By Driss R. Temsamani
By Driss R. Temsamani
Miami – Morocco is the closest nation to Europe. Situated on the northern tip of Africa. Morocco’s population is around 32 Million. The majority of Moroccans are of Berber ancestry. Arabs make up the second largest group, followed by French, Spanish and a small number of black Africans. About 90% of the population is Muslim, trailed by a large Jewish community.
Moroccan history was heavily shaped by Arabic and Jewish influences. The Berbers inhabited the country by the end of the second millennium. During the fifth century, the Phoenicians came to Morocco and build ports along the Atlantic coast. Beginning first Century AD, the Jewish established presence in Morocco after being forced out of Spain and Portugal. Around 46 A.D. Morocco became part of the Roman Empire and later in the late seventh century, the Arabs conquest brought Islam to Morocco. After a long wave tribal war between the Berbers, Almoravids claimed victory. With Morocco united, the Arab Moroccans conquered Spain and remained for 800 years till late 1550, they were known as the Moors. France with a colonization eye on North Africa invaded Algeria in 1830, and in 1912 signed a treaty making Morocco a French protectorate. After World War II, Morocco regained independence from France in 1956.
Morocco was the first nation to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation in 1777. In the beginning of the American Revolution, American merchant ships were subject to attack by the Barbary Pirates while sailing the Atlantic Ocean. At this time, American envoys tried to obtain protection from European powers, but to no avail. On December 20, 1777, Morocco’s Sultan Mohammed III declared that the American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage.
The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship stands as the U.S.’s oldest non-broken friendship treaty. Negotiated by Thomas Barclay and signed by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1786, it has been in continuous effect since its ratification by Congress in July 1787. Following the re-organization of the U.S. federal government upon the 1787 Constitution, President George Washington wrote a now venerated letter to the Sultan Sidi Mohamed strengthening the ties between the two countries. The United States legation (consulate) in Tangier is the first property the American government ever owned abroad. The building now houses the Tangier American Legation Museum.
Officially documented Moroccan migration to America started in the middle of the twentieth century, but there is evidence that Moroccans were present in the USA even before as part of the European exploration. The first document Moroccan immigrant case was Azemmuri, a Moroccan boat pilot from Azemmour who landed in America before Columbus. It is also documented that Sephardic Moroccan Jews made their way to the United States early in the twentieth century by way of South America then moved to the North entering United States around 1910.
Today, Moroccan Americans are well established in the USA and one of the fastest growing Arab communities after the Lebanese. Official 2007 US polls show the number of Moroccans who live in the United States are over 150,000. Since the polls don’t capture the cultural ties between Moroccan Muslims and Jews, my estimate when combining the two communities is around 300,000. Based on continuous research conducted by the 361 Degrees Institute, this number continues to grow as the US government grants every year 5,000 green cards to Moroccans to migrated to the United States.
As the number of Moroccan Americans continues to grow, several organizations have flourished in many states where there is a large concentration of members, New York, Texas, Virginia, Florida and California hold over 70% of the community. Surveys have showed that Moroccan Americans in these states are among the most integrated compared to other ethnic groups.
The Moroccan American community’s success depends on it’s participation in the political process. By wielding a persuasive voice that can influence policies, Moroccan Americans can assist those that need to enhance their lives and help them achieve their American dream.
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