Former Muslim criminal reaches out to misguided Ivorian youth
After decades of criminality, Mohamed Mahan now provides guidance to young Ivorian delinquents

Mohamed Olivier Mahan, a Muslim preacher and a former delinquent from Ivory Coast, tries to instill Islamic values in young people.

After having long engaged in a life of crime, Mahan, 41, is now known for his charitable acts and outreach activities among local youth.

"I was devoted to armed robbery. I committed crimes. I smoked drugs,” Mahan told Anadolu Agency.

But now, he says, his only weapon is the Quran.

Equipped with the Muslim holy book, he tours mosques, prisons and bus stations, where he meets delinquent young people and strives to put them back on the right track.

His frequent appearances on local radio and television have now made him one of the country’s most prominent Muslims.

Mahan attempts to convey Muslim values to local youth, while also trying to solve the myriad problems between parents and their wayward children.


Mahan recalls how he underwent a "miraculous” change in 2000.

"I was in a neighborhood where young Muslims told me about Allah,” he told Anadolu Agency. "At first, I didn’t want to follow them. But, since then, God has changed my life.”

Ever since, he has largely devoted himself to rehabilitating young delinquents.

"As an older person, I decided to give my life to showing them the right way,” he said. "Young thieves, drug addicts, alcoholics are my targets.”

Sylla Adama, 35, a resident of Abidjan’s Adjame neighborhood, says he has seen Mahan several times preaching to youngsters in the area.

"Mahan talks with young people who don’t go to the mosque,” Adama said.

"He also tells us not to steal and avoid lying. The advice he gives us helps us a lot. As a result, many of us have changed,” he added.

Herve Kouassi, a young Christian who works in the same neighborhood, said Mahan had changed the lives of many local young people.

"As a Christian, I like that Mahan has brought many young people from a vicious circle of crime to a more sedate life,” Kouassi said.

‘For God’

Mahan, for his part, says he receives no payment for the work he does.

"People think I’m paid to do this job,” he said. "Others think I have enough money; but I receive no subsidy. I do it for God.”

Mahan, a trader by profession who sells imported vehicles and cellphones, is married and is the father of 12 children.

People from Burkina Faso and other neighboring states – after hearing about Mahan’s outreach activities – have invited him to help delinquent youth in their countries.

Mahan says his dream is to provide help and guidance to young delinquents "all over the world.”

Last Modified: 2015-07-15 12:15:29
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