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Belgian-Moroccan author pens ‘Jihad for Love’ book as ‘response to terrorists’

Ghassen Fridhi

Published: Updated:

“Writing, for me, was inevitable. It was an outlet, it was necessary. Writing was my way of immortalizing Loubna. Her name and her memory will survive. I want people to remember her,” said Mohamed el Bachiri, a Belgian citizen of Molenbeek.

Bachiri lost his wife Loubna Lafquiri during the Maelbeek metro station attack on March 22, 2016. Lafquiri, a dynamic and always-smiling sports teacher, was in the metro on her way to the school where she taught when a bomb exploded inside the train car she was in.

After his tragic loss, Bachiri, a 38 years old man of Moroccan origin, started writing.

“I was not able to sleep after the Brussels terrorist attacks. I started writing every night in bed as soon as my children were sleeping. I wrote small texts and poetries on my phone. I was expressing my thoughts. I wrote with my heart and my means,” he said.

A stele inaugurated in Molenbeek on Wednesday 21 March 2018 in tribute to Loubna Lafquiri (Supplied)
A stele inaugurated in Molenbeek on Wednesday 21 March 2018 in tribute to Loubna Lafquiri (Supplied)

Bachiri ’s book ‘A Jihad of Love’ has now become a huge success in Belgium and the Netherlands. The book, translated into four languages so far, will soon be adapted for the theatre. Following an interview on Flemish television at the end of 2016, Bachiri met with David Van Reybrouck, a Flemish writer and historian. They had the idea to compile and structure Bachiri’s thoughts and writings into a short and easy-to-read book in which the author speaks about various topics such as his personal life, his family, his roots, society, religion, etc.

“I wanted to send a universal message of love. The only way to answer the terrorists is with love. This is all they hate. This is the worst thing for them. Calling for violence and revenge would be just being like them,” Bachiri said.

Since the attacks, Bachiri said he encountered many difficulties on his way back to normality.

He had worked for the Brussels public transport company as metro driver from 2005 to 2016. Following the trauma of losing his wife during the Maelbeek metro attack, Bachiri was unable to ride the metro again and could not report back at work.

Since the death his wife, Bachiri said he could not sleep and was forced to take medication. He is now a single-father of three sons aged four, nine and 11-years-old. “Now in our life, everything is deconstructed. My children are suffering. The younger one didn’t understand yet that their mother was gone. He is still asking for her. But my aim is to fill them with happiness in order to honor their mother,” he said tearfully.

Mohamed el Bachiri and his sons in front of the stele inaugurated in Molenbeek on Wednesday 21 March 2018 in tribute to Loubna Lafquiri (Supplied)
Mohamed el Bachiri and his sons in front of the stele inaugurated in Molenbeek on Wednesday 21 March 2018 in tribute to Loubna Lafquiri (Supplied)

Bachiri found a lot of support in Belgium and Morocco following his loss. His family is closely assisting him. He receives hundreds of messages on social media daily and said he was very thankful for that. But still he considered himself as “heavy burden on his relatives”. And at the end he is fully conscious that he bears the full responsibility of his three young sons.

Bachiri says he is one example of many Europeans of Muslim and Arab origins who, during the part extremist attacks in Europe, found themselves justify their presence to others. “I am seen by some people as a threat and in the same time I lost my wife in a terrorist attack,” he said.

“It’s sad that it needs to have Muslims victims in the terrorist attacks in Europe to prove that we, as Muslims, are also victims of terrorism. We are victims twice over. It’s sad that we always have to show that we have nothing to do with such criminal and sectarian groups,” he added.

Maelbeek metro station on Thursday, March 22. (Al Arabiya English)
Maelbeek metro station on Thursday, March 22. (Al Arabiya English)

Following the attacks, Bachiri said he fully understood the role he could play given that he hails from Molenbeek, a neighborhood where many of those responsible for the Paris and Brussels attacks came from or lived before carrying out their crimes. Bachiri said he knows the issues that young people and communities are facing in such neighborhoods.

“These young people have a lot of frustration and anger and they need to express it. But they need to express it with love and not with violence and hate. I want to encourage them to write, to express themselves, to show wisdom despite the discriminations they are facing,” he stressed.

He underlined the necessity for politicians, imams and parents to understand these youngsters and the need to speak to them in their own language. But Bachiri confesses that young people from his area nowadays lack models to look up to.

The Molenbeek local defined himself as a citizen of the world and fully assumes his many identities. “I am Belgian, Moroccan, Muslim and from Molenbeek. I am a citizen of the world. But here with people of Maghreb (North African) origin, there is a problem of identity and integration. This is obvious,” he said.

Bachiri and his sons were invited by King Mohammed VI of Morocco in July 2016. The King spoke about Lafquiri as a model of integration. “She was an emancipated woman, an extraordinary woman. She was sports teacher, she loved her job. She was very active and sporty. She had a lot of friends, she was smiling all the time. Her loss has caused a huge sadness to everyone” he confessed almost moved to tears”.

“Through the book, I wanted to immortalize Loubna. My book is a testimony of love for my wife and children. It is an ode to life, for humanity, a call for openness, a message against extremism and fundamentalism,” he said.

“It’s important to put forward the humanity, to recognize the other as your brother or your sister despite the diversity, despite the difference of believe and religion. The other remains your brother in humanity. For the terrorists, if you think differently they consider you as an enemy. But all the religions are based on love, living together and universal values” he concluded.