Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Turkish Outreach in Austria

Below is an account of an interfaith outreach initiative from Muslims to… well, to whatever non-Muslims are called in Austria now.

Many thanks to Hermes for the translation from Mein Bezirk:

A true Muslim holds the Koran inside the heart

So what to do if preconceptions become entrenched in oneself and are continuously fueled by dreadful pictures and reports from the media? I believe that the only thing which helps in this case is if one becomes thoroughly informed in order to rethink preconceived opinions and correct them in case they prove to be wrong.

For this purpose, last Saturday I accepted the invitation of a Turkish community to pay them a visit on their open-door day and to take part in their celebration in the mosque in the Gnigl district. At the entrance of the small festival ground I was received by charming Turkish women wearing headscarves, who offered to guide me and answer my questions.

Özlem was my best guide. She listened patiently to me and, as we stood at a long information desk, she explained me the basic pillars of Islam. The most important phrase which stuck in my mind was that a true Muslim must hold the Koran inside the heart, and not only on the lips. According to this, a true Muslim woman would not wear the scarf because of having it forced on her, but because with this (action) she is professing her faith voluntarily, and she would willingly show this in public.

We soon started to talk about the role of the woman in Turkish society. According to my preconceptions, the woman would be subordinated to men, and her main duties would be those of the household. Of course I provoked my guide with this (preconception), who saw there a mistaken picture of Turkish family life which foreigners would keenly conceive.

She referred thereby a bit mischievously to the number of women engaged in preparing the celebration. It was women who took the leading role at the preparations, and not men. Their duty were to be just to carry tables and to set up benches!

Then the next stop was the mosque, or better said, the building used by this Islamic community to pray. There was no specific mosque because the minaret typical of them was lacking. But as Özlem assured me, there were plans to build one. We then went barefoot into the inner room, in which chairs were placed just for that one time in order to offer guests a sitting place for their PowerPoint presentation. Of course, I was distracted many times (from the presentation) by important persons of that Islamic community who were presented to me by my guide. I was even asked to take part in a group photo.

The last stage of my visit was the canteen, where together with Zeliha I could admire and even taste the art of Turkish cooking. My plate was soon filled with small delicacies such pastry shells in yoghurt sauce, dolmas filled with a mix of rice and meat, and a sweet dish which I found similar to our strudel. Everything for free, of course. I also found interesting what happened in the front of that room, where some women were crouched down at enormous wood plates preparing bread. A certain Turkish woman attracted my attention because she was incessantly kneading a heavy portion of bread mass in a trough.

At the end of my visit I had occasion to witness a small show in which children dressed in Turkish costumes danced, and were seemingly happy to receive applause, which they did. The ORF TV channel was also there with a portable camera and a reporter who was busy interviewing some of the guests. Unfortunately I could not see the final product shown on Salzburg the evening news. I was just enjoying my Turkish delicacies when the reporters’ team came towards me.

Before leaving this celebration, I could even take away a decorated wall plate stylishly signed for me by a friendly Turk. He put this gift into my plastic bag, together with a compact Koran in German and a short introduction to Islam. Oh yes, and there was also a red rose there, a sign of gratitude for the interest I showed at the presentation.

I wrote my thoughts in the presented guest book, and I finished my writing with a phrase in which I expressed the many positive impressions I took with me. My accumulated thoughts began to come apart. Many questions are still open. There will be for sure more presentations in order to treat more questions regarding Islam. I’m sure that then I will see more things in a different way…

PS: I gratefully think about that charming young Muslim woman from the HAK, who presented me with her school-leaving project in such an impressive way at the information stand.


vince said...

Quite a pleasant and refreshing read. Glad to see some dialouge between communities are going on.

Would say from my experience in many cases the arab women I have met more dominant in their marriages. In public they maintain a particular image, but behind closed doors are quite similar to normal couples.

Now that is not to say that the intentions of the people of this mosque were to deceive, but if we are all perfectly honest, the words coming out of this womans mouth, does not stack up. Not that she may not generally believe in what shes saying, nor this particular community, but im sure most islamic scholars worldwide would disagree.

I feel people within the islamic world, and muslims are challenging the status quo from their religion. But i fear it is only a trickle, rather than a wave. Plus we have to remember the most extreme from their religion are the most violent and strike fear into others hearts.

We have muslims in the armed forces, we have muslims such as that guy in Spain (among others) trying to ban the quran, actively involved in the counter jihad movement etc.

I feel the outcome of the ideological battle between the shariah inspired muslims, and the west will determine the way in which ordinary muslims develop. It is surprising what difference ones surroundings can make.

I was in a particular group of friends as a kid into the whole goth/metal scene, I enjoyed the same music but not the dress sense. Over time I went through subtle changes, a black tshirt here, growing my hair out a bit longer etc. Until over time, I looked exactly like them.

Same goes for ordinary muslims. If an ordinary muslim is surrounded by westerners and their influence, they are more likely to behave like us. If they are cut off in a ghetto surrounded by islamic fanatics, some of that is bound to rub off on them over time, you frequently hear the stories of muslims "brainwashed" and then come to their senses.

If you took identical muslim twins, put one in an exclusively white area, and put the other in a muslim ghetto, it would be interesting to see how each turn out.

Its why although I do not agree with alot the EDLsay and do, In highlighting some of the issues, it gives ordinary people the chance to talk about it. In the past it was a case of "you cant talk about that, its racist". Which I found quite amusing as I am of mixed heritage.

Off topic but in the days before the hate crime laws were brought in an arab could still be prosecuted for racism against a pakistani, and a kenyan against a somali. As I heard of two stories which perplexed me.

Hermes said...

HAK is short for Handelsakademie - Business school. The purpose of this article is to show the incredible level which both western blindness and taqiyya can eventually reach.

whitney said...

Hermes, you are correct.

Anonymous said...

Shows that people are nice and reality bites.

If islam is a religion of peace why have islamic terrorists executed more than 19.000 terror attacks all over the world?

And when will we hear an outcry from 1,5 billion muslims?

Anonymous said...

Muslims "...are quite similar to normal couples."

EXCEPT that Muslim men practice polygamy with four wives at a time - and sometimes more wives in a serial fashion.

EXCEPT that Muslim men forcibly 'marry' little girls and young teens in imitation of the 'ideal' Muslim man Mohammed.

EXCEPT that Muslims often forcibly 'marry' their cousins and other close relations - leading to significant birth defects for their progeny.

EXCEPT that most Muslims forcibly impose illegal clitorectomies on their young girls and women - permanently disabling females from enjoying marital relations and leading to increased incidence of anal sex for heterosexual couples.

EXCEPT that Muslims use Sharia Law tribunals to settle family matters - giving Muslim men TOTAL power over Muslim women and children per the edicts of Sharia Law.

And on, and on, and on....


Anonymous said...

If you took identical muslim twins, put one in an exclusively white area, and put the other in a muslim ghetto, it would be interesting to see how each turn out.

Twin studies, such as this one, usually show that genes are a more important determinant than environment of behavior. Islam, of course, is an ideology, though inextricably linked with Arab supremacy, so in such a study there might be more variation between Muslim twins than between, say, Arab twins when one controls for religion.