‘Well, what you actually want to know’, he replied partly amused, partly offended, ‘is whether my sisters are oppressed’. It was 2011, and I was twenty-two when I dropped THE question. I asked my good friend, a Muslim Moroccan man I had got to know, whether his sisters wore hijab – or more precisely, a veil, ein Kopftuch. I did not even know the word hijab back then.
I grew up in rural Germany, and had been fascinated by Islam and Muslim cultures ever since a trip to Egypt with my family when I was sixteen. I had immediately fallen in love with the mystical soft-voiced calls to prayer, and secretly noted in my travel diary my plan to move to Egypt when I finished school in a couple of years. But in 2011, when I was finally ready to embark on my long-awaited journey to Cairo and Alexandria, internships arranged, the Arab Spring was in full bloom, and so I unhappily decided to do an internship in Berlin. And there we met. My first Muslim friend. By then, my longings had made space for a somewhat troubled young woman who did not know any longer what to make of Islam.
After returning from my first trip to Egypt, I was hungry for knowledge about Islam. Intriguingly, the first books I picked up were by the controversial ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali. All I can say is really: Thank you, dear bookstores, for this exquisite selection on Islam. And thank you for planting a narrative in my head that made me blush several years later in front of my Muslim friend.