Mission of the Reformed
At a press conference in the Bundespresseamt in Berlin on February 28, the members of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims voiced their motives and goals in public for the first time. Journalist Arzu Toker, a founding member of the organization, read the decision she had made many years ago to renounce her faith.
"By virtue of the Human Rights Convention, by virtue of German Basic Law, by virtue of the European Parliament and its resolutions, I herewith resign from Islam. Even though the religion contends that I may not do so, I declare in public that I resign from Islam."
Arzu Toker's official declaration of her renunciation of Islam was motivated by what she sees as a great need. Germans and Europeans have kept silent about the serious human rights violations committed in the name of Islam for too long.
Raising awareness in society of taboo subjects
The press conference was accompanied by strict security measures, as several members of the organization have received death threats since they founded the organization in Cologne at the end of January. and are consequently under police protection. This is also true of Mina Ahadi, an Iranian lawyer living in Cologne. She is the founder and chairwoman of the new Central Council.
The name of the organization was deliberately chosen. It alludes to the Central Council of Muslim, which has existed for years in Germany. The founders hope, says Ahadi, that this name will meet with an even greater response within German society.
"We have chosen a provocative name because until now nobody has shown any interest in us," explains Mina Ahadi. "We repeatedly hear either about Islamic organizations or headscarf-wearing women or the government with its multiculturalism policy. Nobody has bothered to take a look at us."
Mina Ahadi, who likewise renounced her Islam faith many years ago, and her comrade-in-arms want this name to hit a sore spot and to denounce taboo subjects within the Muslim community in Germany. So far these have been either silenced or glossed over.
A lack of representation
The new organization's criticism targets Islamic umbrella associations in Germany in particular. It accuses them of being responsible for the appalling conditions under which many Muslims in Germany live and suffer.
Therefore the fifty-year-old lawyer, who has already taken on the heavy-handed Islamic regime of the Mullahs in Iran, believes that the time is up for the Islamic umbrella associations in Germany – because they can speak for themselves, but not for three-and-a-half million Muslims, says Ahadi.
The majority of these Muslims have lost their connection with their religion over the course of the years, explains journalist Arzu Toker, deputy chairwoman of the new central council of Ex-Muslims. Thus she claims that their organization represents the majority of Muslims in Germany.
"Islam is not organized or institutionalized as churches are. But since there are men who have founded organizations and who act as if they represent millions of migrants and can speak in the name of all Muslims, it is only logical for us to found this organization."
Setting internal reform processes in motion
The main purpose of the approximately 120 members of the new organization is to address and break existing taboos. The initiators claim that their goal is "enlightenment within the Islamic world."
An impulse from outside could actually be very helpful, says Michael Schmidt-Salomon, chairman of the Giordano Bruno Foundation. The Giordano Bruno Foundation has a critical attitude toward religion and is advising the new central council. Salomon, who has a Ph.D. in education, points out historical precedents such as Christianity:
"The taming of European Christianity only came about as a result of an educational double strategy. A clear rejection of the religion from the outside was necessary to give reformers within the church the opportunity to assert themselves.
In other words, a Hans Küng or a Drewermann would not be possible without Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx or without Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell or Karl-Heinz Deschner, according to Michael Schmidt-Salomon.
At the end of the nearly two-hour conference, however, Mina Ahadi declared that the aim of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims is not to abolish religion. They are much more interested in a peaceful and tolerant coexistence with Muslims in Germany.
© Qantara.de 2007
Translated from the German by Nancy Joyce