By Brahim Koulila
Morocco World News
Kenitra, Morocco, June 10, 2012
In Morocco, there are a lot of royal rituals almost peculiar to the ruling family. Most of them date back, to say the least, to the 18th century. Since Morocco is a Muslim country and the ruling family belongs to the pedigree of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) – the Alaouite are the descendents of his cousin, Ali Ben Abi Talib — these rituals are said to be inspired by the Islamic teachings.
Recently, a lot of people have questioned one of the most controversial rituals, which is bowing before the Moroccan monarch and kissing his hand. To tell the truth, this issue was raised even during the reign of the late king, Hassan II, but the political atmosphere then was not conducive to addressing such a matter.
It goes without saying that the Arab Spring has emboldened people to tackle the royal rituals and discuss some issues very few people could dare address in the past. Some Moroccan reformists as well as some “salafists” have called for doing away with this custom, arguing that it is against the Islamic teachings and not in keeping with the spirit of modernity or democracy. However, this issue should be approached from different angles: bowing before the king is a sign of respect, not of worshiping him. After all, Moroccans could never deal with their king like a normal person.
People bow before the king to show respect and loyalty. Indeed, by doing so, they show loyalty to the whole nation, not only him. If some people think those who bow, do it out of hypocrisy and boot-licking, I would say it is quite normal, for such behavior exists everywhere; hypocrites and toadies exist wherever we go.
However, in Morocco, the context is quite different from elsewhere. Moroccans are all Muslims – except for a very tiny Jewish minority, which also shows a lot of respect to him – and they consider doing it before their king as a kind of reiterating allegiance to him, which is good by all standards.Sometimes, I find that this custom distinguishes us from other nations. Moreover, Islam urges people to obey – not worship—their leaders to prevent anarchy.
Kissing the hand of the monarch has become optional. Maybe the worst thing some Moroccans have always condemned is kissing the king’s hand. Indeed, I believe that a lot of people have started doing away with it. A lot of Moroccans, namely Moroccan high officials or celebrities, no longer do it. The king does not seem to be keen on forcing people to kiss his hands. I think, it might fade away in the few coming years. When the members of Mr. Benkirane’s cabinet were received by the king, most of them did not kiss his hand.
We should not treat the king like any other person. The king is just a human being like us, and there is no doubt about it. However, a nation, no matter how civilized it is, should respect its leader. Sometimes, I wonder, “should we shake hands with the monarch as we do with our friends?” Of course, it does not work. A king must stay a king, and when one meets him, he or she must bow a little bit as a kind of respect. In this regard, I remember hearing Prime Minister Benkirane say, “I would never, ever shake hands with his majesty as if he were a friend of mine.” He was quite right!
What would the alternative be? How would those who call for protesting against kneeling, or bowing before the king deal with him were he to abolish all these rituals? Would they say, “Hi, buddy, how’s it going?” shaking hands with him?” When we think about it, we realize that we could not but treat the king as a king.
I am not asking people to idolize or deify their king. I would not ask them to prostrate before him; this should not be done before anyone whosoever, but Allah. What I want to say is that bowing (slightly) before the king is not a sin, but only a sign of love, respect, loyalty…, and those who do it are not all toadies or hypocrites: I believe that so many of them believe in respecting the leader. Incidentally, no people can be unified and strong unless they respect their leader and treat him as a spiritual father.
The bottom line is that sometimes there is a fine line between worshiping someone and respecting him.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
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