Selim Reid set up Germany's first Muslim car sharing service to spare his mother disparaging remarks and to reduce the number of extra-marital affairs. Cigdem Akyol spoke to the entrepreneur about his concept and his motivation
Mr Reid, you set up a Muslim car sharing service last December. Where did you get the idea for "Muslim-Taxi"?
Selim Reid: Many Muslim sisters and brothers were complaining that they weren't able to use conventional car sharing services on their own because the gender separation required by Islam is not maintained by such services. After hearing more and more sisters and brothers bemoan this state of affairs, I came up with the idea for "Muslim-Taxi".
So you were motivated purely by love and concern for your fellow Muslims?
Reid: I was also motivated by a very personal experience. I once organised a lift for my parents, who were travelling from Hamburg to Berlin. When people hear me speak, they can't tell that I am an immigrant. When I brought my parents to the pick-up place, I saw the ice-cold expression in the faces of the driver and the other fellow passenger. It was absolutely clear that they didn't like foreigners. During the trip, they began to talk disparagingly about foreigners in general and about my mother's headscarf in particular. Of course, my parents couldn't get out of the car in the middle of the motorway, so they were forced to listen to all of this. They assumed that my parents were not able to speak German, but they were wrong.
You are talking about discrimination and are critical of the ignorance of majority society. But by setting up a car sharing service for Muslims, are you not fostering the very segregation that has given rise to this ignorance?
Reid: We are not doing anything that Christian Church communities who support each other wouldn't do. Moreover, the car sharing organised by our service is also open to non-Muslims too. So, if anyone is looking for dialogue, they will find it with "Muslim-Taxi".
What exactly are you offering your clients that they can't get from other car sharing services?
Reid: The fact that Muslims – both male and female – are supposed to seek the segregation of the sexes means that Muslims cannot use car sharing services where they cannot chose the driver and passengers with whom they travel. This meant that it was very difficult for Muslim women in particular to use conventional car sharing services without being accompanied by another person.
With Muslim-Taxi, these problems don't arise, alhamdulillah (thank God – ed.), because those who are looking for a suitable car on the site can see at a glance whether the person offering a lift is a man or a woman. In this way, we are protecting marriages too. I have often heard of married people who have gotten to know someone when sharing a car and later had an affair with that person, and that partnerships have broken down and families have been torn apart as a result.
So you see it as your job to protect marriages?
Reid: I am just offering a service where I have virtually ruled out the chance of people meeting someone with whom they end up having an affair. The care that I offer is also motivated by Islam: we Muslims look out for one another; we are sisters and brothers in faith and we support each other.
Care? At the end of the day, it's all about earning money, isn't it?
Reid: "Muslim-Taxi" is, alhamdulillah, the first Muslim car sharing service in Germany and in all of Europe that allows Muslims to organise lifts and share car trips. You could compare my concept with that of a furniture shop. Some specialise in kitchens; others in sofas and armchairs. I am also operating in a niche market, hopefully to make a little money out of it. Think of it like this: fans of Hamburg SV don't share cars with fans of Bayern Munich. This is not about a parallel society; it is just about people with different interests, and I am serving one of these interests.
Apart from the segregation of the sexes and nurturing marriage, is there anything else that you are trying to achieve?
Reid: The best thing about Muslims travelling with Muslims is undoubtedly the Da'wa, the mission. When two or more people have just met and start to chat and the only thing they have in common is their religion, what are they going to talk about? About Islam, of course. Apart form that, it is a way of introducing people of different faiths to Islam. I would like to help Muslims come together, stand up for each other, and to share the strengths of Islam together; to help non-Muslims become enthusiastic about our faith and perhaps even come to share it.
So you are trying to proselytize a little on the side too?
Reid: It is an invitation to Islam; it is the task of every Muslim to extend such invitations. I am convinced that Islam connects all religions and that there is only one true God.
Your idea seems a little out of date. How contemporary is it to segregate the sexes in the society in which we live?
Reid: An increasing number of people are converting to Islam; the majority of these converts are women. They willingly wear the headscarf; no one is oppressing them. The segregation of the sexes is part of our faith, and Islam is part of Germany, so the question is superfluous.
But Islam is changing. In some Arab countries, women are fighting against the strict segregation of the sexes...
Reid: Islam will not change; the principles will remain the same; women will still want to wear the headscarf in 1,000 years time. We are convinced that Islam is the true religion and that God is immaculate. The religion that he has given us as a gift is also immaculate and, consequently, it is also everlasting.
What has been the reaction to the service so far?
Reid: In the first two days, we had over 2,000 hits; our brothers and sisters are delighted. Many of them have expressed their gratitude by sending e-mails or calling us up.
Have you also been criticised for "Muslim-Taxi"?
Reid: Of course. But I was expecting that. Being criticised doesn't automatically mean that you are doing something wrong. Do you think Einstein was never criticised? As long as it doesn't go beyond the verbal, each to his own.
Interview: Cigdem Akyol
© Die Tageszeitung / Qantara.de 2013
Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan
Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de
is 24 years of age and is a student of mechanical engineering and aviation technology in Hamburg. He came to Germany from Iraq with his parents in 1996. The Muslim car sharing service is free of charge for users; Reid finances the project via advertising.