By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, August 26, 2012
With the tide of uprising, the Arab world seems to be caught in spiral of predicament and disquietude. If the Arab spring has swept dauntlessly over some Arab countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, it is still sparking timid yet threatening flames in the face of autocratic regimes in other countries.
The mayhem in Syria promises to divide the Lebanese once again along sectarian lines. The revolution in the Maghreb countries is still sending shock waves to neighboring countries where the ostentatious pretension of stability and political comfort are being reconsidered under the prism of realism rather than groundless narcissism. In the midst of all this atmosphere of vacillation, one thing for sure, the Arab turmoil has just began.
The Arab Revolutions have brought about drastic changes not only in modes of governance but also in prevailing habits and rituals. While the Egyptians are trying to discern the features of the post Mubarak republic, their Tunisian fellows are also wrestling with the new political landscape trying to compose a consensual formula between secularism and Islamism.
Habits in Morocco also start to change. The annual Allegiance ceremony, marked by bowing and swearing unconditional allegiance to the king, has faced this year an unparalleled staunch aversion.
The ceremony of allegiance commemorates the access of King Mohammed VI to the throne after the death of his father late Hassan II. This ritual has been sustained and perpetuated for decades by the Alaouite dynasty to ensure allegiance of the people they govern.
During this occasion, crowds of high ranked officials from all regions in Morocco dressed in white Jellebas would gather in the Meshouwar Square inside the Royal palace in Rabat to celebrate this event.
They would line front of the king and bow in a reverentially position reminiscent of the prostration usually performed in Islamic prayers. They would also utter praise expressions wishing the king a long life. The ceremony is staunchly defended by many as a renewal of allegiance to the king.
Yet, this year’s ceremony has a been openly condemned by a large number of activists and intellectuals who consider that this royal custom is outdated, inconsistent with the new constitutional reforms and, above all, an abasement of pride reducing the people to “subjects”.
Hespress, a Moroccan online news website, had published a petition under the name” The Dignity Statement” signed by 101 Moroccans, including senior politicians from the PJD, journalists, poets, university professors and political activists. The signatories advocated unambiguously the abolition of the allegiance rituals.
They consider that the act of bowing and kissing the king’s hand is an outmoded ritual that consolidates submission, besides being reminiscent of the “lead years, a dark period in Moroccan history, which was marked by heavy-handed repression against democracy activists and substantial violations of human rights.
Among the prominent figures who signed the petition is Abdel Aziz Aftati, a PJD MP known for his fearless stance against corruption, Kalid Meshbal a senior journalist, Nabila Mounib the first woman to be at the helm of a Moroccan political party (PPS), Abou Bakr Jamai a journalist know for his dauntless editorials, Ahmed Arrisoni, a renowned Sharia Professor and ex leader of the Islamist Movement of Unity and Reform” and Hamza Mahfoud, a leading figure in the 20 Feb movement that initiated protests for democracy and dignity in Morocco.
The reaction to the debate over allegiance rituals has divided Moroccans among fervent supporters, moderate opponents and outspoken dissenters. In the midst of this debate, the reaction of the PJD officials, the party in power was once again in the limelight.
Prior to his appointment as the head of government, Mr. Benkirane had expressed his uneasiness towards this ritual. He stated in a Moroccan TV program “The allegiance ceremony should not be abolished but reconsidered”.
He argued “The ceremony is outmoded now; it should be redesigned in more consistency with modern values”. Yet, in an interview given lately to Aljazeera, he asserted “It is common for Moroccans to kiss hands of elders out of respect, it is part of Moroccan culture”.
On the same day of the allegiance ceremony, protesters rallying the 20 February movement activists and their proponents organized a sit-in next to the parliament headquarters in Rabat to denounce the ritual of allegiance claiming that the real allegiance should go to the people and the values of democracy and dignity.
Unexpectedly, the security forces used force to disperse the crowds not sparing even journalists who had their share of punches. The security forces had even to invade “Rabat Ville” railway station in search of 20 February movement activists.
While the promise for better life prospects, more transparency and functional democracy are constantly adjourned, frustration grows bitter among Moroccans. The PJD-led government seems to be trapped in a vicious circle of crisis part of which is due to incompetency and lack of a long sighted vision. Theses domestic factors added to the Arab spring context will undoubtedly give more impetus to dissident voices.
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