It has been six months now since I have moved to Dresden after having lived one year in the west of Germany. My friends from Düsseldorf had warned me about the “East” and Dresden being unsafe for foreigners. Although most of them had never been here and their perception was drawn from the news or what others had to say, I was a little worried.
Being a Muslim in a non-Muslim country has become a controversial term. Honestly, when I was asked to write this blog from a Muslim’s perspective, I didn’t really know what to say because my religion is something personal to me and I first look at myself as an International in a foreign country. I have never tried to influence anyone from another origin to believe in what I believe. I never even disclose my faith to someone unless I’m asked to. My situation in Germany is like any other foreigner.
The PEGIDA demonstration has affected me psychologically. Until this demonstration took place I never realized I didn’t belong here. When I saw the term ‘Islamization’ in its name it made me angry and gave me that feeling of being blamed for something I hadn’t done. But you know what? Surprisingly it didn’t affect me to a large extent. In a way I have got immune to these kind of blames from a long time now. The media portrays us Muslims in such a negative way that sometimes we don’t even bother to correct them. Apart from all the psychological trauma I haven’t really faced any serious racial encounters personally. I don’t call this “being fortunate” because I’ve had friends who have complained about many such incidents and I have had nothing to add to their stories except ‘this never happened with me’.
In the past one and half years that I have been in Germany, I have tried immensely to integrate myself to its language and its culture. I went through 100 hours per month of an intensive language course for eight full months. I still practice my German week after week at the ‘Deutscher Stammtisch’ which I organize for the Germans and internationals here. I have always taken interest in understanding the traditions in Germany, for example: be it the Carnival in Köln, or the Christmas Markets in Dresden. As soon as I moved here, I took a walking tour of the city to understand its history and the significance of its old and splendid architectures. What’s worse is that some of my international friends don’t believe in taking this step of integration, be it with language or the culture. They think they are here just temporarily and they don’t need to learn such a difficult language and to communicate with the locals here. They eventually end up forming their own community here. These growing communities of minors, who refuse to step outside their comfort zone and integrate, is what I feel scares the public (Germans).
Recently I read an article about a woman being asked why she was a part of the PEGIDA march. To which she responded that she didn’t want her daughter to wear a Veil (Hijab) when she grew up. I was initially amazed by her answer; it sounded utterly immature and childish, until I tried putting myself in her shoes. She had probably never known a Muslim personally and only knew them through the media which is covering a war zone in the Middle East or some right winged extremist speakers in Germany. A small step like integration with the locals can do wonders in such situations. Yes there are always some narrow minded people who may be very difficult to talk to but there are also hundreds of others who will accept you once the ice has been broken. I have so far never had a chance to meet a PEGIDA supporter personally, but I am sure when I do meet them, they will at least appreciate our effort to be a part of their culture.
My most memorable experience in Dresden has been my house owners inviting my husband and me for a brunch during Christmas and sharing their old Christmas traditions with us. From smoking man toys, to childhood stories, they shared everything with us just to make us feel at home during the holiday season. The PEGIDA demonstrations have woken up many locals here who’ve given this movement a complete positive turn. Dresdeners have got in touch with more Refugees and Asylum seekers than they had before the marches took place. I see more people volunteering for NGOs that help the Refugees, and some have also started their own campaigns which in turn has brought in more Muslims to the integration events that I organize. Thanks to groups like International friends Dresden, International Ladies group Dresden, Tandem group Dresden, Germany feels like a home away from home.