Mona Walter, age 45, is a Swedish activist from Mogadishu, Somalia. In the early 1990s, she fled as a refugee to Sweden. There, she abandoned Islam and converted to Christianity. The act resulted in criticism and death threats. The mainstream media consider her a person working for religious freedom. Other organizations accuse her of fueling anti-Islamic movements.
Natalia Osten-Sacken: I have heard your statements stigmatizing Islam as an intolerant and hateful culture. If it is so, why did you not notice it in Somalia?
Mona Walter: In my country, we had our own African culture. People did not deal with religion so much. There was no Sharia, we had our own secular law. We came here as young, secular people. It is worth mentioning, that we belonged to the Sufi Sunni faction.
When I came from Somalia to Sweden, I experienced a huge clash of cultures, because Islam here is more extreme and fanatical than in my country. What is very important - we were Islamized after 1991, here in Sweden. In these closed areas, immigrant ghettos are deprived of democracy.
Islamized? By whom?
By imams. Some came from Somalia, but there are others who do the same in their own immigrant communities. They traveled to Saudi Arabia, they studied there and after they return, they became the heads of these areas. They control everything, and above all, women.
They preach Sharia in mosques and tell everyone that they must believe in this system and Islamic values. If you do not do it, if you try to integrate into the Western society, in their eyes you become an infidel.
They force women to cover their bodies. If you do not, you are regarded as a whore. When I first arrived in Sweden in 1994, we were forbidden to wear our African clothes, traditional Somali dresses. They forced it on us. They said that we were not real Muslims, that we were an infidel country because we had secular law.
Then why did the imams not radicalize Somalia?
In Somalia, extreme imams were put in prison, but here they do what they want. No one controls them, no one checks what they are doing. They build mosques, they take Swedish money. If you live in such a community, then you have no freedoms. This mainly applies to people who rejected Islam. They may even be killed for it -- such things have already happened here. Even I, after rejecting Islam, covered myself with a scarf, because I was so scared. All this is happening in Sweden, in a democratic country where they tell you that you have the right to your body, opinion, free choice of religion.
And what was the situation of women in your country? In one of the interviews, you mentioned that women do not visit mosques in Somalia.
Women are not taught religion, they do not have to do it. This is not prohibited, just unnecessary. In 1990, for the first time I saw people from Saudi Arabia or Egypt, all covered. Somalis ran after them, crying, "Look at that! Have they gone mad in this heat?!" We knew that women in Saudi Arabia cannot go out on the street alone without a man because of Sharia law.
Somalia was almost a "socialist" country -- women served in the police, army, they were teachers and worked in public places. Also, it is not true that you could have been raped with impunity. The family would kill a rapist or even a war could break out between two clans. It would be a shame for the whole family, no one would marry even a cousin of such a rapist. I think the woman's position was better than in those Muslim countries, where the victim is stoned.
Is it different in Europe?
They are not ashamed here. They would not do it in their own community, but they do it here to infidels, because they feel that no one is supporting these victims. Here, the rapists do not have to hide their face: no one will be ashamed of them. He will not get death punishment for such an act. Here, they feel free from their clan traditions.
Do you mean that breaking with the traditional culture of Somalia causes them to become prone to violence, as shown by examples from Denmark or Germany?
My culture has good and bad elements, and the bad is that it is a very brutal culture. Very proud and vengeful, even without the influence of Islam. When I follow criminal records, I see that the most crimes are not thefts or drugs, but violence. In our culture, children belong to parents as pets and are beaten when, for example, they do not want to pray or do not listen to their parents.
In my community, it happens quite often that girls and boys fall victim to rape from family members or a teacher of the religion. It also happens here in Sweden, and the family and the community are hiding it. These are common cases, but I am not saying that everyone does it. I tried to report it to the social welfare, but no one reacted - everyone was afraid to be branded a racist.
The second thing is the teachings they get in mosques, where they are told that they should hate unbelievers. Therefore, they also commit crimes caused by hate. Their parents do not want to integrate and do not allow them to integrate with kafirs (infidels). As almost all groups are influenced by Islam and their own culture, these are two poisons together.
But maybe they are doing it out of despair and lack of perspectives? They have no education and no choice?
There is a choice. The Swedish system supports people so much. You can learn, go to school, study, go to university, and some of us have succeeded. The people who chose education automatically chose a normal, good life. We cannot just wonder why Somali criminals are what they are; we must ask ourselves: why are they not like us?
Why do you think Islamic radicals in Europe are becoming more and more popular and active?
I do not think they are more active or popular than before, only now we have social media and you can see them. They have always been like that -- in mosques.
And we would not know about it?
You did not know -- you, the infidels. Muslims always knew. There is another issue here though -- there are more and more Muslims in Europe. In addition, children who were born in the 90s are now adults. They went to Islamic schools, were subjected to brainwashing, radicalization, and learned hate for Western society. This teaching begins, when they are three-four years old. For so many years now, I have often talked about it to the Swedish media, but no one was interested in dealing with it, because they were afraid to be called racists. I went to the social welfare and informed them about it and they said to me: "They will learn democracy in our schools". And they never checked these mosques. So now they are collecting the fruit of their behavior. The yield of the last 30 years has matured.
