Casablanca — A new film by acclaimed Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch shows how fundamentalism can corrupt the minds of young people.
"Les Chevaux de Dieu" ("The Horses of God") by Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch presents a compelling story about how shantytown boys become terrorists.
In making the film, Ayouch returned to the Casablanca slum of Sidi Moumen and met with residents and community organisations, the director told a press conference that coincided with a film screening in Casablanca on January 22nd.
Sidi Moumen was the hometown of young suicide bombers who carried out terrorist attacks in the Moroccan city back in May 2003.
"I wanted to show how political Islam is strengthening its hold over these shanty towns. I drew different various interpretations and examined the way in which fundamentalists have seized on the concept of solidarity and how they go about recruiting these young people," he told reporters.
Ayouch bought the rights to adapt Mahi Binedine's book, "Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen" ("The Stars of Sidi Moumen"), to the silver screen. The book precisely portrayed the story that he wanted to tell in his film.
Binebine said in a letter that he gave his seal of approval immediately after reading the script.
"I also went along to watch the filming for a day. I was extremely surprised to meet the children I had imagined ... All writers dream of seeing their characters come to life on screen. But by no means are we apologists for terrorism, even if we are fond of these kids who are victims of obscurantism," the author wrote in his letter.
In the film, 10-year-old Yachine and 13-year-old Hamid live in Sidi Moumen. Their mother raises her family as best she can. Hamid ends up in prison, and Yachine takes on odd jobs in an attempt to get out of this backwater rife with violence, misery and drugs.
While in prison, Hamid undergoes a change. Having become a radical Islamist during his imprisonment, he persuades Yachine and his friends to join their "brothers". The imam then helps them to embark on a lengthy physical and mental preparation. One day, he tells them that they have been chosen to become martyrs: God's Horses.
"The main message is the need to use a humanitarian approach to understand this complex phenomenon, and to stop believing that this is Islam. Islam is not like that," Ayouch told Magharebia when asked about the message he wanted to convey.
Merieme and Adib, two young Casablancans who were among the guests at the screening, told Magharebia that "Les Chevaux de Dieu" is a must-see.
"It's a film that tells alarming truths about the lives of suicide bombers, their recruitment and their environment, which is lacking in every way," Merieme said.
Adib said that political leaders and government decision-makers should watch the film "as they will definitely realise the importance of continuing to listen to young Moroccans to guard them against all forms of extremism".