Khalid Kasem keeps getting back up

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“I was sitting alone in my office when I read it on Friday. The ground was knocked away from under my feet.” In an interview with De Volkskrant In February 2021, Khalid Kasem looks back on perhaps the toughest period in his life. Three quarters of a year earlier, one day before his 42nd birthday, it comes through AD the news emerged that the justice department is convinced that the lawyer has leaked information to Ridouan Taghi’s group. He remembers the latter from his youth.

The timing of the news couldn’t have been worse for him. What no one knew is that Kasem was about to sign a contract with BNNVARA. Kasem was the intended presenter of Eveand thus the successor to Matthijs van Nieuwkerk and The world goes on. He had also already written his first piece for Het Paroolwhere he would become a columnist.

The publications about the leak of information mean that all those plans are canceled. “Everything I had built up over all those years was gone in one go. I had that feeling. I’ve been staring into space. Just defeated.”

Accusations again

The Amsterdam dean – the supervisor of the legal profession – concludes after an investigation that it has not been established that Kasem provided the information. There was therefore no question of disciplinary culpable conduct, according to the dean. Kasem then shows himself to be a fighter, gets up and straightens his back. This will become apparent in the spring of 2021 BNNVara has not yet forgotten him. He still signs his desired TV contract and becomes the presenter of Khalid & Sophie.

But Kasem is now once again confronted with serious accusations, arising from leaked recordings of conversations he had with Peter R. de Vries in 2019. He acknowledges that he bribed an official, with the aim of getting a client released earlier. Kasem himself denies this in a response to it AD. It was announced on Friday that he will temporarily resign from his duties as a presenter at BNNVARA.

Classic migrant family

Khalid Kasem is the youngest of a family of seven children. A classic migrant family, as he calls it in interviews. His father moved to Europe from Morocco in the late 1960s and after wandering ended up in the Netherlands, where he worked in the factory of detergent manufacturer Persil until his retirement. Kasem grows up with four brothers and two sisters in a small apartment in a gallery flat in Nieuwegein.

Kasem is nine years old when his mother, with whom he has a special bond, dies unexpectedly from a liver disease. “At such an age you don’t really realize what is happening, but because of her death my basis was gone,” he says in an earlier interview. “I was the youngest, her favorite. I slept with her until I was six. I always got her attention. When she was dead, things suddenly changed.”

As a high school student, Kasem is in danger of going down the wrong path. School doesn’t interest him. Moreover, there is hardly any supervision at home, because his father works many evening and night shifts at the factory. As a teenager, Kasem mainly hung out on the street with his friends: “Sometimes I would go out early in the morning and not come home until late at night.” He is not alone in this: other brothers also hang around on the street. Some end up in the criminal circuit. One of his brothers dies in a car accident.

Kasem also comes into contact with the police himself. “We fought a lot against guys from other neighborhoods. Why? Out of toughness or territorialism,” he says in an interview with De Volkskrant. He is also arrested for theft at the Free Record Shop.

Classmate Ridouan Taghi

One of the places where he hangs out for hours as a teenager is the local Cityplaza shopping center. The same goes for Ridouan Taghi. Kasem and Taghi are in a class together from primary school to group 7. After Taghi moves to Vianen, the two meet again at the shopping center. Taghi is part of a criminal youth group of about fifty young people from the area that has given itself the name Bad Boys. Police documents also show that one of Kasem’s brothers belonged to the group.

Countless members of the gang will eventually rise to the top of the crime pyramid. Ridouan Taghi in front. Brothers Mario and Mao R. were also hanging around at the local shopping center at the time. Both of them, just like Taghi, have been sentenced to life in the Marengo liquidation process. Gerel P., who is considered by the Public Prosecution Service as an assassin of Taghi, also belongs to the Bad Boys.

The core of the group proves that crime ultimately does not pay. Almost everyone is in prison or has been murdered.

Kasem used to encounter them in the classroom, on the football field or at the shopping center. He once said about Taghi: “He was an ordinary boy with whom I was in class until the fifth year of primary school. The image that appears in the media is not the image I have. I still see that boy I played with outside in the schoolyard, who came home on my birthday. He wasn’t a guy who killed cats or anything, I never saw anything special about him.”

Escapes through drainpipe

Kasem has always denied that he was part of Bad Boys. It does not change the fact that he went off the rails at school during that period. He is a difficult teenager, has a big mouth with teachers and has to stay detention regularly, he says. When, as a fifteen-year-old, he escapes from the detention center through the drainpipe, that’s enough.

He is eventually expelled from school, after which no other school is interested in the unruly teenager. Only when an older brother goes to the alderman will he get a place at the ‘mother secondary school’ in Utrecht. After completing his MBO education, he ends up working for a mortgage lender.

But he says the penny only really drops when he works in the mortgage department at ABN Amro. When he looks around he sees people who have been doing the same job for forty years. His boss advises him to take an entrance exam for university. He succeeds and starts studying law at the University of Amsterdam. Kasem is 30 years old when he is sworn in as a lawyer.

He now shows himself as someone who is socially involved. As a law student, he entered into a discussion with Theo van Gogh, a video of which can still be found on YouTube. It is about violence against women that, according to Van Gogh, is legitimized by Islam. “I said, and I still believe it, that God doesn’t hit many women, it’s men’s hands that do that,” Kasem says later.

More and more in the spotlight

As a lawyer, he handles a variety of legal cases and also regularly represents music artists and football players. For example, he obtained a license as an agent from the World Football Association FIFA. Through that world he also comes into contact with Peter R. de Vries and his son Royce, who run a sports management agency. The trio eventually set up their own law firm in 2017. As a well-known crime reporter, director Peter R. de Vries is the face of the office, Royce and Kasem do the legal work.

This puts Kasem increasingly in the spotlight. The general public gets to know him in the issue surrounding Ajax footballer Abdelhak Nouri. The talented player collapsed during a practice match in 2017 due to heart failure and suffered brain damage. Kasem acts as a confidant for the family and also publishes a book about the talented footballer.

In 2020 he is also a finalist in the immensely popular quiz The smartest person. The crowning glory of his career must be the new talk show Eve become. In a test broadcast he blows away everyone who talks about it in Hilversum.

Full for TV career

The publications about the possible leak of confidential information set Kasem back a long way. His TV career seems to be in ruins. But after the dean could find no supporting evidence for the accusations, the Amsterdammer straightened out. A year later he is still sitting at the head of a talk show table. Kasem will be the presenter of the program, alternating with Sophie Hilbrand Khalid & Sophie. Kasem deregisters as a lawyer and fully pursues his new career.

As a new TV presenter, Kasem has to deal with disappointing viewing figures and harsh reviews from the start of the first season. “Some reviewers’ comments were disproportionately harsh, Khalid & Sophie was dead and buried after one episode. I didn’t think there was much empathy in it,” he said himself.

Criticism is never far away. But the program has now completed five seasons, the viewing figures have doubled and there is also praise for Kasem. The conversation he has with Derk Bolt about abuses in the program Without a trace is counted among the best TV interviews of 2022. Kasem narrowly misses out on the Sonja Barend Award. Another boost presents itself: this year we have to Khalid & Sophie – in a modified form – to become the replacement for Op1 as a talk show at the prestigious time of late evening.

A new chapter in his career beckons. But the question is whether that will still happen now that Kasem has decided to stop his work as a presenter for the time being.

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