His films are about why Moroccan Dutch think branded clothing is so important (970,448 views), or he asks boys from Morocco if they want to marry girls from the Netherlands (428,445). Salaheddine Benchikhi is one of the most popular YouTubers among Moroccan Dutch. His videos about Moroccans, Muslims and Islam in the Netherlands are viewed thousands of times.
But even though he’s big on YouTube, the media establishment doesn’t like him. “I am not cuddly enough for the NPO. The public broadcaster would prefer Moroccan Muslims who hardly, if at all, vent their Muslim identity. That’s why you see so many secular figures on TV who have a tan on the outside, but run on white software on the inside.”
Salaheddine Benchikhi, 41, is a writer, interviewer, documentary maker and theater maker. Born in Casablanca, Morocco, raised in Rotterdam South. At school, the teachers didn’t really know what to do with him. “Not because I was annoying, but I wasn’t challenged and I was bored. That sometimes clashed with the teachers.”
Jumping through hoops
The environment in which Benchikhi grew up didn’t really help either. “It was either working in the harbor or something social, I had no other examples. So it became HBO Social Work and Services. In retrospect, I should have chosen the School of Journalism or the film academy.”
Benchikhi started his career in front of the camera with the public broadcaster twenty years ago. He presented and made documentaries for the VPRO and NPS (now NTR). “I soon noticed that I had to go through too many hoops to get my own idea for a film or documentary through.”
„I saw that my skits Ab and Sal, which I made for NTR, were viewed very well on YouTube. Especially by young people. This was the deciding factor to stop at public broadcasting. I bought a camera and microphone and my YouTube channel Salaheddine was born.”
You see a lot of secular figures on TV who have a color on the outside, but run on white software on the inside
This worked out well. First he held street interviews with mainly Moroccan-Dutch young people. “That was new in 2008. I was the first. It cost me money back then to make it. But I had to keep going. I didn’t want to stay in my comfort zone.”
The bigger his “fan base” on YouTube grew, the more serious the topics. For example, he spoke with Johan Derksen and Jan Roos about death and God (339,000 views) and he regularly discusses Islam with Muslims and non-Muslims.
In the four-part YouTube series The last stories of the first generation of Moroccans Benchikhi speaks with six older Moroccan men. They emigrated to the Netherlands in the 1960s and 1970s to work. “I will no longer be able to hear the stories of this generation of Moroccan Dutch in a few years’ time. It was five to twelve for me.”
What do they think of sushi?
Who were the influencers of this first generation of Moroccans in the Netherlands? What do they think of sushi? And what did they spend their salary on? Questions that Bechikhi wanted to hear the answer to. And preferably directly from these pioneers. The children and grandchildren of these Moroccan guest workers also want to know what life was like in the Netherlands for their grandfathers and fathers in the sixties and seventies. “On Saturday evenings, when the family is together, the series is watched.”
In addition to making YouYube videos, Benchikhi performs in the theater. From Wednesday he will take his theater tour From Mecca to Marrakech on after Corona. The show consists of a live performance, followed by a docu-film. “I am looking for my identity as a Muslim, Moroccan and Dutchman.” In the documentary he shows how Islam has settled in Morocco and why Moroccans are Muslim. “It is a history that the Moroccan Dutch often do not know. This is not taught in schools.”
If he had stayed with the NPO, he would have been “just a number at a broadcaster”. “I can now fully do my thing. I will never make something I don’t feel good about. That doesn’t make me very suitable for the NPO. The NPO does shout ‘We want more color’, but when push comes to shove, you don’t notice anything. I don’t see any programs by makers that originated from their own story, their own identity. And especially not if it’s too Islamic. Like all my channel. That would not fit within the NPO. The public broadcaster is stuck in its own white tunnel vision.”