Maybe you do not know that in Germany it is forbidden by law to play joyful music and dance in public or in bars on Good Fridays. If you run an event which is open to the public and which does not observe the character of Good Friday you will be fined. I had spent Good Fridays abroad before, but it took moving to the Southern United States to enjoy the freedom to go out partying on that day. The first Good Friday in the Bible Belt I went to a club for a gay dancing night. How ironic, the German society is so nonreligious, while the Bible Belt, well, is probably the most hostile place for atheists in the (non-islamic) world. This year, however, I might have spent the best Good Friday ever in Memphis, Tennessee, at the American Atheist convention. This year’s keynote speaker is Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
She tells us the story of a 15-year old muslim girl sentenced to death by stoning by an all-male islamic court in Somalia, Ayaan’s own home country. These men dig a hole, put her in and begin stoning her. One man driven by the impulse of compassion runs toward her to free her and gets shot. An eight-year old boy runs toward her trying to help and gets shot. „If it is forbidden by law to let compassion move you, this is the end of humanity.“ Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells us to acknowledge that religions are not all the same, something Western atheists like to claim in order to avoid being called an „Islamophobe“. We often say that we criticize all religions equally. But what is the worst that can happen to gay men in America, Ayaan asks. Not being served a cake for their marriage. While in Sharia law, you ought to be taken to the highest building and thrown down, with a group of people ready to stone you should you survive. And for sure they shout „Allahu akbar“. „They always warn you about hell – and then there is the Islamic State.“ she says, pausing. „Please, acknowledge, that there are differences between religions.“ I am starting to think that this might be the best Good Friday I have ever had, not because I am free to party all night long, but because I am given this inspiring speech, by a truly amazing person. She has come to terms with her family shunning her but she has not come to terms with all these people wanting to kill her, and not just her. „Do you really think I am enjoying the constant company of these gentlemen – although guys, I really love you!“ she says pointing to the many bodyguards positioned all over the room.
If when she was a teenager the Islamic State existed she would have joined them, she would have gone to Syria she said. When she was a teenager, there was no one to ask critical questions, there was only the teacher who indoctrinated them. This was in Somalia, Kenya, over two decades ago. And yet, even today in the US and in Europe young Muslims are not asked these same questions as Christianity is asked over and over again. „If we talk about Jihad – holy war – how can we not demand holy peace?“
I do not think that we should stop going after Christianity as Ayaan Hirsi Ali asks us, but we should ask the very same questions that brought reform to middle-age Christianity to Islam and Muslims today. We will not stop criticizing the dancing-ban in Germany and the Indiana law to legally discriminate, but we should not shut our eyes and ears when it comes to what „threatens the very core of humanity“: Islamic terrorism.
Her new book „Heretic: Why Islam needs a Reformation now“ (German: „Reformiert euch!: Warum der Islam sich ändern muss“) is published. I am looking forward to reading it. Expect a review here! Also expect more from the American Atheists convention during the next week, there is so much going on.