By Youssef El Kaidi
Morocco World News
Fez, June 28, 2013
Undoubtedly, the last article on Morocco World News entitled First FEMEN Topless Woman in Morocco is one of the articles that triggered the most intense controversy and the hottest debate among readers. In less than three hours after it was published, about a hundred comments were made on Morocco World News fan page on the article.
What are the underlying messages of this quick and massive reaction? The special interest readers paid to the topic of the new form of protest or what FEMEN activists call ‘Topless jihad’ attests to the fact that Moroccan Muslim society is hyper-sensitive towards news that touch upon drastic cultural transformations or break cultural norms.
If we go back only two decades ago, the sight of a woman roaming the street with short or tight clothes was considered an unusual act that attracts curious or angry onlookers and ignites feelings of wrath in conservative and religious people. The only place where such sight was tolerated was the university with regard to the progressive thought that characterized most student movements in the eighties and the nineties.
It was almost unimaginable two decades ago that a woman would ‘brandish’ her breasts in broad daylight in defense of her rights. Indeed, from a cultural perspective, Morocco’s cultural identity has been constantly undergoing quick change in line with and under the influence of the homogenizing forces of globalization. A practice in the extreme end of the world easily travels and finds place at home.
I still remember in the nineties many intellectuals and some of my teachers lobbying against Morocco’s decision to import satellite digital receivers because they conceived them as a threat to Morocco’s specificity. Receiving numerous TV channels at home together with a set of various cultural discourses and practices from around the world was considered by the detractors of globalization as a soft invasion of privacy that would erode our specificities. Actually, any discourse is legitimized through repeated use until it gains people’s familiarity despite objection at the beginning. Topless protest, I think, would soon become a normal thing in Morocco, and so would, may be, same sex marriage and other critical issues.
Going back to people’s reactions to the article, a quick survey of the comments gives us an idea to what extent people are offended by the bare ‘weapon’ of FEMEN activists. About 98 per cent expressed their indignation and resentment at the way the allegedly Moroccan woman poses nakedly. Some expressed their indignation in vulgar terms describing. Other counted her ribs and said the picture can be used to ask for ‘food aid to Morocco.’
Abdelkarim Cherchemi, for instance, comments: “This picture has nothing to do with Moroccan ladies. It’s only a flagrant kind of dishonoring the country.”
Hanan Chafai said: “I thought the idea was/is NOT to use our sexuality to get messages across! FEMEN is IGNORANT and BACKWARDS! Nothing more!! I bet that girl doesn’t even know English! If she is so courageous, why is she hiding on top of the roof! Go into the streets girl! Let’s see how important your message then still is to you!”
The few proponents, however, see that the mere act of exposing breasts in a Muslim society and shouting for freedom and more rights is a harbinger of courage and bravery for which the lady should be respected. “Maybe every one of you has something true in what you have said but there is a respectful courage in that act that you can’t deny, being sure that she already knew how she will be considered. She is maybe wrong for misdemeanor reasons but she is still courageous and just for that respect!” said Imane Eii.
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