Ozlem Cekic

Ozlem Cekic

RIGHTS AVAILABLE: World (ex Denmark); TV/Film and all other rights controlled by BKS.

Özlem Cecik continuously receives racist, sexist, hate-filled emails and messages. The abuse started in 2007, when Özlem was first elected to the Danish Parliament. Özlem was the first elected Parliamentarian of Middle Eastern descent in Denmark.

At first, Özlem simply deleted the hate filled emails she was receiving. However, this didn’t stop the anxiety or her fear for her children’s safety.  And the emails kept coming.  Finally, after eight months of intensive harassment by one neo-Nazi in particular, Özlem chose another strategy. Instead of allowing fear to rule her life, Özlem decided to seek out her haters and engage them in conversation. She called these meetings ’Coffee Dialogues.’

See Ozlem explain in more detail at her New York City Ted Talk.

In Why Do They Hate You, Mom? Özlem Cecik reports on some of her most remarkable meetings with her abusers. She visits people with extreme attitudes towards other communities, like the ultra-right Kim, who’d happily kill his Muslim neighbours if only he had a gun. She gains entry to the Islamist Hizbut-Tahrirs mosque, where the imam preaches against democracy and homosexuality. Özlem meets the salafist Mahmut who has killed five policemen and is ready to lay down his life for Islam. Özlem meets the evangelical priest Henrik who opposes gays and whose belief in scripture is as fanatical as any imam’s. She ultimately travels to Israel and the occupied territories to witness the conflict for herself – the same conflict that plays out between Muslims and Jews across the world.

Throughout the book, Özlem exposes the essential similarities between extremists with different costumes and competing doctrines. Özlem is honest about her own doubts, fears and prejudices; and she probes the origins of anger, frustration and hate that can envelop anyone in the world today.

 Ultimately, throughout the book, Özlem tries to address the questions:

  • Can conversations break down prejudice and forge understanding?

  • Is it naive to believe that ordinary people have anything in common with extremists?

  • And what happens when we stop talking all together?

Özlem continues to hold Coffee Dialogues, but still keeps her home address secret. Several Danish citizens have been served with injunctions, and Özlem regularly reports new death threats to the police.