It's strange what was fashionable these days. It was entirely in, to have beautiful long dresses and skirts made by the Turk in our street, and each was an unmistakable and expensive unique piece. A new awareness of quality had prevailed more and more. It was no longer necessary to dress every three months according to the latest fashion dictate, but rather to cover with less, but beautiful and valuable things. Especially for us less wealthy, this was a better option than walking around in these ugly and exploitive manufactured discounter clothes. The mood was generally much calmer, and people were much more relaxed and optimistic. All of them were still aware of the pictures of the Muslim peace demonstrators bludgeoned by neo-Nazis, and our anger was high.
Therefore I had joined the 'Young Patriots' at that time. Our goal was to create a land for all citizens in Germany, as demanded by the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was astonishing how quickly the Nazispuk disappeared again into oblivion. Our political actors of the established democratic parties smelled the morning air. A new spirit of optimism spread among the citizens. For the first time, we got a new liberal immigration law and an effective law against incitement of the people, which quickly silenced the racist agitation, especial the ‚Bildzeitung‘.
I was a sweet sixteen-year-old teenager at the time and was urgently looking for an apprenticeship. My father had let us down and my mother Lizzy was sick. We lived on Hartz4, the German form of social welfare, more bad than right. And we were not alone poor in our district. So we 'young patriots' met regularly in the ‚Bürgerhaus‘ to discuss our situation and to organise social help for the elderly and the sick.
"Hi, Jenny, what's going on", Achmed greeted me when I entered.
"Everything as it was and with you?"
"Just sent out the two hundredth application. Hope dies last," he said. I liked the way Achmed treated problems. There was apparently nothing that could detain him.
"But I might have something for you," he said.
"Speak up!" I said.
"My uncle Murad has the tailor's shop in your street, and he's looking for a girl for sewing. What do you think, as a temporary solution, until you find something, that's not bad, is it?"
"I can't tailor, but I'd love to learn," I said and thought:
"No matter what, the main thing is to do something!"
"Let's just go after the session, okay?" he said.
"Okay, why not? It can never hurt to make an effort!"
In the session, we discussed how we could fight racism in some companies because those of us who did not have a German name had a double difficulty in finding a job whose applications often ended up unread in the trash. While leaving, Achmed asked to me:
"You know that we are Salafists? I said:
"To be honest, I have no idea of your religion. Explain it to me, please."
"Well, we Salafists are strictly believing Muslims. In Germany we are always confused with the Wahabis, that's the Saudi terrorists, not us. We believe that terrorism is a terrible sin. I only tell you this because my uncle expects a girl to dress decently and be obedient."
"But I don't have to disguise myself, do I?" I asked him a little worried.
"Nonsense, behave modestly and inconspicuously and speak when asked. By the way, you make me happy when you walk three steps behind me," he said.
"All right, my lord and master!" I said mischievously, and I thought to myself in silence, when I have learned to tailor, I can always earn some money and make the most beautiful clothes for myself and others.'Craftsmanship has a golden bottom' is the word of the day! We reached the shop and entered. This time I did not come as a customer. How will Murad react? Achmed went directly to his uncle and greeted him by kissing his hand and then leading it to his forehead. I did it like him to Murad's astonishment.
"Hello, Jenny, how do I come to this honour?" he asked me.
"I only try to behave correctly so that I can learn the tailoring trade from you," I said.
"Dear, only relatives greet each other with a kiss on the hand. At our place, women never shake hands with strangers but thank you for your nice gesture, and now we want to make ourselves comfortable with a cup of good tea in the living room. Well, come on!"
I got a bright red head and was glad that I was allowed to follow the men so they could not see it.
"Selima, please bring us some tea! We have guests" called Murad and asked us to sit down. Then a woman, dressed in Turkish, traditional style, that is long, full dress and hijab pulled far in the face, entered the room and handed us tea and biscuits wordlessly and disappeared as she had come: like a silent shadow. I was fascinated. Soon I should get to know the names Ruband, Abaya, etc..
