Understanding the roots of religious radicalism – Yasmina Khadra in Brussels

For novelist Yasmina Khadra the roots of radicalism, sometimes called jihadism, stem from problems at home, from fractures in the family. “A child, a teenager who is neglected at home, what does he or she do? He goes to the street. And the street can be a great teacher. It can teach you how to be a great football player. But it can also teach how to be a drug dealer or something worse.”

On Tuesday, October 2nd, at Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, the Algerian writer addressed the youth in Brussels and presented his latest book, Khalil, in which the reader follows the life of a young man who is about to blow himself up. The event was co-organized with the foundation Ceci n’est pas une crise (This is not a crisis), which aims to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination, as well as fostering the interaction among people from all backgrounds.

Khadra, whose real name is Mohammed Moulessehoul, worked for many years in the army, specifically in the forces tasked with studying terrorist rebel forces in Algeria. “I spent many years trying to think like a terrorist,” he stated. “What would they do, how would they react. That was my job.”


Yasmina Khadra
By ActuaLitté – Yasmina Khadra – Livre sur la Place 2014, CC


After leaving the army, he moved to France in 2001 when he revealed that he had been writing under the name of his wife. He achieved fame with the publication of books such as The Swallows of Kabul and The Attack, which was made into a movie and now also a play.

Khadra believes that many of the young men and women who fall prey to the messages of religious fanaticism have suffered from a lack of appreciation in their environment. “They feel rejected. They feel like they don’t receive the respect they deserve. And that age, you can say, it’s understandable. Young people need to feel that society accepts them, that they are liked.”

In the audience someone questioned his belief that everything could be traced back to problems in the family. These young people have been completely dis-empowered in every realm of society, the person in the audience said.

“I don’t think for a moment that these marginalized people are weak or dis-empowered because how do these radical preachers manage to persuade them to do the things that they do? Those actions require a lot of will power. And so we have to turn things around. What if society had the power to draw them into other kinds of activities, healthier activities? That would be a different story.”