05.09.2008Feridun Zaimoglu's "Black Virgins"Islamo-Feminism Goes RadicalThey are furious, shameless and radical: In his documentary theatre piece "Black Virgins," Feridun Zaimoglu has lent a voice to young Muslim women. Nimet Seker reports
The play Black Virgins, which premiered at Berlin's Theater Hebbel am Ufer in 2006, turned out to be a controversial piece of theatre: some considered it an exercise in pure provocation, others the serious voice of a "minority within a minority" A babble of voices. A young woman chats about her affairs. It has gone so far that her Turkish family has found out about it and she decides to take off for Berlin: "I'm the neighbourhood whore, I have to get out of here! I'm an absolute cliché: two Turkish brothers, a mosque-going father, and my fat mum stuck behind the stove."
In Berlin, life is a party and she indulges herself with plenty of lovers. She seduces one sweet German boy after the other … and finally makes her escape from the Turkish milieu!
What at first sounds like a self-emancipation saga is the story told by one of the Muslim women who speak out in the theatre piece "Black Virgins".
And then the young German-Turkish woman addresses the theme of Islam: "That's when I just explode. Oversaturation, too much pressure. The Almighty One has caught me again. In just a few days I've changed my orientation." But she still follows her own ideas of morality: "I do not wrap myself up like a mummy, I am not celibate. I pray five times a day, I fast on Ramadan and I am a confirmed Muslim."
Shameless and provocative
Black virgins: these are young Muslim women who do not obey the rules and do not fit into any box. They are cool, radical, bold, angry, provocative.
They baffle everyone with their shameless language: "I tell him right away: Listen here, if you want to fuck, then you've come to the wrong place. I'm a Muslim girl, fucking before marriage is out!" one says to her dream boy. Or, to put it another way: "I didn't want any porno with the guy from the phone store and he didn't want any porno with me either."
Feridun Zaimoglu and Günter Senkel interviewed 30 young Muslim women for their play and coined a name for them: "Neo Muslim Women". After the documentary was performed on several stages in 2006, it has now come out as a radio play.
The play talks neither about, nor with, Muslim women. They tell their own stories instead. And they don't mince words when they talk about themes such as jihad, faith, honour, shame, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism. They neither sugar-coat nor make any excuses for what they have to say. The authors deliberately intended this kind of "revelation", without passing any moral judgments.
Hardcore Islamism versus pious sisterhood
They take no pains to spare either the Germans or the Muslims with their rage about the social system and their criticism of conventional morality: "You visit a black prostitute every Friday and when it comes time to marry you want an untouched virgin with an intact hymen?! Only an untouched man gets an untouched woman. Because when you pour pure, clean water into a cesspool, the water gets dirty," one tells her boyfriend.
With his books and plays, the German-Turkish author Feridun Zaimoglu is a regular contributor to the political debate about integration, identity, and Islam None of the "Black Virgins" tries to promote understanding, tolerance or integration. They create their own brand of Islam. And they are politically incorrect. They unite "hardcore Islamism" with modern urban life.
The Islam of the "pious sisterhood" holds no interest for them: "My faith doesn't come from reading, I follow my intuition. My devout sisters would probably bind me to a stake and set me on fire. I couldn't care less about their morals. I'm an indecent woman and don't want to be accepted into their sewing circle. I don't give a shit about them. I don't give a shit about anything or anyone, except, of course, God!"
Against 'pornographers' and 'exotic females'
From these unsettling words it's clear that these voices belong to those who have been pushed to the margins of society because they don't fit into the usual roles. Distinguishing between "traditional" and "modern" Muslims makes no sense here. The much-touted Islamic "parallel society" is nothing but a vague construct. The Black Virgins elude any kind of stereotype.
Their political views are unambiguous and provocative. They see the dream of Islamic world domination as being founded on humiliation and violation: "Tomorrow, when the future generation of Germans are intoxicated by a new faith, they will think back on today, on the persecution of the Muslims. On the pornographers who fight us. On the enlightened exotic females who fume when they see us."
The battle for jihad, the "criminality for something that's above the clouds," is cited in the same breath as the battle for love: "I am absolutely in favour of jihad. But maybe it might work with love someday as well. Jihad and love – that would really make me happy." The game with clichés is perfect.
Of course, there's also the obligatory critique of the female critics of Islam, who remain unnamed. Their efforts are described as "slut theatre." A comment on their best-sellers: "These self-emancipation books written by apostate sluts are comics for poorly-educated philistines."
Zaimoglu's "Neo Muslim Women" are wicked, problematic and rife with contradictions. But these are the very qualities that make them so realistic. With their Islamo-Feminism they lend new impetus to emancipation and to feminism.
© Qantara.de 2008
Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor
"Schwarze Jungfrauen" (Black Virgins): a radio play based on the theatre piece by Feridun Zaimoglu and Günter Senkel. Director: Leonhard Koppelmann. Hoffmann und Campe 2008.