A Jihadi For Love by Mohamed El Bachiri with David Van Reybrouck
Mohamed El-Bachiri is a Muslim. He lost his wife Loubna in the Brussels bombing of March 2016 – a young woman murdered by a fanatical jihadist. Mohamed was left to bring up their three sons on his own.
Instead of hating or collapsing into grief, he put together a short book of reflections on love, loss and the ways in which we can live together despite differences of religion and ideology.
It is a plea for tolerance and compassion, a rejection of fanaticism, and it is a heartbreaking book. Mohamed El-Bachiri shows how an argument for treating each other with kindness and respect can survive even the most brutal atrocity.
For him, Islam should be a struggle for love, and the struggle for love should involve us all.
If I could quote this beautiful, moving and inspirational non-fiction memoir once, I could quote it a hundred times! The writer has clearly written about a personal tragedy, with exceptional honesty and in doing so, has produced a memoir that is thought-provoking and emotive. The synopsis details the tragedy that has left Mohamed as a single father to three boys aged just 10, 8, 3yrs old. This memoir details before the event and the writer’s recovery in the aftermath.
“By writing about love, I came closer to your shining face”
The memoir opens with the writer giving the real meaning of the term Jihadi. I was already aware of this due to reading Qasim Rashid’s non-fiction books, in which he speaks of the ‘jihadi of the pen’. But I think it is important for readers and it serves to clarify the title of the memoir. Mohamed talks of his upbringing in Belgium, being Belgian by birth right. He talks of his parent’s immigration into the country. He speaks French and knows limited Arabic. He states he is Muslim by birth, then by conviction. Mohamed comes across as a modern Muslim man, dealing with an incredible loss.
“Just consider me a dead man. A dead man giving a lesson in life”
He talks of Islam with love and details how it defines him as a man. He talks the reader through the moral values such as: uprightness, friendliness, sense of honour and keeping one’s word. He talks about attending a Catholic primary school and recalls the first time he ever was on the receiving end of racial abuse. I really admired this author, I considered his memoir to be brave, inspirational and emotionally intelligent.
“You may criticise the Koran, but as poetry it is without an equal”
“Wisdom begins with curiosity”
“The Future? It starts with history”
He talks of meeting his wife for the first time and how he fell instantly in love. Loubna was also Muslim, although she wore no headscarf and took a progressive outlook towards Islam. Their relationship struck me as one based on love and respect, even from a young age! I felt I could relate to their marriage, despite the cultural differences to my own.
“Her face radiatd so much love, so much goodness………..Loubna”
“Loubna, in fact is speaking through everything I say here”
Mohamed talks more in-depth about his faith and the area of Belgium he lives in, Molenbeek. An area which has sadly been home to radicalised Muslims. But he describes the community with such love and is determined to separate his community from those whom seek to harm others.
“If you think taking innocent lives and creating traumas is a form of justice, even of god’s justice, then you and I don’t belong to the same religion”
“Beyond everything that divides us and separates us, all inhabitants of this earth are bound together black people, white people, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists”
Mohamed talks about his connection to humanity, claiming he is a human first and a Muslim second. As an atheist, I do not conform to any religious standard. But that doesn’t mean I don’t admire religious practices. Having friends of various faiths has granted me the opportunity to ask freely many questions. This I personally consider a gift.
“You can lose your culture, your faith, your country, but you don’t lose your humanity”
He talks about the separation of religion and state; of which I completely agree. It is rare to want to meet an author and tell them you whole-heartedly agree with every word they have written; with this author I do! 5*
“I am a jihadi for love. Don’t ask me to hate, I would rather die”
*I Couldn’t find out much about the author, himself. So I have added some links that reference the book. The memoir is short at only 96 pages. But I highly recommend it!
YouTube Video of the authors speech (with subtitles): https://youtu.be/OW28KPPOiok