Interview with Zaki Chairi
Interview with Zaki Chairi, young activist, member of Empowering Belgian Muslims and radio presenter.
Published over a week ago, the video by Zaki Chairi perfectly sums up the distinct atmosphere of today’s Europe. The creator humorously dismantles the regulations taken by the French government in the fight against radicalism.
Hello Zaki Chairi, could you please tell us about yourself?
I’m a Belgian citizen, Muslim and former teacher. I’m also a radio presenter and in charge of the youth programme at AraBel FM.
In your latest video you satirically call into question the French government’s latest campaign to fight radicalisation.
This campaign is supposed to detect people who are heading toward radicalisation. The French government has released a document detailing specific, visible signs that a person might be heading toward radicalisation. Stopping listening to music, stopping going to the gym and a change in diet are, according to this document, all signs of radicalisation. I find this absurd. For our part, we are trying to take this absurdity to the extreme and, thus, in this way, raise awareness of the discriminatory and ludicrous nature of this document. In the video we wanted to create a sort of “de-radicalisation centre”. For example, there is a music room where young people are forced to listen to Justin Bieber. In another room they are taught freedom of expression. This is a way of showing the contradictions of the French government’s initiative through the art of the absurd.
How has the feedback been so far?
It’s been really positive. It’s reassuring to know that it’s making people laugh. With this podcast, I wanted to provoke a sort of online intellectual awakening. I want to create entertainment that is of some use. However, after the jokes and the laughter, the politicians need to take responsibility.
In France, people are talking about a collective psychosis. Do you feel that is a similar in the Belgian society?
There is a certain level of influence from France. [There is] a general suspicion towards the Muslim communities. Muslims are systematically asked to distance themselves from the tragedies that are happening all around the world. To believe that Muslims have already expressed solidarity towards terrorism is incredible!
What is the viewpoint of Belgian citizens?
They are not the main targets of this Islamophobia, but they directly suffer from it. Media, because of their greed to earn money, and the policy makers all have a responsibility in relation to this issue. It is their policies, their own agenda and ideas that are imposed onto people. They mislead us, having us believe that Islam and immigration are major problems. What concerns us citizens however, are issues regarding education, employment and discrimination.
You are also a member of Empowering Belgian Muslims, what are your main objectives?
The main goal is to raise the quality of life of the Muslim community and thus simultaneously raise the quality of society as a whole by coexisting. There are three aspects: networking, training and advocacy. We wanted to create a meaningful discussion derived from different aspects of our community. We’ve been working with different associations to establish a network and produce high quality work.