Can I change my religion?


In this interview film, YouTuber Hatice Schmidt visits the Islamic scholar Hamideh Mohagheghi and talks to her about the relationship between Islam and other religions.

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[You can hear quiet guitar music in the background while we first see the forecourt of the Bielefeld train station, then an arriving train and finally Hatice Schmidt, who is standing in front of the station building and speaks directly into the camera.]

Hatice: Hi guys! After talking to Serdar about Sharia law last week in Switzerland, I'm now on my way to Hanover. [Now we hear Hatice's voice off-screen, the music continues softly in the background. You can see Hatice, who goes up the stairs to the platform, then a blue stop sign that reads "Bielefeld Hbf" in white letters. The following film images are now cut one after the other: tracks, empty seats for passengers waiting on the platform,; Hatice's silver, ankle-high sneakers; a pigeon pecking for grain on the ground; then an incoming ICE, which Hatice finally gets on. Now we see pictures of Hatice's train journey: her open shoulder bag on the train seat, from which various objects and a water bottle protrude; the passing landscape; Hatice, who looks out the window, types on her smartphone and finally ties on her scarf while she waits to get out. Now we see Hatice walking through the bustling station hall full of people.]

Hatice: There I meet with Hamideh Mohagheghi to talk about a topic that plays an important role not only because of the attacks in Paris and the events in Hanover itself, but that keeps cropping up in the context of hostility towards Muslims and extremist ideologies. How does Islam relate to other religions? Has this relationship changed over time? And how can I, as a Muslim, deal with other religions? I am asking these questions to Hamideh Mohagheghi today. [You can now see the station building in Hanover, then Hatice, which runs over tram tracks and past an equestrian monument. After a short shot in which Hatice is shown standing in front of a window from behind, we now see Hatice and Hamideh walking along the square in front of the Hanover Opera and talking.] Hatice: She is an Islamic theologian, co-founder of the Islamic women's network HUDA and an academic Employee at the Center for Comparative Theology and Cultural Studies for Islamic Theology at the University of Paderborn.

[Now we see Hatice again standing in front of the window, this time facing the camera.]

Hatice: What is Islam's position on other religions? [In the picture is now Hamideh Mohagheghi, who is sitting on a chair with a low red backrest, in the background two framed pictures on a white wall and a floor lamp that emits soft, cozy light. Hamideh speaks thoughtfully and in a friendly manner, with expressive facial expressions.]

Hamideh Mohagheghi: There are different statements. For Muslims, the Koran is the book to which one refers. And there are different statements in the Koran. But above all statements about which people from which religions the Muslims lived with at the time of the revelation of the Koran. And when you turn back the time, the Koran was revealed in the 7th century on the Arabian Peninsula, then you have to look at which groups of people the Muslims were dealing with at that time. And when it comes to statements about other people in the Koran, to which people these refer. And then there are statements from which you can read that you should live very well with other people. But there are also statements that describe the conflicts and disputes the Muslims also had at that time. With this example I would like to say that we always have to read the Koranic statements depending on the time and to which people the Koran speaks in the first place.

[Cut to Hatice]

Hatice: Has the relationship to other religions always been the same or has it changed over time? [The camera now shows Hamideh again, sometimes the setting is chosen so that her entire upper body can be seen, sometimes the setting changes to a closer perspective that shows her up to her shoulders.]

Hamideh Mohagheghi: When you live with other people from different religions or cultures, something always changes. People live in these interactions that they have with one another in everyday life. And that's why something always changes when you live in contact with others. If we then read these passages in the Koran, then there are groups that are named by name. For example there is the term "Ahl-ul-Kitab", the people of the scriptures. This means the people, the Jews and Christians who lived in Mecca and Medina at the time. And because the Koran or Islam does not now see itself as a completely different religion, it also incorporates the elements that were previously known in these religions. In the Koran we have stories about other prophets besides the prophet Mohammed. These stories are very close to the Bible stories. These narratives are not as detailed in the Koran either, because the Koran assumes that people are thoroughly familiar with these narratives through the contact they had with Christians and Jews. That is why the Koran only names certain passages that are important, that one takes as an example in order to learn something from them. That is, Islam changes these narratives from the Bible in some places, but by and large these are identical to what you find in other religions and in the Bible.

[We see Hatice again in front of the window, who asks the next question.]

Hatice: Has Islam influenced other religions?

[Hamideh is in the picture again, in between cuts to Hatice, who listens attentively and nods in agreement.]

