Benali Profile

There’s a great profile of Dutch-Moroccan writer Abdelkader Benali in the Daily Star. The article covers his work as a novelist and playwright–as well as his more recent foray in literary reportage. (Benali was living in Beirut during the Israeli bombing, and wrote about it for Dutch audiences.) One tidbit that resonated with me:

Benali views his job as being to creatively undermine his assigned role.

“In Holland it’s all about belonging to clubs – a running club or a sewing club. I don’t belong to any club,” he says. “People expect me to speak as a Muslim or a Moroccan yet I’m giving you my own opinion. I use my tricks, my language skills, to undermine the role they’ve assigned me.

“The problem is that everything’s connected to Islam. It never really becomes an intellectual discussion because that would invite argument and people don’t want that. Whenever journalists want the ‘Muslim Dutch perspective,’ they never go to an intellectual. They find some old man at a mosque.

This doesn’t surprise me one bit. I was invited to a panel recently, with the express purpose to give “the Muslim perspective.” I said there is no such thing. I can only give my perspective. That didn’t go over so well.