modern languages and literatures at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. From 2010 to 2014, she worked as German program coordinator at the State University of New York at New Paltz and also taught in the German summer school at Middlebury College from 2012 to 2014. She received her PhD in 2011 from the University of North Carolina with a dissertation titled Female Experiences of Rape and Hunger in Postwar German Literature, 1945–1960. Her article “Writing Resistance: Anonyma’s Narration of Rape in A Woman in Berlin” was published in the 2016 volume of the Women in German Yearbook. Her current research focuses on the Holocaust and on sexual violence against women in Islamist terror groups.
Apfeld, Nourig. Ich bin Zeugin des Ehrenmords an meiner Schwester. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2011.
Ateş Seyran. Der Islam braucht eine sexuelle Revolution: Eine Streitschrift. Ullstein, 2009.
—. Der Multikulti-Irrtum: Wie wir in Deutschland besser zusammenleben können. Ullstein, 2007.
Backhaus, Andrea. “Reporterin berichtet: Frauen sind Freiwild im neuen Ägypten.” Die Welt , 29 July 2014, http://www.welt.de/kultur/article130645929/Frauen-sind-Freiwild-im-neuen-Aegypten.html.
Balci, Güner Yasemin. Aliyahs Flucht oder Die gefährliche Reise in ein neues Leben. Fischer, 2016.
—. Arabboy. Eine Jugend in Deutschland oder Das kurze Leben des Rashid A. Fischer, 2010.
—. Arabqueen oder Der Geschmack der Freiheit. Fischer, 2012.
—. Das Mädchen und der Gotteskrieger. Fischer, 2017.
— and Nicola Graef (directors). Der Tod einer Richterin – Auf den Spuren von Kirsten Heisig. ARD, 2011. Documentary film.
—. “Essay über das Kopftuch: Verschleierte Unterordnung.” Taz, 9 May 2016, www.taz.de/!5298608/.
—. “Ich bin immer noch eine von uns.” Interview with Martin Reichert. Taz, 22 Nov. 2008, www.taz.de/!789004/.
—. “Integration in Berlin: Im Schatten der Al-Nur-Moschee.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Feb. 2009, www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/integration-in-berlin-im-schatten-der-al-nur-moschee-1773900.html.
— and Nicola Graef (directors). Kampf im Klassenzimmer – Deutsche Schüler in der Minderheit. WDR, 2010. Documentary film.
— and Christian Raupach (directors). Aspekte: Sarrazin in Kreuzberg. ZDF, 2011. Documentary film.
—. “Sarrazin ist in Kreuzberg nicht willkommen.” Welt, 15 July 2011, www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article13489503/Sarrazin-ist-in-Kreuzberg-nicht-willkommen.html.
— (director). “Selbsternannte Richter.” Menschen hautnah. WDR 2013. Documentary film, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BGVIf7NhB4&t=540s.
“Brennpunkt – Thilo Sarrazins Rauswurf aus Berlin Kreuzberg.” ZDF, July 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFJdHjV3jrQ&t=14s.
Domian, Jürgen. “Kolumne von Jürgen Domian: Nicht mehr mein Land, meine Heimat.” Kölner Stadtanzeiger, 23 April 2018, https://www.ksta.de/kultur/kolumne-von-juergen-domian-nicht-mehr-mein-land–meine-heimat-30056554.
Eppelsheim, Philip. “Wir dürfen keine neugrüne Lifestyle-Partei werden.” Interview with Sarah Wagenknecht. Frankfurter Allgemeine Woche, 3 May 2018, www.sahra-wagenknecht.de/de/article/2750.wir-d%C3%BCrfen-keine-neugr%C3%BCne-lifestyle-partei-werden.html.
“50 Jahre Ali in Almanya: Immer noch nix Deutsch.” Anne Will, TV talk show with Anne Will, Tayfun Bademsoy, Güner Yasemin Balci, Heinz Buschkowsky, Özlem Nas, Wolfgang Schenk, Günter Wallraff, ARD, Oct. 12, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imh0E3UANvU.
