Necla Kelek: “This Book is Dangerous to Me”

Necla Kelek is a Turkish-German sociologist. She was born into a secular Turkish family and lived in Istanbul until 1966, when she was nine, and then emigrated to Germany. Her family had been living a Western, secular lifestyle as members of the minority ethnic group collectively known as Circassians.

Ms. Kelek has written numerous books, including a biographical reflection on her life as a Muslim. She writes opinion pieces for German newspapers, but has not entered politics nor joined the political debates. She is said to be a practicing Muslim.

The following interview with Necla Kelek about Islam aired on the Swiss version of the television program “Rundschau”. Many thanks to Nash Montana for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:


0:00   …And from your point of view what is so dangerous about this book the Koran?
0:04   Well, when it says in the Koran that whoever contradicts Allah,
0:08   in other words questions him, is a traitor and has to be murdered,
0:12   that’s what it says in the Koran,
0:15   then I must take note of that, of course.
0:18   But the community has to know that, that that’s what it says, but they’re not even
0:22   allowed to know that, they have to hear it in ‘high Arabic’ which many don’t even speak,
0:27   memorize it and glorify it as holy writing, or… to have the Koran just lie there
0:33   like that, they’re not even allowed to do that, it has to be put above their heads somewhere,
0:37   they are not allowed to be in dispute or discuss a book,
0:41   and that, it just can’t work like this. How else is one ever supposed to
0:45   distance themselves from these violent verses, when they don’t even know them?
0:49   I’m just trying to provoke the woman who is a little provocative
0:52   when I say, in the Bible I also read ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’.
0:56   Yes, but I’m reading it, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and then I ask,
1:01   what does it mean, but I can’t ask about verse 5:21?
1:05   Why does it say that? What did Allah want,
1:10   back then, or now, from me, when I sit down and I have questions,
1:14   that makes me a traitor, but why? I should be allowed to pose these questions.
1:18   Do you blame Islam and the Koran for the radicalization of young people?
1:22   Yes. There over 100 places, authoritative places, where it is required
1:28   and expected of the individual Muslim, that he, if someone is critical
1:34   or different, the unbelievers, and by the way even Muslims themselves
1:38   who are called unbelievers if they ask questions, that even against them
1:42   one has to take a violent stance.
1:45   And as long as these words are never scrutinized,
1:48   in our mosques in the middle of Europe, and passed on to the children,
1:52   then for that long this book is dangerous to me.
1:56   The question is: when and where does it tilt into radical thought
2:00   that leads to young people becoming assassins?
2:03   A simple father, coming from Anatolia, for instance, a believer,
2:08   learns in the mosque that he has to memorize this book,
2:12   and he experiences verbally that the younger people have to listen to him,
2:16   and this form of structure he passes on in the family, he’s the head of the household,
2:21   and he expects obedience from his family.
2:24   And this is how there is a structure given to the young man, who is living
2:30   in a free society, in which he has to show achievement and creativity to find
2:36   his own way. It only sets him up for failure in both.
2:39   He can’t just obey his own father, it is dissatisfying for him…
2:45   So this frustration in your opinion is what leads some to go and fight ‘holy war’?
2:50   Yes, it is an overreaction from the expectations of obedience that are put on him,
2:56   it is a kind of mega-obedience where he tells himself, I will now go even further,
3:02   that I will obey Allah so much, this one verse, and I will kill those who do
3:07   not believe in Allah. That he will say to himself, I will go to war for Allah.
3:12   I understand that you are criticizing the structures,
3:16   but there’s always the feeling that you are talking about Muslims generally, are you not ostracizing
3:20   all Muslims in this way? How can I mean generally all Muslims, there are over one billion Muslims,
3:26   and most of these Muslims are suffering under these structures.
3:30   And those that don’t want this, they live it differently.
3:33   They emigrate, they are dissatisfied, I am convinced that 50% of all Muslim
3:40   countries today would be empty if they opened the doors and gave them the chance,
3:44   without war by the way, to leave.
3:47   How do you judge from a distance, when you hear that a Muslim girl in
3:51   Switzerland, despite the hijab ban, is allowed to keep going to school wearing it?
3:56   It is heavy for these women and girls when there are even legal decisions made.
4:01   I think that religious norms should not be legitimized.
4:08   Legally, that is the wrong way.
4:11   One moment Frau Kelek, these young girls, these women argue that
4:15   they’re wearing the hijab of their own accord. Why do you believe that’s not true?
4:19   Are those girls allowed to live freely? Is that what they are taught
4:23   within their strict Muslim families? I don’t believe that.
4:27   If I wear a hijab voluntarily I may have a better life within the family,
4:32   but I don’t believe it.
4:35   But as long as they are not allowed to make a free decision
4:38   between the hijab and a swimsuit, within the family, forbidden by the head of the family,
4:43   then I don’t believe it is voluntary.
4:46   That means you do have sympathies for a general banning of the burka,
4:49   as for instance in the Canton of Tessin (Italian Switzerland)
4:52   It has to happen. Because the burka, to wear it and to say that is my religious freedom
4:57   this just cannot be tolerated.
5:02   It is — this is a masking of oneself, which means I cannot see who is standing
5:06   in front of me in civil society.
5:09   To tolerate such developments and to accept it,
5:12   will harm the entire Islamic society.
5:15   But is that tolerant of you? — I don’t want to… I am not expressing my political opinion…
5:21   …to be loved and accepted by all, this is a critical debate,
5:28   that’s how we have to view this, because these people
5:31   are also treating this as a political debate. They are setting
5:34   their political instruction, their political norms,
5:37   their religious norms; they are trying to enforce it as politics in society.
5:41   The covering up of the woman, so that she shall be invisible in society,
5:46   this can not be accepted in a civil society, because
5:50   this is anti-freedom. It is a prison, a walking prison in which this woman lives.
5:55   But that is a fraction, those are very few people…
6:00   because most centrist, moderate people are in the majority.
6:05   No. The moderates are not represented in the mosques.
6:11   All mosques that we have as associations in Europe,
6:17   some of them maybe more, some less radical, but I have not yet experienced
6:22   a single reformed mosque, neither in Switzerland nor in Germany.
6:25   There have to be — certain mosques just have to be closed down.
6:28   This is where society finally very clearly has to set limits.
6:31   It cannot go on like this any longer.
6:34   Frau Kelek thank you for these impressive words here in the ‘Rundschau’.
6:37   I thank you.

