Wives of German Salafists Pursue Road to ‘Paradise’
Salafist men wear beards, hand out copies of the Koran and cause headaches for Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. But how do the women feel? SPIEGEL spends a weekend with two veiled women and learns about their vision of a perfect world.
Saliha and Reyhana stop at a kebab shop on the Bornheimer Strasse in Bad Godesberg. “Can we pray here?” Saliha asks.
“Sure, okay,” says an employee.
The two women walk into the shop and unroll a makeshift prayer rug on the floor. The employee continues putting away chairs. It’s 9 p.m., and he wants to close. Saliha uses the compass on her iPhone to determine the direction of Mecca.
It points in the direction behind the kebab shop, where the ICE high-speed trains pass through Bonn. The two women kneel down on the floor to pray. They are wearing gloves and the niqab, a veil with narrow slits for the eyes. Cars pass by in the darkness outside. For the people out there, these women are the brides of terrorists.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, is paying close attention to the men in their Sunni fundamentalist movement, who have come to be known as Salafists, and who they view as a threat to peace and stability in Germany. Salafists aim to emulate the Prophet Muhammad in how they live their lives. They live in a world governed by the laws of Allah, not the rules of Western society.
Discos and Piercings
After a few minutes, the women roll up their mat and thank the employee. They speak German without an accent, because they are German citizens.
Saliha, 31, is from Ehrenfeld, a district of Cologne, and Reyhana, 23, is from the southern German city of Ulm. They looked very different only a few years ago. Saliha wore high heels and fake designer clothes, and she had a German first name. On weekends, she danced in clubs to techno and hip-hop music.
Reyhana was part of a school band that performed songs like “Hit the Road Jack” at the Roxy, a concert venue in Ulm. She was the prettiest girl in her school, became the German equivalent of the prom queen, had piercings, wore thick black eye makeup and had long, dark curls.
Both women graduated from high school. After Saliha finished school, she first worked as a beautician. Later, she worked at a call center, a restaurant, a fitness center, a kindergarten and a newspaper. Reyhana became a hairdresser after high school. The two women met after they had both moved to Bad Godesberg, a district of Bonn. That was where their lives took a completely different direction.
Reyhana is now married to a man who is currently in pretrial detention in Stuttgart. He is accused of being a member of a criminal organization, and of having recruited Germans to serve as combatants for the jihad. In Bad Godesberg, they lived near the King Fahd Academy, in a neighborhood that became notorious in Germany for images of escalating violence. One of these photos, taken during clashes between Salafists and hooded right-wing extremists, shows a radical Islamist stabbing a policeman in the leg.
The violence was triggered by cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, cartoons that Muslims viewed as insulting to their religious beliefs. Since then, Bad Godesberg has come to symbolize a movement consisting of young, bearded men who pose a threat to the country.
Saliha moved away from Bad Godesberg a year ago. She returns two or three times a year to spend a weekend with Reyhana, just as she did in the past. We accompanied them on one of these weekends, gaining insight into a world that normally remains hidden behind the veil. Their only condition was that they could not be identified by their real first names.