Many among you have probably heard of or read the articles written by Algerian journalist and writer Kamel Daoud as a comment/analysis of last year’s “Cologne attacks”. The regular readers of Patriots on Fire probably know that I disagree with Daoud. I made some short comments on Twitter but didn’t have enough will to blog about the whole issue. Add that many have reacted with more or less sensible articles. This one being among the best I’ve read and Google will help you find many more.
The story could have ended with the letters exchanged between Daoud and Adam Shatz and Daoud’s announcement that he would quit journalism to dedicate himself to literature. But it didn’t. Other letters are indeed being sent and Daoud’s supporters are writing to defend him, etc. Have fun people!
Then you probably wonder why I am writing.
Well… I saw this article on Twitter and there we learn that a US military white paper includes statements such as “I believe young Muslims are motivated to join radical groups because of sexual deprivation” or “the proliferation of militant Salafism and the hijab contribute to the idea of passive terrorism“. And the one making these assertions is Dr. Tawfik Hamid, “a self-described former member of the militant al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya”. And this is where things get interesting: besides the similarities to tell the least between the above and Daoud’s reasoning, Kamel Daoud also declared having been an Islamist. Daoud grew a beard, handed out leaflets and became the imam of his high school.
As he noticed this pattern, an Algerian journalist decided to investigate/question this Islamist past of Kamel Daoud – Yes, Algerian investigative journalism is not a myth and not all Algerian journalists take what they hear for granted and comment it as people do in their coffee shops! (no, I am not pointing at the CPP)
So this journalist rushed yesterday night to Daoud’s hometown in Mostaghanem and sought to interview people who knew the famous writer. He was lucky enough to meet two old acquaintances of Daoud, named Belqis and Slimane. He set up a meeting today at noon between the two and recorded them while they recalled their memories.
The journalist didn’t think his article would be published and has therefore agreed to give the transcription to us as a contribution to our PoFLeaks series – We never censor anybody here at PoF.
As he is neither a sociologist nor a psychologist, do not expect the below to include any analysis attempt of any sort. Also, I am not able to publish the whole dialogue (the meeting lasted more than two hours) so I had to select the most informative excerpts.
Belqis: I remember, before we got to know you, my girlfriends and I were kind of afraid of the two of you. You had those beards and Daoud was so taciturn.
Slimane: We were called Islamists before our 14th birthday. But the truth is (he laughs) our parents didn’t allow us to shave our nascent beards, they said we were too young to use a razor, so it was just normal that our beards grew.
Belqis: I remember Daoud still had a beard in high school.
Slimane: Yep. His father was severe and only let him shave it when he got 18. I removed mine when I was 15. How is it that you seem to remember him so well?
Belqis: Well (smiles awkwardly). He actually proposed to me a few weeks before he removed his beard. I said no; he wanted me to wear the hijab.
Slimane: Really, he never told me about it. And the hijab? How odd!
Belqis: Well you were Islamists weren’t you?
Slimane: I don’t know, I guess we were just young practicing Muslims.
Belqis: The thing is, a few weeks later, he came back a changed man without his beard but still not smiling and he asked me out, you know for a date.
Slimane: Beard and marriage then no beard and a date. He’s always been like that, from an extreme to another. There is no gray zone, no nuance.
Belqis: Yeah, and I refused again. He didn’t understand that not wearing the hijab didn’t mean I’d go on dates. He said “You are a sexually backward woman. Not just you, all Algerian and Muslim women are backward”. We never spoke again. (Silence) I guess I broke his heart twice (now laughing) and it is the disappointed love Adam Shatz mentioned in his last year’s article.
Slimane: His last article on the NYT says it is us, the Algerian and Muslim men, who are sexually miserable.
Belqis: Hell you are! Jokes aside, I find it ironic that I wear the hijab now and nobody asked me to do it. And he divorced in 2008 after his ex-wife wore it.
Belqis: So you’re telling me you weren’t Islamists. How is it that he never looked a girl in the eyes?
Slimane: Well you said it, he was taciturn and sensitive. He blushed whenever he spoke to a girl, let alone looking at her. At some point, he said it wasn’t permitted. Apparently he read it in some book, El Mawdudi or El Mahbubi for all I knew.
Belqis: But you were quite a few to follow him.
Slimane: Teenagers need something to cling to. For some it is sports or music, and it was religion for us. And as he read a lot – though I doubt he understood El Ghazali‘s “Revival” which he said to have read when he was 13 yo, he knew much more than us on the subject. He even led us sometimes in the prayers… Remember that change room we turned into a prayers room?
Belqis: Course. I remember the strike you guys have led until the administration agreed to it.
Slimane: Good old days. Young people with principles and an ideal. We had fun.
Belqis: So why do you think he became the man we read now on LQO? I mean even if he wasn’t a real Islamist, he had faith in Islam right?
Slimane: Seriously, all this was while we were between 13 and 18 yo. Do you seriously think we really knew what being an Islamist meant? Perhaps he knew, he was smarter. (with a big grin) Perhaps he changed when he felt the eroticism conveyed by « Elle s’avança vers moi nue » which he mentioned in the interview he gave to La Republique des Livres. I am a bit confused actually, do you think he read all those erotic French novels, the Quran, El Ihyaa and El Mawdudi in the same 5 years long period during which he was our Islamist leader?
Belqis: Don’t be cheeky now. I’d like to believe that he stopped being an Islamist because I rejected him.
Slimane: Right, either this or the female characters in the French novels he read, it is always a woman’s fault.
Forgive the long text, believe me I spared you the least interesting parts. I hope this sheds some light which would help you understand Kamel Daoud. 😀