Previous posts about Necla Kelek:

2010   Jan   27   Rejecting Political Islam
2012   Mar   24   Two Articles About Necla Kelek’s New Book
2013   May   25   Take off the Headscarf!

4 thoughts on “Necla Kelek: “This Book is Dangerous to Me”

  1. It’s difficult to see where Necla Kelek is a Muslim at all. All the Muslim conventions she opposes are not only in Islamic culture, but Islamic law. Does she pray 5 times a day? If so, the prayers are supremacist and hateful. If not, she’s technically in life-threatening violation of Islamic law, although many Muslims just want to be left alone, without dealing with the issue one way or another.

    There are very nice people like her who redefine a malignant ideology such as Islam into something palatable to the most tolerant Western taste. There are two problems with this. The first problem is that the majority of Muslim don’t follow them and don’t accept their redefinition of Islam. The second problem is that the nice Muslims simply don’t have the political organizing ability to enforce their preferences. It’s the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi royal family (the Saudi royals who are the most Islamist, by the way) that defines the political expression of Islam in Western countries.

    In a liberal Western society, it’s always helpful to have token Muslim like Necla Kelek to validate necessary measures, like banning the niqab from public or commercial places. It would not be helpful is her activities in any way suggest that Western countries should give any credence to the possibility of a reformed Islam, or any such effect on immigration policies.

    Needless to say, Necla Kelek’s suggestions would considerably enhance the well-being and self-respect of any Muslim who followed them. However, the internal life of any Muslim can only be affected by that Muslim. It is not the responsibility of anyone else to support “moderate” Muslims, other than to wish them well.

  2. I am an atheist Turkish living in US last 15 years. I agree with this lady on quran and islam. I have been very disappointed with liberals and seculars in the west that dont support or care about seculars in Muslim countries. In Turkey, AKP who represents political islam was supported politically by West until recently. Secular Turkey is becoming an islamic dictatorship. Political correctness is preventing people to criticize Islam. This is very unhelpful for the people being oppressed in Muslim countries.

    • I agree with you completely. I just don’t know what can be done about it but I think it is particularly helpful when people from Muslim countries criticize Islam because it exposes the lie that criticism of Islam is “racist”.

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