Jamel Debbouze was born in Paris, France and grew up there and in Taza, Morocco.

Debbouze is a Muslim–though with a few qualifiers. He has spoken of how faith played into his childhood, while hinting that his and his friends’ true religion was football. Nevertheless, he said (translated from French):

Religion, it was the cement of [my] family, a landmark  which allowed us… values. Importantly, it serves to not having for fear of [the afterlife], and this is reassuring!1

Debbouze clearly holds Islam in high regard, saying it helps to instill and preserve values of  “openness, sharing and solidarity.”2 However, he married a Catholic woman3 and is known to love his wine. (He is French after all.) He said (again, a translation):

This is a drink that has existed for 3000 years. It is there [for] a reason, I think we [Islam] should change–Islamic law should evolve all the time.4

And he has said that he is a “practicing Muslim practically,”5 which I take to mean that he is willing to adapt to the cultural norms of the West, in which he lives and to which he owes his success.

“This is my country too!”

Debbouze’s politics generally revolve around racism and the native French people’s unwillingness or inability to allow non-white French people to integrate. He has spoken of the discrimination he has experienced in France:

Taxis refuse to take me. Cops pull me over, even when they recognise me. Last week in the train, an elderly man grabbed me – by the hair ! – and said ‘Get out of the way.’ And I come up against the least racism in France. Can you imagine what it’s like for everyone else?6

To prove a point, Debbouze accepted a role in a film about North Africans’ valuable assistance to the Allies during World War II. He has criticized how French history books don’t even mention the Arab and North Africans’ role in liberating much of the continent from Nazis:

But in our history books, their contribution isn’t mentioned even once, and this isn’t right. I’m fed up with having to defend my right to live in this country. Me, I’m French, proud of it.7

Fortunately, as Debbouze skyrockets to fame in his native country, perhaps he’ll be in a position to actually affect change.

  1. Jamel Debbouze: “I Do Not Know Islam Whose Speak The Newspapers. La Vie. []
  2. Jamel Debbouze: “I Do Not Know Islam Whose Speak The Newspapers. La Vie. []
  3. Jamel Debbouze: “I Do Not Know Islam Whose Speak The Newspapers. La Vie. []
  4. Jamel Debbouze: “I am a practicing Muslim practically.” Bladi. []
  5. Jamel Debbouze: “I am a practicing Muslim practically.” Bladi. []
  6. Jamel Debbouze: France’s New Superstar. Telegraph. []
  7. Giving Credit to Forgotten Soldiers of France. NY Times. []