How artists can heal – and heal others – after tragedy

May 26, 2017

I was interviewed for this article at the Christian Science Monitor:

While Europe and the West have seen an increase in significant terrorist attacks on cultural institutions, parts of the Middle East and Asia have long dealt with Islamist extremists targeting arts organizations, says Karima Bennoune, special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights for the United Nations. “What we’re seeing now is that what’s happened in certain countries for years has transposed to the international level.”

Like the attacks in Paris, the Manchester bombing was “a crime against humanity, a crime against people, and a crime against culture,” says Ms. Bennoune. “It’s part of a global pattern of attacks.”

In her book, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism,” Bennoune documents the experiences of many groups in parts of the Muslim world that have long fought back against attacks on the arts. In one case, a Pakistani theater director named Faizan Peerzada defiantly staged a performing arts festival two years after a previous event was targeted in a violent attack.

“It’s absolutely critical to continue cultural life and not to back off on concerts and public enjoyment of cultural life,” she says. “Just as culture and artists have been among the prime targets of extremists so, too, are culture and artists among the primary vehicles that we can use to defy these extremists.”

Christian Science Monitor

20th anniversary of the assassinations Leila Kheddar and Mohamed Redha Kheddar

June 24, 2016

June 24, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the assassinations by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) of lawyer Leila Kheddar and businessman Mohamed Redha Kheddar, sister and brother Cherifa Kheddar, in Algeria. These terrible killings along with others in the “triangle of death” by the GIA (the ISIS of the day) would spark the founding of Djazairouna, the Algerian association of victims of Islamist terrorism, a few months later in 1996. Sadly, this story, which appears on pages 170-176 of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, remains all too relevant today.

Please remember the Kheddars today, share their story on Facebook and Twitter and in your networks, and honor the courage of victims and their families.

The best memorial is to keep up the fight against fundamentalism and terror.

Photo courtesy of the Kheddar family.

Remembering the late, great Somali singer Saado Ali Warsame

January 25, 2016

An honor to take part in @mpvusa’s “celebration of life.”An honor to take part in @mpvusa's celebration of life.


Guardian lists Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here as a book we should all be reading

December 14, 2015

Minna Salami, writing in The Guardian, listsYour Fatwa Does Not Apply Here as a book we should all be reading.

Karima Bennoune’s Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, is an important book for our times, tackling how women and men in the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia are fighting religious fundamentalism often risking their own lives.

Read “Feminism needs global voices – Here are eight books we should all be reading.”

Why ISIS Recruits Women And What Can Be Done About It

December 11, 2015

This is an interview I did with NPR about women being recruited by ISIS.

Originally posted at WBUR.

How the Right and the Left Are Getting San Bernardino Wrong

December 08, 2015

My piece in The Huffington Post:

…we have to declare all-out war on the political ideology of Islamism that motivated Syed Farook and Tafsheen Malik, while simultaneously standing firm against all attempts to discriminate against Muslims generally.

Read the rest at

Discussing Syrian Refugees

November 18, 2015

I was on ABC 10 News to talk about Syrian Refugees:

U.C. Davis law professor Karima Bennoune said families allowed in to the United States are put through an extensive background check. She said the one Paris attacker with a Syrian passport was almost certainly not a refugee, but from Europe like the other terrorists.

“Only one of the suspected perpetrators that we now know of was carrying this allegedly fake Syrian passport and all of them may well have been sort of home-grown,” Bennoune said. “We really have to step up and show generosity and courage and leadership while, indeed, taking the security issue seriously.”

The video can be found here:

Peace Is Loud interviews Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna

November 15, 2015

Peace Is Loud has published an interview with the amazing Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna, whose story appears in Chapter five of Your Fatwa does not Apply Here. Read it a Peace is Loud.

At Dayton

November 10, 2015

With the 2014 and 2015 winners and runners up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, including the emcee journalist Nick Clooney (far left), Holbrooke Award winner Gloria Steinem (third from right), Phil Donohue who gave her her award (second from right) and 2015 non-fiction winner and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson (far right) to whom I, as last year’s winner, presented the award this year.

Photo Credit Andy Snow.

 It is not every day that you have the honor of being listened to by Bryan Stevenson (this year’s non-fiction winner) and the amazing Gloria Steinem (Holbrooke lifetime achievement award winner).

Photo credit Andy Snow

Q & A at Dayton Daily news

November 06, 2015

I recently did a Q & A at the Dayton Daily News

Q. Was it a surprise to you when you realized you wanted to write a book, or have you always wanted to write?

A. I have been writing off and on since I was a kid. I went through what I like to call a “sincere college phase” during which I wrote various pieces. “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” was more than me just wanting to tell the stories of people facing incredibly frightening situations in order to stand up against fundamentalism and terrorism. I felt I had no other choice but to tell these stories and to capture the overall story of the bravery of Muslims standing up to Islamist groups in many countries — France, Senegal, Mali, Egypt, and more.

Telling these stories is the best way I knew to honor these intelligent, brave people using their wits to fight oppression and terror. It is a great honor to have done so, and to have had this book published.

Read the rest at The Dayton Daily News.

The Dayton Daily News has also posted an excerpt of Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here.


