On the Road to Mecca - Part 1

In a previous blog entry I reported how the relationship with a man from Eritrea kept me for ten years at a lasting distance from everything that had to do with Islam. How I eventually became a Muslim,   is a longer story - sometimes bizarre, but actually logical. After being repeatedly asked why and how I became a Muslim, I want share my story with you - it takes a bit longer, but hopefully it will be entertaining and hopefully it will help to dissolve a lot of prejudices. It started as a Catholic ...


Catholic Roots

I was born in Cologne into a catholic family. My dad was my mother's second husband and nobody in our family was really pious. We lived in a suburb of Cologne, which had acquired a reputation as a bad Nazi stronghold in the Third Reich. The suburb's cultural achievement of that time was a prize for the most anti-Semitic poem for the so called "Schull- und Veedelszöch" (School and Suburb Carnival Parade) 1937, as I have already quoted elsewhere. After the war, refugees came from the lost territories of Eastern Germany, who were called "Imis" and who were just as unpopular at that time as the refugees today. Their most negative distinguishing feature: they were Protestant!

Locally there was a Catholic church, St. Peter Canisius, and an "elementary school". This elementary school neatly divided into a Catholic and a Protestant building. A Catholic and a Protestant schoolyard were also separated - through a connecting tract. The territory of the "other" denomination was strictly "off limits" for us, unless we had an order. When we went to another class, we had to greet: "Praise be to Jesus Christ!", The right Catholic was: "In eternity Amen!". The "Protestant" greeting and its response was simply: "Hello!". So if a Protestant child came to our class and greeted us with "Hello!", We answered "In eternity, Amen!". We went to a Protestant class and greeted with "Praise be to Jesus Christ!", the "Protestant" answer was: "Hello!" , The Catholic majority successfully prevented the construction of a Protestant church until 1965.



A Sinner's Daughter

The relationship with our pastor was difficult, at least since 1954. I was only 1 year old at the time, but I was later told, that when my grandfather was dying of cancer, my grandmother, who had nursed him to the last, called the pastor , He criticized, my grandfather was not  shaved properly. My grandmother pointed to the crucifix hanging above the bed and answered hat the Lord Jesus also had a beard. If the pastor did not take office, she would  call taxi and personally complain to Cardinal Frings, the famous Archbishop of Cologne. The sacraments were given, and my grandmother was henceforth down through for the pastor. My mother anyway, because of divorce and remarriage.

Ich kam in die Schule, war eigentlich eine gute Schülerin, doch dann kam im zweiten Schuljahr "Katechismus" hinzu, unterrichtet vom Herrn Pastor. Wir standen ja zur Erstkommunion an. Im ersten Halbjahr haute er mir eine Vier rein, Begründung: ich sei ja garnicht in der Lage, die Lehren der Kirche zu verstehen, schließlich sein ich doppelt mit der Erbsünde geschlagen: erstens, wie wir alle, zweitens wegen meiner sündigen Mutter. Die sündige Mutter stellte ihn wütend in seinem Büro zur Rede. Sie solle bitte still sein, sonst bekäme ich in Katechismus eine Fünf und das wars dann mit demj Gymnasium. Da hielt sie es für besser, klein beizugeben, ich behielt meine Vier.

I came to school, was actually a good student, but then in the second year "catechism" was added, taught by the Pastor. We were earmarked  for First Communion. In the first half of the year, he gave me a "four, explaining that I was not in a position to understand the teachings of the Church; after all, I was doubly afflicted with original sin: first, like all of us, second, because of my sinful mother. The sinful mother furiously confronted him in his office. She should be quiet please, otherwise I would get in catechism a five and that's it with demj high school. She thought it was better to give in, I kept my four.


To school for the mentally handicapped?

Since I was already more than four inches taller then my classmates, and, well, overly overweight, my classmates took this as an opportunity to bully me, "fat pig, fat pig ...". I avoided no fight in response, and I won many. If I was not fast enough in the schoolyard, they ran into the trap after the break because they had to go back to the classroom and I waited behind the door. When I was done with my mobsters, they had the significant injuries, which has repeatedly led to complaints from the parents of those affected. Finally, in the schoolyard, I put a girl out of action with a kick under her chin: she fell over and slammed her head on the schoolyard floor. Concussion. My parents were ordered to school, Grandma went with them, on the other side of the table were headmistress and homeroom teacher. It was disclosed to my parents, that the school staff planned  sending me me to a special school for metally handicapped children. They considered me severely maladjusted,, exceptionally brutal, exceptionally sneaky (door!) and constantly disturbing the lessons. My parents started fighting to defendme and won eventually - the result:  I stayed in the class, the teacher was replaced, in favor of a 70-year-old mistress who was brought back from retirement.


A difficult First Communion


And then came the first communion. For this purpose, pairs of communion children were determined, which were to be led together to the altar by so-called "Guiding Angels", communion children from the previous year, For a nice look, the kids`height should be as equal as possible.

As you can see in the header above, my partner was by no means the same size. But that was not the main problem: Ingrid Heller * was allegedly the daughter of a prostitute, who jobbed in a famus brothel in the Old City of Cologne, and a convicted bank robber.

When I got home with the news, my parents first got a gasp, but calmed down pretty quickly, my mother said, "I'll show this A ***," and called Mrs. Heller. The mothers started talking, Mrs. Heller told my mother that she did not know how to cover the cost of the equipment - white first day dress, flower crowns, gloves, shoes, whereupon my mother demonstratively offered her help; I don't know if Mrs. Heller acccepted.

On Low Sunday, Ingrid and I were once again shown the low esteem we enjoyed:: the pastor went to all the Communion children personally, to uns only the chaplain came - my mother simply threw him out, and told him her child was not inferior with regard to other children.

After realizing to Ingrid too only the chaplain came, she called Mrs. Heller and told her that it was well known how she earned her money, but nevertheless didn't her daughter deserve such a discrimination. She suggested that mother and daughter, who obviously were lonely and alone at home, should also throw out the chaplain. At any rate, she  cordially invited them  to our celebration.

However, Ms. Heller has neither kicked out the chaplain nor did she accept the invitation. Nothing could be hidden in our settlement - and a meeting of two sinful women and their Kids would be considered nearly as a riotous assembly.

The receipt came the following year. All the children of the previous year were classified as "guiding angels" for the new communion children: with the exception of Ingrid and me. We should stand by as a substitute for what our parents rejected. After these experiences, my relationship with the Catholic Church was permanently disturbed. 

* Ingrid was not named Ingrid and neither was Heller. I changed the name and made the face unrecognizable, because I do not know if after almost 60 years she feels like reading something about her difficult youth ...

Bildnachweis: Kirche St. Petrus Canisius, Köln-Buchforst, Bilderbuch Köln

to be continued