There can be no serious doubting of the fact that Islam is in need of a better press in Europe. In spite of some of the more enlightened and rational approaches aimed at educating the public, it seems that widespread and persistent prejudices remain and that these tend to prevent the development of any open-minded discussion of the matter.
In her eponymously titled book, Anja Hilscher attempts to tackle this "image problem" and to address existing prejudices in a humorous and entertaining manner. A qualified primary and secondary school teacher in Germany, the author is herself a Muslim and has been for more than half her life. She is currently involved in the supervising of integration courses. (Since 2005, Germany's immigration law has required that some newly arrived immigrants take part in courses on German language and society.)
Over twenty chapters Hilscher tells us about the "real" Islam and takes the view that this is something that not only outsiders, but many Muslims, too, do not properly understand nor practice. The image of "evil Islam" is contrasted here with the colourful life she knows on a day-to-day basis as a Muslim.
The cliché of the seventy-two virgins in paradise is given short shrift in the book as is the perceived menace of Sharia law or the Islamic judicial system, which, according to the author is very much based upon the work of "medieval theologians with a strong inclination towards intolerance and fanaticism".
By highlighting such stereotypical clichés and constructing its arguments around them, however, the book also manages to provide the reader with some completely new stereotypes.
Annett Hellwig; Translated by Ron Walker
[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]