Coverage of a forum hosted by El Khabar in Algiers on December 9.

December 23, 2013

El Khabar, Algeria’s largest Arabophone newspaper, hosted a forum in Algiers on December 9 on Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism. The event was attended by family members of a number of individuals whose opposition to fundamentalism is described in the book, including family members of Amel Zenoune-Zouani, A law student murdered by extremists for continuing her studies, of those to whom the book is dedicated. Also in attendance were the heads of two of Algeria’s major groups of victims of terrorism: Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna, and Adnane Bouchaib, President of Somoud, the collective of families of those who disappeared at the hands of the armed groups.

The forum drew widespread coverage in Algerian media, including an article in El Watan, the country’s leading Francophone newspaper, which is available at the following link, and which described Professor Bennoune’s book as “precise” and “courageous,” and Praised Her For Not Allowing Algerian Victims Of Terrorism To Be Forgotten.

Link to the article in French: SIAWI

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here named Booklist’s Editors’ Choice

December 17, 2013

Delighted that Booklist has included Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here on their Editors’ Choice List. See the full list at the Booklist Website

The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright

December 01, 2013

I was recently interviewed on CBC Radio. You can listen to it by visiting their website: The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here on Booklist’s top 10 Religion & Spirituality Books

November 15, 2013

The Guardian on Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here

October 28, 2013

“Mark Tran from The Guardian writes about Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here, including a video of me talking about why I wrote the book and other topics from the book. See it at The Guardian

Wole Soyinka Remembering Kofi Awoonor

October 07, 2013

Professor Soyinka delivered a beautiful and pointed tribute to Kofi Awoonor on September 27 at a gathering of Nigerian writers at the Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos:

These butchers continue to evoke the mandate of Islam, thus, we exhort our moslem brother and sister colleagues: Take back Islam. Take back that Islam which, even where it poses contradictions, declares itself one with the Culture of Learning, one that honours its followers as People of the Book, historic proponents of the virtues of intellect and its products. There is no religion without contradictions – it is the primacy of human dignity and solidarity that serves as arbiter. We call upon the fastidious warrior class of the intellect, steeped in a creative contempt and defiance of enemies of the humanistic pursuit…

Read the entire speech at Pambazuka News

World Affairs Council Interview

September 18, 2013

I was interviewed by the World Affairs Council about Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here.

“Everyone knows Osama bin Laden, but the people who stood up to bin Laden are not known in the west,” she explained, “Behind every headline, there are lives of real people, families and communities that are deeply affected.”

The True Muslim Revolutionaries and Their Fight Against Extremism

August 29, 2013

Timothy Michael Law writes about Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here for “The Daily Beast.” He says,

Even though they have never been as exciting to our tastes as those who shoulder rockets, nonviolent revolutionaries have been fighting for decades against the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. Karima Bennoune’s Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here presents extraordinary stories from 286 interviews she held with “people of Muslim heritage” from 26 countries.

Read the rest at The Daily Beast

Interview with Fatma Zohra Boukhalfa

August 15, 2013

Chapter 4: To Speak Out and Die: Journalists Writing for their Lives - For those who were touched by the story of the Algerian journalists who survived the February 11, 1996 Armed Islamic Group bombing at Tahar Djaout Press House and still continued their work (from the opening of Chapter 4: To Speak Out and Die), here is one more testimony - from a woman journalist at Le Soir d’Algérie who lived through these events.

Download a transcript of the interview.

Djamel Derraza

August 14, 2013

Chapter 4: To Speak Out and Die: Journalists Writing for their Lives - One of the last crossword puzzles designed by Djamel Derraza before he lost his life in the attack.

Mohamed Dorbane

August 13, 2013

Journalist Mohamed Dorbane, who died in the bombing, was multi-talented, penning a beloved column, writing fiction and even drawing.

Mohamed Dorbhan

Le Soir

August 12, 2013

Chapter 4: To Speak Out and Die: Journalists Writing for their Lives - Here I am at the offices of Le Soir d’Algérie in July 2013, honored to be holding the newspaper’s archives from February 1996 which were kindly shared with me by the paper’s staff.

Dr. Mahfoud Bennoune

August 07, 2013

My father, who inspired the book.

Djazairouna Collage

August 01, 2013

Algerian women victims of the fundamentalist terrorism of the 1990s. Courtesy of Djazairouna.

The Grave of Leila Kheddar

July 24, 2013

Chapter 5: Growing Roses in the Triangle of Death - The grave of Leila Kheddar, one of the people to whom the book is dedicated, bearing flowers from the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of her assassination in June 1996 by the Armed Islamic Group in Blida, Algeria.

Mrs. Kheddar

July 24, 2013

Chapter 5: Growing Roses in the Triangle of Death - Mrs. Kheddar, mother of Cherifa Kheddar, mourns her children Leila and Mohamed Redha, at their graves in June 2013, on the seventeenth anniversary of their murder by the Armed Islamic Group. “I am glad at least I let my children live the way they wanted to.” The family mourns by continuing the fight against fundamentalism and for human rights in Algeria.

Interview in Publishers Weekly

May 17, 2013

Publishers Weekly interviewed me about Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. Read it at Publishers Weekly.