The Changing Face of Germany

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Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. All across the globe different individuals from different cultures and backgrounds are embracing Islam. Many are from Western countries. Each new convert has a story, a journey and a reason. And each has experienced significant changes in their lives. Many describe the experience as being born anew and some simply can’t find the words to explain. Isabelle Wachter is amongst the many Muslim converts in Europe. She is a German lawyer and mother of three. In this documentary she will share her story of converting to Islam and her new life as a Muslim woman in the German society.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: I come from a small town in Hessen, Röhn. My name is Isabelle Wachter, it is still my name, nothing has changed. I am married and have three children with the age of five, three and one. I am a lawyer practicing law in my own office, in Offenbach am Main, since 2009. The focus of my work is family law; including child custody, child support, immigration law, asylum law and social rights. When I converted to Islam I was living in Marburg. But my parents were not living there. I am an only child.Until my 24th birthday I was a Catholic Christian. Well, my parents were very unhappy. For them it was very bad and they couldn’t understand it. My mother cried and my father reacted very disappointed. Both are of Christian origins and extremely associated with their traditions. So in the beginning I decided not to tell them about it because I wanted to cope with it on my own. I wanted to learn all about it because it takes steps towards a big life change. I was very happy back then. I just wanted to enjoy it without all the tentions in the beginning. I get up for morning prayers between 4 and 5 am. Afterwards I lay down again. Finally I get up between 8 and 9 am. I prepare my daughter for kindergarden. I make coffee and eat breakfast. Shortly after, I take my daughter to kindergarden. We are going to a non-religious, integrative kindergarden for handicapped children, called, ‘Handicapped Aid Offenbach‘.

TIME CODE :05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: I did research about this kindergarden and came to the conclusion that being with handicapped children is beneficial. They have a high capacity for care and I think it is good for my daughter to learn and to be mentored with them together. If I wouldn’t have found a place there, I would have taken her to a Catholic or Protestant kindergarden. Children are confronted with other religions anyway, and they learn soon enough that the majority are not Muslims. I am convinced that my children can be taught about their religion at home. So, I don’t see a big problem here. From here, I go directly to my office. Sometimes, clients are already waiting for me. Sometimes I work, make phone calls or do bank transfers. In Offenbach, there are foreigners with 80-90% migration background. Most of my clients are stopping by without appointments. Thus, my daily schedule is not easy to organize. Most of the time I won’t have lunch before three pm. Often, my secretary calls after me because clients are waiting in line.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: How are you? Mr. Khamayev is here now.

SOUNDBITE [German], Translator: OK, then we’ll start.Isabelle, he is asking about the Dublin Visa, Do you have any news?

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: I received a letter that his wife should conduct an examination by a public health officer to evaluate if she is fit to travel. I applied for a restriction for deportation for his wife because of her illness.I gave him the letter. All the best, Mr. Khamayev. Sometimes, I do other things because I won’t have time to do them at home. I just have no time! For that reason I do everything at the same time. For example I use WhatsApp groups. No idea, how many I have. one, two, three, four WhatsApp groups. I receive news and Hadiths and other notifications. Otherwise, I listen to lectures while I work, or I listen to the Quran or I read something. Things I can do parallel, for example, listening to youtube clips. There are innumerable lectures about Islam that I can listen to. Yes, my husband stays at home with the two small ones.When the weather is nice he walks them into the city.

TIME CODE :10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: Sometimes my husband stops by for 30 minutes. I try to integrate my private life into my work schedule. usually I come back from work at around 9 pm. Afterwards I take the children to bed. I converted to Islam in 2006. That’s when I said the Shahada. A couple of months before that I had done research about Islam. But it didn’t take long. You can say basically I read the Quran once and then converted. I bought the first translation of the Quran at an information stand from a mosque in Marburg. This one I read. I was touched by the language that was being used in the Quran and when I read the Quran it became clear to me immediately that it couldn’t have been written by a human being. Because the insight and knowledge of the Quran, in all respects, does not originate from a human being. I feel reverence for the author of this book. The Quran addresses every human being personally. And I have the feeling that God personally speaks to me. For me it was very easy to read. I felt deeply moved and convinced. I find it hard to put it into words, but it touched my heart immediately. I only cried. I couldn’t stop crying. It is a feeling beyond words and incomparable with anything else. I had never even dreamt that such a thing could exist. In the beginning I pictured it like the Bible. But it is totally different. It is completely different and I couldn’t believe that something like this could exist,which is so insightful, which holds so much genuine truth as the Quran. For me it became clear that it was all but impossible that the Quran would originate from a human being. The women from the mosque were very supportive. Of course, my husband was too. Especially in difficult times they were there for me. I just don’t have the time to cultivate many friendships. For that reason I narrow down my contacts. I have two or three girlfriends and most of them are Muslim–Germans.