What solution do you see for Sweden and Europe? We cannot forbid the practice of any religion, even the most radical one; we have freedom of religion.
No, we cannot prohibit it, but we must understand that Islam is not a religion, it is a totalitarian system. We cannot treat it like any other religious faith. It forbids all other religions, freedom of speech, freedom of individual choice. It is the opposite of democracy. We must openly and honestly analyze this ideology, we must understand it.
We must not listen to the media: that Islam is a religion of peace. Do you know what it means? It means that peace will not prevail until people accept Islam as their religion. Peace will come when there will be no resistance and Islam and Sharia will dominate. Islam divides humanity into two "houses": a house of peace and a house of war. All of us, infidels and even liberal Muslims who do not accept sharia, are in the house of war.
Are there Muslims who integrate, do not want to introduce Sharia, and so on?
Remember -- we must separate Islam and sharia law from Muslims, because many of them are peaceful people and we cannot mix these two together. This is always mainstream media: if I speak about Islam, they interpret it as hating Muslims. But I do not hate Muslims. I believe that this ideology is dangerous for all mankind. The Muslim community will also suffer under the Sharia.
As a convert to Christianity, how would you rate the behavior of the Catholic Church, which recommends greater openness to immigration?
I heard the Pope preaching this and I was very disappointed -- because Islam and Christianity cannot be compared. Christians must imitate Jesus who preached love and mercy, even to his enemies; treating others as you would like to be treated. Meanwhile, Islam, and especially the Islamic State, do exactly what Muhammad did. And he let his followers kill and take wives as sex slaves. We cannot compare these two worlds. Again, I do not mean Christians and Muslims, but their ideologies are mismatched.
The creator of this ideology was a criminal, a warlord who said that killing people brings glory. How can we open borders for such an ideology? As we do not know who is coming to us, we must be very careful, especially since we see what happened to Christians in Muslim countries. I do not understand the attitude of the Pope and the Catholic Church, who should care primarily about their members.
The Pope is no longer a Christian leader, but a politician and activist of human rights. He is no longer the head of the Church working for the good of Christianity and I do not see him as my guide. What I see when I look at him is a leftist politician. Jesus said we should love our enemies, but not that we should be stupid.
Is there something wrong in the dialogue with Islam that the Church and politicians have in common?
Politicians, church and Islam need each other. They also never speak -- the leaders and the Pope -- about the massacre of Christians in Africa and Syria. They do not criticize Islam, because they do not want to lose electoral votes. The church does not want to lose the support of the politicians. I also have the impression, that some are already extremely busy building a bridge to Islam, but they do not see that Islam burns it, that it is impossible to build a bridge only from one side. Why is Islam not building bridges in relations between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East? Because they are there the majority and have power. I always say to my Christian friends, "What do you think, what will happen to you if Islam becomes dominant here?"
Why do you think the politicians do it?
It is about money and votes. Some immigrants can be used as cheap workforce, where the locals do not want to work for the same pay. However, we must take into account that most of the immigrants do not work; there is no work for them. There is no work for uneducated people and most immigrants do not have higher education.
Many do not even have basic skills. It would take a long time to educate them. The government told the Swedes that immigrants would work for their retirement, but with time the Swedes realized that it was not true. First, immigrants will have a lot of children, a woman will never go to work -- which is also compatible with this culture -- and her husband probably will not get a job, even if he tries. Even if they wanted to learn, it would be a time-consuming process. However, why should they start at all if they receive a lot of money for doing nothing anyway? Still, they will vote for a person who will provide them with all the benefits.
So do you think that we should not help them?
Of course we should, but in the place of their origin. People keep telling me, "How can you say such things, if you are an immigrant yourself?" But I am not a danger for people living here. Many of the newcomers would cut off my head. I escaped from the Sharia regime in the Swedish suburbs and I do not wish to have it everywhere in the country. I am not against people, but the ideology, that they bring with them. And besides, we can help them there more efficiently for the same money.
Or maybe they will just convert to Christianity as you did? There is a trend, that many immigrants in Europe, Austria, Germany and Great Britain are turning to Christianity.
I think it is a scam. We talked about it in our church community. We found out that priests are extremely naive. If the immigrants receive a negative response from the asylum office, some of them run immediately to the church and say, "I am a Christian, if I return home, I will be killed." Some even get baptized. But once they achieve the necessary document, they go back to their Muslim community and their mosque.
I talked about it in the church, but I was told that this is a big problem, because they cannot reject people they do not know -- maybe they are telling the truth. But what do they do after receiving such a document? Currently, our church is full of Afghan boys. I said in my church clearly: in Islam you can lie to save yourself.
Do you think there is a chance to reform Islam?
No, I do not believe in it. I know that some people, for instance Ayaan Hirsi Ali, believe in this, but how can you reform God? The Koran is God's Word. The reform that the liberal Muslims believe in would only be possible if Islamic leaders wanted to reform and change Islam. It cannot come from individuals. It is also important not to make a mistake. Reformation in Christianity meant returning to the source, relying on the Scriptures. Applying this criterion, Islam has already been "reformed" by Wahhabism and Salafism. It means returning to the original sources and traditions of ancestors -- but this is probably not what we want?
Natalia Osten-Sacken,a doctor of science, is a freelance journalist at euroislam.pl. Her interviews are published at Wirtualna Polska