Sons of mothers, sex workers or machos: With her new book "Muslim Men," author Sineb El Masrar wants to clear up the cliches about Muslim men in Germany. A deep look into the soul of the supposedly "stronger" sex.
Of course, the pigeonholes are familiar. Muslim men are macho types who are loud and attack women. Although we all have academically minded friends in our circle of acquaintances who grew up Muslim, profess their religion and deal with it in an enlightened way, the image of the Muslim clan leader in a patriarchal clan remains formative.
How exciting then to meet Sineb El Masrar, a Muslim publicist who has taken a deep look into the soul of Muslim men.
She has conducted many interviews with Muslim men. In her book 'Muslim Men – Who they are, what they want', the author portrays the 31-year-old sex worker, who also has homosexual imams among his customers, the criminal youth, but also the professional high-flyer and successful businessman or the academically educated Muslim man, who lives according to Western standards in an equal marriage.
"Although it has to be said that in many Muslim families, men but also women, patriarchy is actually very prevalent," the author admits to our site Interview one.
Criticism of the patriarchal system is considered blasphemy
Muslim male domination is often legitimized by religion. Sineb El Masrar explains that anyone who criticizes this is immediately told that they are playing arguments for the right-wing populists or are even called blasphemers: "Whenever patriarchal structures that are legitimized by religion are criticized, you are immediately put in the corner of a critic of religion. In many Muslim families – and they don't even have to be reactionary – this leads to the critic being held in contempt as a denier of God," says Sineb El Masrar.
Despite all the enlightenment and emancipation that also exists among Muslims in Germany, the author observes a 'rollback', especially in mosque communities. Muslims flee into old traditional ways of life, because the freedom and the complex world of modern life overwhelms them.
"That's why they prefer to subordinate themselves to the system, what they know," she says, "where they also master the rules. Others can't handle freedom at all and claim that too much freedom doesn't make them happy and that it's better to return to traditional roles.
Putting prere on the radical opinion leaders
The author would like to break up the traditional patriarchal understanding of roles, which is preached especially by radical Muslims, with her book, because – and Sineb El Masrar has also found this out in her conversations with Muslim men – not only the women, but also the men are often dissatisfied with the traditional role model.
These women and men need to be offered opportunities to talk, says the Muslim author, and more social and political prere needs to be exerted on the 'closed stores' of mosque congregations. "If we do not exert this prere precisely on the communities and certain actors who pretend to be opinion leaders and representatives of Muslims, then of course nothing will change within these groupings," Sineb El Masrar is convinced.
In doing so, the extreme Muslim groups often proceed skillfully, the author recounts. There are attractive offers in socially deprived areas, soccer for young people or lunch tables for the destitute. And then, with the social proposals, an extreme Muslim worldview is suddenly sold.
Overcoming role models – enduring headwinds
Sineb El Masrar's book 'Muslim Men – Who they are, what they want' gives a multi-layered insight into the world of Muslim men. It doesn't glorify or gloss over anything, and makes it clear to the reader that in overcoming prejudice and integrating, both sides must move forward.
After her book 'Muslim Girls,' 'Muslim Men' is an important book – for non-Muslim readers to better understand what Muslim role models are and how they work, and for all Muslim men a call to rethink traditional patriarchal role models. "It takes courage to endure headwinds," says author.
"Many Muslims are still hesitant to display this self-awareness, to go out and dare to address these things in a differentiated way, because on the one hand you are quickly instrumentalized by right-wing groups and at the same time you are expelled from your own community as a stain on your reputation. It takes a very healthy self-confidence to endure this headwind and to say that this is the right way, we will manage it, we have to network, and in a few years we will bear the fruits".
The interview was conducted by Johannes Schroer.