"Well", Murad said, "I'm not allowed to train you in Germany, because I don't have a master's degree, but I can hire you as an assistant so you can learn the tailor's craft if you want. But it is important to me that you dress decently and adapt to our way of life."
"I have to dress like your wife Selima, don't I?"
"Yes, if you wear Hijab and Abaya it is enough for me. Selima, please show Jenny how she has to dress," he shouted after her. Immediately she appeared and waved to me to follow her.
"Hello, Jenny! I am glad to get to know you! If you are allowed to work with us, we will certainly see each other more often. So, let's see what we can do for your new outfit. Your dress is stunning, but a little too open-hearted for our demands. You bought it for us, didn't you?" I just nodded and looked at Selima in amazement, and she didn't look like a Turk on closer inspection. "Let me guess: you're surprised that I'm a German, aren't you? Yes, I married a Turk sixteen years older, and I am a converted Muslimah! Here, put this on, please." She handed me a skirt and a blouse. The dress was wide cut and reached up to my ankles. When I put on the hip-long, full blouse with the long arm and stand-up collar, my figure was only a memory. Selima tied my hair with a black scarf until there was no hair left.
"Now a pretty hijab and you are presentable! There are different techniques to bind it. Now I'll show you how to wear it around us." She placed a transparent, flexible plastic sheet in the scarf and folded it into a triangle. So she could pull it wide in my face without the material dropping over my face, it now looked more like a hood. A full overhead abaya, that's just a scarf with a hole in it that stuck out over my stomach in the front and over my bottom in the back, completed my new 'modesty'.
"If you hold your head a little down, no one can see your face except perhaps the tip of your nose". We stood next to each other in front of the mirror, and I saw two twins. The hijab hoods gave us a somewhat Madonna-like look, I somehow felt innocent and untouched, which I was. Although I got pretty hot under the dense fabric, I felt strangely comfortable. I thought it was okay to get dressed like that, to get the job, that's the way it is.
"From now on you should only dress like this, then you will get used to it as soon as possible. The best thing is to bring your clothes from home tomorrow morning. I'll show you how to sew Muslim dresses and veils, that saves you a lot of money, and you'll learn how to sew at the same time". Then we returned to the men. We discussed some more details and then left. On the street, I first noticed that I was still wearing Selima's clothes, but Murad said:
"I'll donate you the clothes, and then you'll be dressed properly in the morning."
Achmed kindly accompanied me home. A Muslimah is walking three steps through the street behind a man, and I thought it was okay. Strange? Have I discovered a new side of myself? Confused I followed him, but not without admiring his crunchy ass.
"What are you doing in my apartment?" Lizzy yelled at me. I always called my mother by her name. Then she recognised me, and I thought I heard her lower jaw dislocate. At the same time our neighbour and friend of my mother's, Sandra, entered the apartment.
"Allah u Akbar, barn owl," she greeted me and took me in her arms. That was typical of Sandra! I have never seen her lose her composure in any situation. Lizzy needed some time to catch herself:
"How do you look? It's still a bit late for a carnival! Or what about is the masquerade? I also took her in my arms and pressed her happily:
"Mama, I have a job! I can work from tomorrow at Murad, the tailor."
"Shit" was the public comment. "We'll make ourselves a cup of coffee first, and then I'll explain the Hartz4 rules to you." As already said, my father had run away years ago and left my mother a pile of debts and me, her little daughter. She had to fight very hard in that time to get us through and at the same time service the obligations. Sandra was the only one who helped Lizzy and me in the emergency. When it looked like we were over the hill, she collapsed and has been paralysed on the left side ever since. We live on welfare, called Hartz4 in Germany, more bad than right. Mother then explained to me that as soon as I earn money, the Hartz4 rate will be reduced. In other words, you work and still have to queue up at the 'Tafel' to receive the remains of the affluent society as alms. We were hardly able to bear the extra costs caused by my mother's illness. Everything became more and more expensive. Shit! I have to talk to Murad tomorrow morning.