Interview: Secular activist & writer Kacem El Ghazzali

Deutsche Version

Because he doesn’t believe in God, Kacem El Ghazzali from Morocco has been attacked and threatened with death. Four years ago, the 24-year-old blogger fled to Switzerland and left his old life behind him. His conviction is unbroken, and thus, he still risks his life to this day.

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„I don‘t think that I will stop my work because of the death threats, this was clear for me since I was in Morocco.“ – Kacem El Ghazzali

HPD.de: In devout countries such as Morocco, many people don’t even question their belief. What lead you to challenge your religion?Kacem El Ghazzali: People in general seem to walk the easy roads and take the easy options, that’s why they prefer to live as simple as possible and avoid all those phrases which end with big question marks.  To question something means that you are going on an endless road of searching, seeking, destroying and rebuilding. It‘s like opening fire on yourself, your past, your truths, and all those who used to live in it. Especially if the things you are putting into question are considered to be holy, forbidden or protected by political and religious authorities as it is the case for Islam in the Islamic world. In my case, I did not choose to be an Atheist, it was actually forced on me by the power of question and logic.  Why did I choose to challenge (my) religion? I found it illogical. And it causes more harm than good.

Did you ever regret being forced to become an Atheist?
Honestly, I tried hard to be a believer because it‘s easier. But at the end of the day, I was always full of critical questions. There are many others in the Islamic world who are like me, this taboo of silence is chattering  down, however, the situation is still difficult and dangerous for all of those who decided to be Atheists in Islamic countries to show up and talk about it.

Why do so many people blindly accept the faith in countries like Morocco?
Because they are believers. The difference is that those of the Christian belief already went through a process of enlightenment and reformation. And even nowadays, if some Christian fundamentalists in Switzerland refuse to recognize the right of others to be Atheists, they won‘t be able to do anything against it. This is because of the enlightenment age in the western countries. On the other side we have Islam and it‘s laws, which have not witnessed any form of reformation. The fact that makes political Islam get credibility and support is because people think it‘s against God’s laws.  It‘s not only a problem of faith, rather than  if the faith is kept as a personal matter or being used to justify it‘s political order. I have no problem if someone decides to accept his faith blindly as long as he keeps it away from the public sphere.  And do not try to force it on others, including family members.

How did your friends and family react when you told them that you’re an Atheist?
It was a shock for all of them. Most of them  did not hear it from me personally; they got to know the news from the media and the hate campaigns against me on Social Media networks. All my friends except two close friends, one of them being a Muslim, cancelled all contact with me and started to look at me as if I am an outsider and do not belong to them anymore.

How did you deal with the dozens of death threats you received for your Bahmut blog?
I have been recieving death threats for a quite long time now, and I am not surprised. It just shows that we still have a long way to go in order to establish a society of plurality and acceptance of the other. I just ignore all those death threats and hate e-mails. At the same time, I recieve lots of thank you cards and e-mails, not only from young people but also some eldery followers who thank me for saying what they could not express once. Those who are threatening me just prove how my argument is right. They say Islam is a religion of peace, and I say „no, it‘s not.“ Than they say: „No, say it‘s a religion of peace, accept it or we will kill you!“

Did you ever think about quitting your „fight“ against the Islam because of things like that?
It‘s important to make clear that I am not fighting Islam per se, there are lots of peaceful Muslims, and I defend their religious freedom. My critical words are for those who follow Islam blindly, letting no room for discussion or modern interpretation to the religion itself. They work hard to silence any attempt to live together and do not recognize the rights of others, especially apostates of Islam. They try to devide society into good and evil, infidels and believers . I don‘t think that I will stop my work because of the death threats, this was clear for me since I was  in Morocco.

You lived in Switzerland for almost four years now. How do you witness our country?
Switzerland is a unique country due to it‘s political system and stable economy. It‘s also a very attractive country for many to live in. That’s why there is always  ongoing debates about immigration here. Switzerland is known for it‘s neutrality, which earns it a big admiration and at the same time huge and massive criticism.  Living in Switzerland has been an interesting task for me, not only on a personal level, but also in my tries to understand and learn from the Swiss experience.

What about religion in Switzerland?
I have not met that many religious people here or attended any religious events. From what I‘ve read in the news and on Social Media, it‘s hard to talk about Switzerland without understanding ist federal system.  There are cantons which are very conservative, like Wallis and Schwyz. In Wallis, for example, a teacher called Valentin Abgottspon got fired from school for removing a christian cross from his classroom. These things wouldn‘t happen in cantons like Zurich or Geneva. The results of public political initiatives prove this.

What can we, the western world, do, to make things better?
The West needs to think of it‘s own current situation first. The West once seemed to go the right way to enlightenment and freedom . But nowadays, it seems that it‘s going backwards again.  The western governments ally with islamic and theocratic states  because of their oil and because of economical benefits… These are some of the things that the West needs to find answers for.

Comparing Morocco and Switzerland: Do you feel like the world is evolving in the right direction? Or is it just getting worse?
The world has been like this all the time. Wars and human catastrophes are part of us and our existence. We humans have done more damage than good, not only to ourselves but also to our beautiful earth. I still somehow try to have a hope on a better future, but I can not see it there soon.  That’s why I believe that we are in need of humanism values, we need to stop for a while and think about the future. Not the future which we gonna live. but the future of the coming generations.

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Eine Antwort zu Interview: Secular activist & writer Kacem El Ghazzali

  1. Pingback: Interview: Atheist Kacem El Ghazzali | SandroBucher

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