Talk to Al Jazeera

Yasmina Khadra: ‘A battle of extremes’

The French-Algerian author shares his views on literature, politics, freedom of speech, and the Charlie Hebdo attack.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7, 2015, and the following solidarity marches in cities across France an intense debate is shaping up in Paris about freedom of speech: the meaning of a word, or a picture – and what, if any, limits should be imposed on them.

For me, the murderer doesn’t have an identity. He doesn’t have a nationality. He is characterised and identified by its wrongdoing. So I shouldn’t have to feel guilty because he’s Algerian. We have to stop linking the origin of a murderer with his act…

by Yasmina Khadra

A new issue of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is selling in record numbers with no interference from authorities.

At the same time, police quickly arrested a controversial comedian after he allegedly made a public statement in support of the attackers. Are double standards being used?

One of the most-celebrated authors in France today is Yasmina Khadra whose real name is Mohammed Moulessehoul. He is Muslim and was born in Algeria, where he served in the military.

He started writing about his experiences, protecting himself against censorship by adopting a female pseudonym.

After spending years in France as a writer, he ran for president in Algeria. He did not win, but it gave him an opportunity to get involved in the political changes sweeping North Africa.

Yasmina Khadra, a man whose own life stands right at the intersection of the big debate about Islam and the West, Muslims in France, and the role of art and literature, talks to Al Jazeera.

He says: “We are seeing a battle of extremes. On one side, in France, for example, freedom of speech is sacred. On the other, for all those who believe, religion is sacred. Of course, both are right to defend their values. But both are wrong to impose their values upon others ….

“We must respect other peoples’ faiths and other peoples’ cultures. We must respect other peoples’ mentalities … If we all stay in our corners, isolated, not wanting to see each other, it’s a dialogue of the deaf. And a dialogue of the deaf has never shed any light on this nebulous ideology we call Islamism.”

undefined Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430 and 1930; Sunday: 1930; Monday: 1430 .    

     Watch more Talk to Al Jazeera