New York - Earlier yesterday, ten finalists of the Miss Belgium 2013 beauty contest took a photo shoot outside Casablanca’s landmark and third largest Mosque in the World, Hassan II Mosque.
New York – Earlier yesterday, ten finalists of the Miss Belgium 2013 beauty contest took a photo shoot outside Casablanca’s landmark and third largest Mosque in the World, Hassan II Mosque.
As much as taking photos inside and outside the Mosque seems normal and culturally motivated, this special incident disgruntled a lot of Moroccans who deemed it disrespectful to Islam and Muslims because of the outfit that the Belgium beauty contestants were wearing.
One of the pictures that created so much ado, especially in social media, features ten girls with pink tank tops and blue skirts posing with Hassan II Mosque in the background.
It is understandable that a picture of either women or men not confirming to the established dress codes of a religious site can be provocative to the adherents of that religion. Dress codes are created not to restrict people’s freedom of expression, but to safeguard the sacredness of a special site, whether it has historical, religious or even political significance. That is the case when people are not expected to visit a respected political institution, such as a parliament seat or a supreme court building, without paying due formalities, which are strictly enforced by authorities.
Jalal El Mir, a teacher of English based in Tetouan, Morocco, said, “Despite all the motives, they should have chosen another site for displaying their half-naked bodies. This is supposed to be a sacred place where thousands of decent Muslim men and women come to pray every day.”
Fatima Zahmoun, a civil society activist based in Toronto, Canada, exclaims her surprise to see that this incident has taken place in a Moroccan religious site. “What about respect and coherence,” she asks. “I have been in South America and was asked to wear long sleeves and no shorts to visit some areas of historical cathedrals,” she said. “I like to visit churches and synagogues by curiosity to learn about others’ cultures and lifestyles. But I am talking about our double-standard speech and astounded at the case-by-case treatment by our authorities and decision makers,” she added.
The Belgian girls who went to Hassan II Mosque are not to blame for any misunderstanding. They took part in this photo shoot with the simple purpose of exploring Casablanca’s historical sites. Beauty contests stand for love and goodwill. They aim to bridge the gap between cultures. Some might evoke the clichéd deliberate provocation of Muslim’s emotions by posing outside the exquisitely phenomenal Mosque.
Hassan II Mosque is regarded as a wonder, given the artistic capital, the huge financial and religious investment as well as its location, size and shape. Every visitor to Casablanca puts it on his/her to-do list. Various world leaders and international household names have already visited the landmark. What some people find problematic is that local inhabitants take pride in living in a city that is home of one of the largest mosques in the world. But when some celebrities come to visit it, they express their disgruntlement to see them set foot inside the mosque
However, rules and ethics are to be enforced to protect the sacredness of religious sites. This leads us to question the human resources that are in charge of the management of Hassan II Mosque. They are the ones to be held responsible for not implementing a strict dress code, both inside and outside the Mosque. Despite being devoid of any political or religious hidden agendas, this lack of responsibility and leniency as some labeled it was understood differently and taken out of context.
“People at the helm of management in the mosque are to blame. They are the ones that gave them the green light for the photo shoot,” said Adam Echawadi, a Moroccan American citizen from New York City. He stressed that mosques are for prayers and religious rituals not for photographic shows and beauty contest. “Claiming we have an Islamic-led government with Mr. Abdelilah Benkirane as the head of government is ironic and adds insult to injury. Those responsible for this act should be punished,” he concluded.
Moroccans contacted by MWN were fearful that a trivial incident such as a photo shoot might cause radicals from both sides, religious and non-religious, to clash and disagree, creating a mishmash of ideas and cultural chaos. One cannot disregard the possibility of a Fatwa against women posing in front of mosques. Populists and ideologues usually take advantage of simple incidents with a view to create disingenuous battle grounds for political and/or ideological gains. Yet, Moroccans do not rely on Fatwa.com. People know their limits and respect the rules of conduct in relation to mosques and places of worship.
It is clear that no Moroccan would even imagine the presence of Morality police or a religious task force dictating what they should or should not do while in the vicinity of a religious site. But self-restraint and due respect must be promoted and rules should be enforced.
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