Leading a double life, reversion to Islam has saved French rapper Regis Fayette-Mikano from falling victim to heroin, murder and suicide that ended the lives of his close friends.
“I made peace with… myself,” Fayette-Mikano, now Abd Al Malik told The New York Times.
Born in Paris, Abd Al Malik was raised in Neuhof, a neighborhood of Strasbourg, to a catholic family.
A brilliant student, he was sent to a private Catholic middle school, where he was for a time the sole black student.
Leading a comfortable life, the Catholic altar boy became a thug, who used to pick pockets after Sunday Mass.
He also dealt with drugs, selling hashish at nightclubs and restaurants.
“I had a double life,” Abd Al Malik recalled.
“I was a good student during the day and a delinquent at night. And over vacations. And on the weekends. But for me it was normal.”
At 16, Abd Al Malik and a friend met a group of local men who preached them about Islam and death.
Deciding to start a new life, the two young men gathered their drugs and everything they had bought with drug money and burnt them in an abandoned field.
They also set out for a downtown mosque the next morning to embrace Islam.
After falling with a hardline group for six years, Abd Al Malik grew disenchanted with a “simplistic” Islam.
“God says, ‘I created you different so that you might know one another,’ ” he said, citing a verse of the Noble Qur’an.
Born to Congolese parents, black Abd Al Malik faced an over-proud French society that treats its non-white sons and daughters with a sort of discrimination.
“There’s really a lag between how France sees itself and what France really is,” he said, speaking with the same precise syllables and crisp consonants that distinguish his music.
Abd Al Malik as well as many French rappers sing about racism, identity and the plight of the “banlieues,” France’s impoverished suburbs.
“So long as we haven’t realized that diversity is part of French identity, at a certain point we’re telling ourselves that a Frenchman, after all, is a white man, Christian, who’s between 25 and 45,” Abd Al Malik said.
“And everything that doesn’t fit that description is tossed aside.”
The French rapper believes that France is “not capable of recognizing, directly, her own children”.
“From my point of view, this is our country’s major problem.”
Finding Islam, Abd Al Malik has overcome all his frustrations with France, viewing himself as profoundly French with a responsibility to help the country come to terms with itself.
Islam has “helped him to untangle a sort of ball of knots that he’s dragged with him since his childhood,” said his wife, the hip-hop singer Nawell Azzouz, known as Wallen.
Singing “Long live the rainbow France, unified, unburdened of all its fears,” the Muslim rapper hoped to define a new French identity that respects its ethnic and religious diversity.
“As soon as you know who you are, you know where you’re going,” Abd Al Malik said.
“For me, there’s no problem there: I know who I am. So everything’s fine.”