International Women´s Day

Everything looks pritty normal. It is sunday the 8th of march, International Womens Day and somewhere in Berlin there are some events, a demonstration, in some places some discussions, in others presentations on feminism  – somewhere and everybody tries to talk everything. In one small place there is a presentation on feminism in Iran and quite some people are coming to join the presentation, waiting interested to get an idea about the topic, because most of the audience does ever really got in contact with iranian feminism, me neither.

The girl that is presenting, a young german student that got in contact with the topic during her studies, starts to talk and I am loosing myself very soon in the flow of facts, numbers and quotes. The presentation seems to have a very loose concept and the understanding of feminism of the presenter does not become clear to me until the end. I start to ask myself, how much sense it makes just to let somebody presenting something and not to take a closer look on the person, the topic or to involve more people. The association of Iranian refugees has its office just nearly around the corner. They do have a group for women, … would it not be possible to find something more profound at the topic? People are talking about, that they really want to know something more about iranian feminism, but why nobody ever tried to get some knowledge. Most of the people in that room, i suppose, would describe themselve as openminded, feminists, antiracists, but how comes that we are all sitting in the most “mixed” quarter of Berlin, and listen to a german young girl, that never ever went to Iran, does not speak Persian and got her knowledge by reading some books and the Internet and has even no clear definition of her understanding of feminism? It is good that she is interested, that she propably wrote a paper about what she is presenting now – I do not want to devaluate her interest and work. I am just wondering what is happening and why obviously, the organizers of the event did not came up with the idea, to invite some Iranian feminists, for producing a wider picture and different perspectives. It should not be hard to find somebody – not in the melting pot of Berlin.

After an hour presentation people start to discuss about something, that the majority does not know. Because of the leck of knowledge conected with the fear of critizising the Islam to much, it becomes a very shapeless exchange of some vague ideas – until three, probably Iranians in Exile, enter the room. I feel that something strange is happening with me, because I give them a certain authority that allows them,  to say things, that would trouble me, if it would be said by somebody, whos native language is german and would not come from an islamic country. Trying to explain their point of view one of them is getting polemic. That offers me the possibility to get slowly back to my critical eyes. He claims that islamic feminism is a contradiction itself and cannot exist. The religion will never allow a woman to be equal among equals, because it would go against its theological ideas.  Those who claim, he argues, to offer a critical reading of the Quran, a feminist way of interpretation are false and just an instrument of religious leaders, to show the “western world” that the Islam is a modern religion where female can engage in female rights. Shortly said, islamic feminism cannot and does not exist. But, what happens when we just ignore, the movement, that labels itself as islamic feminism? It is part of reality in Iranian feminisms, whatever people think about, and other iranian feminist groups have to face this reality as well and if there would be a real interest to get an idea of the situation we cannot just watch what fits us. It is just possible to critize what we do know.

It could have become a very lively and inspiring discussion, but the ditch of knowledge could not have be overcome during such a short time. The discussion went on at two totally different levels and ended up more in the try to convince people, that missed the first step of gaining knowledge on the topic, directly of the right position. An absurd situation at the International Womens Day 2009 in Berlin, where I came to the conclussion that I have to ask myself, how far I am of fulfilling my aim, to care about my surrounding and to take into my feminist political thinking the reality I am living in. Well some could now say, that we cannot know everything, but migrants, islam and islamic feminism is far from being just a topic at the edge of my neighbourhood, but still it is possible that at a meeting of maybe 25 critical, left, feminist germans in Neukölln, nearly nobody is actually so familiar with the topic to take part in a qualified and critical disscussion.


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