“A fascinating tale of wisdom and poetry” – ‘Lire’ on Thabit’s novel

6 October 2010 104 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Tristan Savin, for Lire, France (03.2010, translated into English for this post)

The Art of Becoming a terrorist
How does one become a terrorist? A Saudi intellectual, Abdullah Thabit, chose to respond by recounting his own experience: that of a Muslim who could have become “terrorist no. 20 ” in his first novel… He had until now only published collections of poems, and is now a bestseller on Arab online bookstores after causing a scandal in his country. Upon publication of his book in the United States, the Washington Post revealed that the author, now considered a “traitor” by some of his countrymen, received regular death threats.

The hero of the novel, Zahi Al Jibal, is a shepherd from the mountains of Saudi Arabia. Last born in a family of nine children, he experiences the violence of a demanding father. Zahi is raised traditionally, in the fear of disgrace. His story begins in the late 1970s. The once tolerant Muslim society, has changed: “It was before other habits settled that prohibited and condemned everything” before “the time of decisions”… before songs, women, the dissolution of morals are attacked. “Such is their nature: a commitment which may go as far as sacrifice, a fierce hatred that wants to destroy everything, ruin everything.” At the Coranic school, the boy discovers hand whacking. In college, an “awareness” group is interested in him. He is taught to identify “true believers”, and is pulled away from his family – untrue believers because they enjoy watching television. One day, his “master” tells him he must overthrow the oppressor to return to true religion. The first Gulf War breaks out and Westerners settle in the Holy Land. Zahi examines the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and books on the revolution. He wears a beard and white tunic. Gradually, his “heart swells with hatred”, like his companions: “I thought like them, I felt like them, I belonged to them.” Yet, his “friends” will end up cursing him. They accuse him of loving music. And it is music that saves him.
He realizes it on September 11th, 2001, when he discovers, scared, the images of the perpetrators of the attack: “I could have been with them; been the twentieth, if I had stayed with the group, and agreed to go to Afghanistan.” Come from afar, Thabit delivers a fascinating tale of wisdom and poetry.

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L’Art de devenir terroriste

Comment devient-on terroriste? Un intellectuel saoudien, AbdullahThabit, a choisi d’y répondre en racontant sa propre expérience: celle d’un musulman qui aurait pu devenir «le terroriste no. 20», titre de son premier roman… Il avait seulement publié des recueils de poèmes et le voici best-seller des librairies arabes en ligne après avoir provoqué un scandale dans son pays. Lors de la publication de son livre aux Etats-Unis, le Washington Post révélait que l’auteur, désormais considéré comme un «traître» par une partie de ses concitoyens, recevait régulièrement des menaces de mort.

Le héros du roman, Zahi al-Jibali, est un berger des montagnes d’Arabie. Dernier-né d’une famille de neuf enfants, il a connu la violence d’un père exigeant. Zahi est élevé selon la tradition, dans la crainte du déshonneur, Son histoire commence à la fin des années 1970, et la société musulmane, naguère tolérante, a changé: «C’était avant que ne s’installent d’autres habitudes qui interdisent tout et condamnent tout», avant «le temps où l’on décidait»… On s’en prend aux chansons, aux femmes, à la dissolution des moeurs. «Telle est leur nature ici: un attachement qui peut aller jusqu’au sacrifice, une haine farouche qui veut tout détruire,tout ruiner.» A l’école coranique, le garçon découvre les coups de baguette sur les mains. Au collège, un «groupe de conscientisation» s’intéresse à lui. On lui apprend à distinguer les « fidèles véritables», on l’éloigne de sa famille – incroyante car elle aime regarder la télévision. Un jour, son «maître» lui explique qu’il faut renverser l’oppresseur pour revenir à la religion authentique. La première guerre du Golfe éclate et les Occidentaux s’installent en Terre sainte. Zahi étudie l’idéologie des Frères musulmans et les ouvrages sur la révolution. Il porte la barbe et la tunique blanche. Peu à peu, son «coeur enfle de haine », à l’instar de ses compagnons: «Je pensais comme eux, je ressentais comme eux, je leur appartenais.» Pourtant, ses« amis » vont finir par le maudire. Ils lui reprochent d’aimer la musique. Et celle-ci le sauvera.
Il le réalisera le 11 septembre 2001en découvrant, effaré, les images des auteurs de l’attentat: «J’aurais pu me trouver avec eux, être le vingtième, si j’étais resté avec le groupe, si j’avais accepté d’aller en Afghanistan. » Revenu de loin, Thabit livre un récit fascinant de sagesse et d poésie.

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