Hür, Kemal. “Zehn Jahre Islam-Konferenz – An der Realität vorbei.” Radio feature. Deutschlandfunk, 27 September 2016, http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/zehn-jahre-deutsche-islamkonferenz-an-der-realitaet-vorbei.1773.de.html?dram:article_id=366936.
Initiative PRO Berliner Neutralitätsgesetz, 2018. www.pro.neutralitaetsgesetz.de/.
Louis, Chantal. “Güner Yasemin Balci: Wütend.” EMMA, Jan. 2011, www.emma.de/artikel/guener-yasemin-balci-wuetend-265325.
Mansour, Ahmad. Generation Allah: Warum wir im Kampf gegen religiösen Extremismus umdenken müssen. Büchergilde Gutenberg, 2016.
Muslimisches Forum Deutschland, 2015, http://www.muslimisches-forum-deutschland.de/.
Ramadani, Zana. Die verschleierte Gefahr: Die Macht der muslimischen Mütter und der Toleranzwahn der Deutschen. Europa Verlag, 2017.
Reimann, Anna. “‘Ehrenmord’ an Hatun Sürücü: Unvergessen, Ungesühnt.” Spiegel Online, 7 Feb. 2008, http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/ehrenmord-an-hatun-sueruecue-unvergessen-ungesuehnt-a-533755.html.
Sander, Helke. “Helke Sander: Warum ich für den Erhalt des Berliner Neutralitätsgesetzes bin.” Blog. Initiative PRO Berliner Neutralitätsgesetz, 14 June 2018, http://pro.neutralitaetsgesetz.de/helke-sander-warum-ich-fuer-den-erhalt-des-berliner-neutralitaetsgesetzes-bin.
Sarrazin, Thilo. Deutschland schafft sich ab. Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2016.
Schäfers, Burkhard. “Güner Yasemin Balci – Suche nach einem liberalen Islam.” Radio feature. Deutschlandfunk, 26 July 2016, http//www.deutschlandfunk.de/guener-yasemin-balci-suche-nach-einem-liberalen-islam.886.de.html?dram%3Aarticle_id=360736.
“Schleier und Scharia.” Menschen bei Maischberger, TV talk show with Sandra Maischberger, Güner Yasemin Balci, Heinz Buschkowsky, Joachim Herrmann, Alice Schwarzer, Hans-Christian Ströbele, Zehra Yilmaz, ARD, 12 Oct. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sbgLYGrRYg.
Schier, Alfred. “Im Dialog.” Im Dialog mit Khola Maryam Hübsch, Phoenix, Berlin, 25 Jan. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNiAHONp0Kw.
Shrivastava, Anjana. “Milieu-Roman Arabboy. Berliner Elendsgesichter.” Review. Spiegel Online, 27 Sep. 2008, http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/milieu-roman-arabboy-berliner-elendsgesichter-a-579634.html.
Spreker, Alexander. “Antisemitismus in Berlin: Staatsanwaltschaft klagt 19-Jährigen wegen Angriffs auf Kippa-Träger an.” Spiegel Online, 18 May 2018, http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/berlin-angriff-auf-israeli-mit-kippa-anklage-gegen-19-jaehrigen-erhoben-a-1208525.html.
Tibi, Bassam. Die Gotteskrieger und die falsche Toleranz, edited by Alice Schwarzer, Cologne 2002, pp. 105-120.
“Türkische Pegida: Özdemir greift Moscheenverband Ditib an.” Focus Online, 25 July 2016, www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/erdogans-statthalter-in-deutschland-tuerkische-pegida-oezdemir-greift-moscheenverband-ditib-an_id_5757476.html.
Vieth-Entus, Susanne. “Klagen fürs Kopftuch.” Der Tagesspiegel, 4 Apr. 2018, http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/berliner-neutralitaetsgesetz-klagen-fuers-kopftuch/21174844.html.