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: Julia?

SOUNDBITE [German], Julia, Isabelle’s friend: Yes

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: How are you? Do you have lots of work?

SOUNDBITE [German], Julia, Isabelle’s friend: I am fine. I manage.”

SOUNDBITE [German], Julia, Isabelle’s friend: My name is Julia, I am 24 years old and have a 9-month old daughter. I am at home at the moment. We got to know each other through a mutual friend in the park. This friend was married to a Tunisian man, like myself. She mentioned that Isabelle is married to an Algerian man. Then, we realized we were neighbors.Soon we saw each other more often and decided to meet up. Now we know each other for almost two years and visit each other frequently.”

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: We are always there for each other. I really care for Julia.It is totally different from other friendships. We are really close, like sisters. She is like a sister to me. Lets eat something. I met my husband in a cafe in Marburg. Back then I wasn’t converted yet and we were not a couple. I knew him for a while but only from a distance. I always noticed him. But because of the age difference I thought he was not available.My journey to Islam happened at the same time while getting to know him.After I converted we decided to marry. I remember asking him that I would like to adopt Islam.He sent me to an old man in a shop. I told the man that I wanted to become a Muslim. He was delighted and spoke the words. And I repeated them.Then he told me I am a Muslim now. I started to wear the headscarf shortly after my conversion. Back then I was still in legal clerkship and I had to go to a consortium from the administrative court, in Frankfurt. This was my first day with the headscarf. People from Marburg were shocked and asked, ‘What happened to you?’ A guy from Frankfurt said, ‘she has converted to Islam, can’t you see it?’ I wasn’t interested at all about what other people were thinking. I was completely happy. I immediately bought tons of headscarfs in multiple colors. I felt great. I really wanted it. The state and society can expect us to adhere to the law, to be honest to other people, to pay taxes, and to try to be a valuable member for the society.This is what everyone can expect. But no one can expect us to assimilate. For example, no one can expect me to dress like everyone else, or to drink alcohol just because everyone else drinks, or to smoke because everyone else smokes. This shouldn’t be imposed onto any human being. Due to my religious conviction I have the right to live differently. Finding a job was very difficult while wearing a headscarf. I applied at many places. Even places where I was over-qualified. I was ready to work as a secretary just to be able to wear the headscarf.

TIME CODE:20:00_26:00

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: But I didn’t find anything. It was very difficult. Of course, if I had found a Muslim manager who had hired me, most likely I wouldn’t have dared to step
into independence.
I’ve heared that it is now possible. But back then I just couldn’t find such a job opportunity.I just wanted to be free in my choice of religion, with my own office, to decide myself when and where I pray and how to wear a headscarf or abaya. It is nobody’s business.Here we have certain values. And one is expected to honor them. Interpersonal codes of conduct, so to speak.Everyone should stick to them. And if one transgresses, it will cause problems with the authorities.But everything that is within this framework should be tolerated for the sake of diversity. As a Muslim we should act by example. This is what I stand for.I struggle to make a difference and to be a useful member of the society.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle’s husband: I am from Algeria. Back then there was civil war and I decided to travel to Europe. It was not clear if I would go to Germany or any other country. I came to Europe and ended up in Germany. I am glad I met my wife. She helped me a lot. I am so proud of her. Now, I am really happy. I have three children, even her mother helps. She always comes from Monday to Friday. My wife works a lot, really a lot. Sometimes she comes from work no sooner than 9 pm. I am really proud of her.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: Now, tell me why you are here.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle’s client: Yes, this letter came.We have asked for political asylum. But everywhere we are told to get legal advise. That’s why we are here.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: Yes, this is an attestation that asylum was filed and which of theinitial registration facilities will be responsible for you.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle’s client: We have already read through the 13 pages of declaration of Dublin II.

SOUNDBITE [German], Isabelle Wachter, Lawyer: No, it doesn’t depend on what kind of Visa you have. What is important is the country you had contact with in the first place. So it means your initial contact with the EU was in Frankfurt? Yes That is good. Then you won’t have a problem with Dublin. None.Then you will probably get a stay permit, the blue asylum passports, and then you have to wait for the official hearing. OK, thanks a lot. All the best. Islam is my life. One of the most important verses for me in the Quran is: And there is another verse saying: Allah created the gins and humans so that they will serve him. This is the meaning of all.


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