A German Muslim female soldier speaks out against bigotry
By Ishaan Tharoor
By Ishaan Tharoor
Nariman Reinke is a 36-year-old daughter of Moroccan immigrants. She is German, she is Muslim, and she is a soldier in the Bundeswehr, or the German army. And now she's become a public figure, taking a stand against what she perceives to be the rather toxic conversation of the moment. That's been fueled by widespread fears over the arrival in Germany of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and other migrants during the past year. Migrants and men of Arab and North African descent were implicated in a grim spate of attacks and incidents of sexual harassment in the city of Cologne on New Year's Eve. The backlash in Germany and elsewhere in Europe was pronounced.
Reinke took to Facebook and wrote a post that's now been widely read and circulated. It begins "I'm German and Muslim" and goes on to decry both the acts of criminality carried out by a handful of migrants as well as the impulse to scapegoat all refugees and asylum seekers.
"My parents came to Germany from Morocco 52 years ago," she writes. "The consequence wasn't rape and crimes, but six new German children."
On Facebook, she points out how sexual assault is not particularly endemic to any place or culture and that it's wrong to reverse the policy on refugee arrivals because of change of public opinion.
The decision to take refugees remains right - despite Cologne....The events of New Year's Eve have nothing to do with our own values and our demands on ourselves. Either we believe that the protection of persecuted is right or not. To throw everything out, because one thousandth of refugees have conducted criminal acts, would expose our value system as hypocrisy.
She then offers this delightfully German metaphor: "You cannot be the chairman of the Vegetarian Union, but flee to the nearest schnitzel shack if you have a moldy cucumber in the fridge."
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Reinke said she "had a lot of positive feedback, but also a lot of negative comments, many racist comments that had nothing to do with what I wrote."
She is part of a military organization that provides for refugees and tries to improve efforts toward integration.
"My parents worked very hard to establish themselves here," Reinke told Deutsche Welle. "I cringe when I hear these people who sexually assaulted women were from Morocco."
Reinke also worries that the climate of intolerance and Islamophobia may be getting worse.
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"My brother likes keeping a beard, my husband too," she said. "They find it nice. But my brother was beaten up on the street because of the beard because those who did it thought he was a radical Islamist. He had to shave off his beard."
Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.