In a new memoir Hamed Abdel-Samad, a German-Egyptian, documents a personal odyssey that began in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and ended with a job as an academic for an Institute for Jewish History and Culture in Munich. The scholar knows the quran by heart and loves German beers.
Der Spiegel Hamed Abdel-Samad has been through several phases in his life. At 16, after graduating from high school, he hugged his mother, shook his father’s hand and set off for the Egyptian capital Cairo — a gifted young man who wanted not only to educate himself, but also to change the world.
[In Islamic society] “Everyone suppresses everyone else. The government suppresses the people, and the people suppress each other.” Every day, we [Muslims] think about who or what has offended us. People are frustrated throughout the Arab world. They don’t know what to do with their rage, and they look for scapegoats.”
Abdel-Samad describes the first decision he had to make: “Do I join the Marxists or the Muslim Brotherhood?” His father was an imam, and so he took up with the Marxists, or “Muslim brothers without God,” as he likes to call them. After less than a year, he had had enough of the godless revolutionaries and joined the true Muslim brothers. They accepted him with open arms and offered him everything an alert and searching spirit needs: spirituality, camaraderie and companionship.
His father had already taught him how to read the Koran, but with the Brotherhood he learned how to translate its teachings into practice, for Allah and the victory of Islam over the infidels. His favorite pastime was to march with the Brotherhood during demonstrations, waving the flag of the Prophet and shouting: “Death to the Jews!”
Shabka Although Abdel-Samad criticizes Islam in a very provocative way, he still regards himself as a Muslim “who converted from belief to knowledge”. His provocative speech on Islam led one of the heads of the conservative Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, Assem Abdel-Maged, and Mahmoud Shabaan, a professor of religious rhetoric at the Azhar University, to publicly call for his murder, after declaring Samad an “apostate” on the TV channel, Al-Hafez. Immediately, an online campaign was launched, showing pictures of Samad with the caption: “Wanted dead”.
Today, less than 20 years later, Abdel-Samad lives in Munich, where he is married to a Danish woman and works for the Institute for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich. The title of the doctoral dissertation he is currently writing is: “The Portrayal of Jews in Egyptian Schoolbooks.”