Hamideh Mohagheghi: Certainly, over time and by being in conversation with one another. It is clear that other religions marginalized themselves in the beginning. They didn't want to have anything to do with Islam, because every new religion that is added first experiences the rejection on the part of the religions that were there before. That is why we find, for example, statements from the church from medieval times that are very problematic statements about the prophet Mohammed and Islam - Islam is referred to as a false religion. But that's practically the first shock when something new comes along, that you first set yourself apart. And gradually, especially when we arrive today and ask what influences each other today, then I would say: Through the encounter and the dialogue, Islam naturally also changes thoughts, especially those polemical Thoughts and negative ideas in the other religions about Islam. These are also changed, precisely through the encounter with Muslims. I understand dialogue on different levels. Dialogue can be conducted on the theological-theoretical level, but also in everyday life. By paying attention, for example, to which festivals my neighbor, who may be a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim, is currently celebrating. And how do I have to react then? Do I have to react to it at all? That is also the nice thing that people say today: Yes, we have to take the celebrations that are there seriously, we have to perceive them. That means, we then go to the neighbors, we may also take part in their parties. Or the least is that we congratulate, for example. When we see that our Christian neighbors celebrate Christmas, then as a Muslim I definitely see that I should congratulate them on this festival. I think it's important to be aware of one another and thereby appreciate other people. And it also accepts that they simply have other religions and beliefs that are just as important to them as my beliefs are important to me. This makes everyday coexistence more beautiful and peaceful. This everyday level is much more important to me, which is what I call the "dialogue of life". That you don't discuss with one another on a theoretical level and say: What customs and rituals do you have? How do you believe in God? These questions are important. But it is even more important that we meet every day and stay in contact with each other even on very simple everyday things.

[Cut to Hatice]

Hatice: And how does that affect everyday life today?

[Cut back to Hamideh]

Hamideh Mohagheghi: In concrete terms, that means for us today that we are aware of our own beliefs. That we can also say publicly and confidently: We have a belief that is outside this problematic area that we see as reality today: the attacks, the terrorist activities that are taking place in the name of Islam. We can't just say that they don't exist. There are. It is a challenge for us Muslims to deal with it both theologically and ideologically. But it is also very important to say: We are not alone in this world. There are other religions and other people, especially in the European countries in which we live. These are not closed societies in which all are Muslims. We definitely have to open up. We expect others to respect and accept our beliefs. But that's exactly how we have to behave towards others. In earlier times it was mostly the case that societies were homogeneous. The Muslims lived among themselves, the Christians lived among themselves. This intense, everyday form of how we encounter others did not exist in earlier times. We are now living in an age in which we are not only very close to other religions and cultures in terms of space, but also in terms of media. We can press a button and all of a sudden we are in the most distant place in the world and can see how people live there. This information about other cultures and religions is very important for us today. But neither should they lead to saying: Yes, we are all just human and everything is actually irrelevant and the same for us. I don't understand dialogue in that way, but rather that we get to know the other in everyday encounters. Also be informed about what is important for these other people. What do you believe in Maybe they don't believe in anything either? The people who believe in nothing also have ethical values ​​that are human values. At this level we can of course also meet people who say of themselves that they have no faith at all. It is important to see what similarities there are on a human level and also on a belief level. But for me it is also very important to see and perceive the differences and then let them stand with respect. It's not always easy. For example, the understanding of God that some Christians have - how do they understand it? Sometimes I can't understand and explain that. But I can see that this person who calls himself a Christian and has this concept of God is definitely a person with many ethical and human values. And at this level I can meet and work with this person very well. For me it is important to name and perceive the differences, to accept and respect them in order to then get closer to each other on a different level.

[A shot is now shown out of the window through the branches of two wintry trees onto the station forecourt, where green tram cars drive past in time lapse and passers-by pass by. Then we see Hatice and Hamideh walking again in the square in front of the opera building, in between they stop and talk. Now it is darker, the station building and the trees in front of it are decorated with fairy lights. Hatice stands on the station forecourt and speaks directly into the camera.]

Hatice: I'm on my way home again. I would like to thank Hamideh once again for taking the time for us. It was a very, very exciting topic again. And of course also at the Federal Agency for Civic Education. If you still have questions about this topic, please put them in the comments. Thank you for checking in and hope to see you again next week.

[Finally Hatice turns around and we see her walking towards the station entrance from behind. Then the movie fades out.]

additional Information

  • Editor: Meimberg GmbH

  • Camera: Meimberg GmbH

  • Editor: Meimberg GmbH

  • Screenplay: Meimberg GmbH

  • Music: Meimberg GmbH

  • Sound: Meimberg GmbH

  • Speaker: Hatice Schmidt, Hamideh Mohagheghi

  • Scientific advice: Saliha Kubilay, Marie Meimberg, Prof. Dr. Armina Omerika

  • Interview partner: Hamideh Mohagheghi

  • Production: 11/26/2015

  • Playing time: 00:12:54

  • ed. by: Federal Agency for Civic Education

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