 “Eine Religion und ihre Auswirkungen auf das Leben von Menschen kritisch zu hinterfragen ist weder ein Zeichen von Antisemitismus noch von Islamophobie, sondern spiegelt das Recht und die Fähigkeit wider, in guter Tradition der Aufklärung den Verstand zu gebrauchen” (Balci, Aliyahs Flucht 249). Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.
 Alevism is an independent religion. Many Alevis feel connected to the Islamic faith; others do not. It is theorized that Alevism originated as a subgroup of Shia Islam. Because of that classification, Alevis have experienced persecution and discrimination by some Sunni Muslims. Many Alevi communities can be found in central Anatolia.
 See their webpage, Initiative PRO Berliner Neutralitätsgesetz.
 Helke Sander, for instance, argues on the Action Group’s online blog that she intends to help Muslim girls who suffer from patriarchal control and are therefore denied any protection by Germany’s constitutional rights.
 See also Nourig Apfeld’s differentiated discussion on the headscarf as a cultural identifier in Ich bin Zeugin des Ehrenmords an meiner Schwester (2010; I am a Witness in the Honor Killing of my Sister), 280.
 See also Ateş, Der Multikulti-Irrtum 189 and 197.
 See, for instance, Zana Ramadani’s Die verschleierte Gefahr, 205.
 See the statement, “Die Leidtragenden sind vor allem die weniger konservativen, weniger religiösen, die aufgeklärten, liberalen und integrationswilligen Familien. Ihre Töchter werden gemobbt, wenn sie sich den sogenannten Keuschheitsgeboten nicht fügen […]” (Balci, Aliyahs Flucht 19).
 See Ateş, Der Multikulti-Irrtum 44.
 See Louis, “Ehre ist, für die Freiheit meiner Schwester zu kämpfen.”
 Balci uses the German word “Parallelwelten” in one of her early newspaper articles on the Al-Nur Mosque, “Integration in Berlin.” Balci did not coin this expression, which is regularly used as a common, albeit controversial, description in political discussions for Muslim communities in larger cities.
 In the original, the statement reads as follows: “Das Gottverständnis, was mir als Kind nahegebracht wurde, war ein sehr individuelles. Das war nämlich die Aufforderung an mich, selbst danach zu suchen, was ich als das empfinde. Und ich habe irgendwann entschieden, dass ich das wunderbar finde, dass man seine eigene Spiritualität als etwas sehr Privates leben darf in Deutschland. Deswegen bekenne ich mich zu keiner Religion” (quoted in Schäfers).
 See for example the review by Shrivastava, and see also Ahmad Mansour’s Generation Allah in reference to the growing number of youth who radicalize themselves, 258-259.
 Since these nuances are hard to grasp, instructors should closely guide students’ readings of Balci’s novels in order to avoid generalizations about Muslim youths in Germany.
 See Balci’s article “Sarrazin ist in Kreuzberg nicht willkommen,” which was written after her documentary. In it Balci used the following words: “Doch eines habe ich in der öffentlichen Auseinandersetzung vermisst: den Kontakt zur Basis.”
 See ZDF interview “Thilo Sarrazins Rauswurf.” Balci speaks here of “nuances” (“Zwischentöne”) that she intended to capture.
 See Spreker.
 He wrote this column in response to the Berlin attack on the kippah-wearing youths in April 2018.
 See, for instance, Kemal Hür’s critical view on the close cooperation between Islamic associations and German politicians. According to the author, these associations only represent a minority of German Muslims (Hür, “Zehn Jahre Islam-Konferenz”).
 There is no federal law in place that regulates the wearing of the headscarf in Germany. Rather, each German state is responsible for either permitting or prohibiting the headscarf in civil service positions.
 See Balci, “Essay über das Kopftuch.”
 See Schier.
 See, for instance, Andrea Backhaus’s report “Frauen sind Freiwild im neuen Ägypten.”
 See a list of all seventeen theses also on the Forum’s website, Muslimisches Forum Deutschland.
 See the original phrase: “Wir dürfen keine neugrüne Lifestyle-Partei werden” (Eppelsheim).
 I would like to add here that there are governmental programs and laws designed to protect children from domestic abuse. Balci is referring to those families who deny children their rights.