Rabat - Back in the pre-Islamic times, known as Jahiliya, the Arabian tribes in Arabia Desert were often in fierce open competition for political leadership and/or economic supremacy. At times, this competition manifested itself through warring and raids, whereby the strongest killed the men of the other party and took their womenfolk to humiliate them further, in the eyes of the other tribes and confederation of tribes, bearing in mind that the code of honor was the most important cultural attribute of the time.
Rabat – Back in the pre-Islamic times, known as Jahiliya, the Arabian tribes in Arabia Desert were often in fierce open competition for political leadership and/or economic supremacy. At times, this competition manifested itself through warring and raids, whereby the strongest killed the men of the other party and took their womenfolk to humiliate them further, in the eyes of the other tribes and confederation of tribes, bearing in mind that the code of honor was the most important cultural attribute of the time.
Pre-Islamic poetry mightier than the sword
The attacking tribe made sure to have in their ranks a well-known poet to chronicle their exploits for eternity. Arabic language and eloquency in this linguistic vehicle was considered by this society as a highly-appraised skill, and excellence in poetry-making was the most valued of social qualities. Poems chanting the exploits of tribes and their courage circulated widely among people and the better they were written, the most they were memorized and the widest they circulated among the desert population. The most famous poems made their way to Mecca and were written in gold and suspended to the black stone ka’ba, the most prestigious of places in the Arabian peninsula, they became a well-known genre referred to as : mu’alaqat “the suspended poems.”
In tribal Arabia, poetry was considered to be mightier than the sword. Apparently, even the tribes that were militarily weak, if they had a good poet to extol their attributes, were considered strong in the eyes of the society. The Arabian tribes congregated yearly to a fair and a festival known as suk ‘oukaad, which was a commercial market and most importantly a forum for reading the best poetry praising the tribes of the region.
Modern day Arab tribal feuds
In the Arab world of today, besides the thin veneer of modernization, most countries are still tribal and very patiarchal, people have not been able to achieve citizenship because of the lack of democracy, they are still considered and referred to as subjects ra’aaya. Women, even when educated, have still to be chaperoned by males and these males could be, at times, their under-age children. In some countries, the females cannot travel on their own, mix with other males than those of the small family, cannot drive, etc. In may Arab countries women are illiterate, therefore unempowered and are in most cases, almost considered like property, no more.
When the Arab uprisings flared up sweeping the most powerful of dictators to the trash can of history, Arab people blieved that democracy is at hand, but alas, soon their hopes were dashed because their countries sunk in instability and there was a return to tribal feuds in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq ushering years and years of strife and warring. So far, only one country escaped the cycle of violence and seems to achieve democracy, the country in question is : Tunisia.
Another country, the most western of the MENA region, and the closest to Europe i.e. Morocco, has always, throught history, lived in a bubble of its own. It was always inhabited by the mighty Amazigh, who, when they converted to Islam in the 8th century, crossed the Straight of Gibraltar, which was named after their general Tariq Ibnou Zayad, and converted Spain to Islam. Islam lasted 7 centuries in the Iberian peninsula until 1492 and was, all this time, protected and nurtured by Moroccan Amazigh dynasties of the Almoravids, the Almohads, the Merinids and Wattasids from the 11th to the 15th century.
The Ottomans, at the height of their might, tried to add Morocco to their conquered lands, but failed miserably because this country was a mlitarily strong empire extending all the way to the Senegal River south. During the era of the European “Scramble for Africa,” France colonized Algeria in 1830 and respected the integrity of Morocco. If it were not for the military help provided for the Emir Abdelkader of Algeria, who had declared Jihad to oust the Christians, Morocco probably would have remained independent. But the defeat of Morocco in 1844 in Oued Isly, on the frontier with Algeria by the French led them to consider taking Morocco to protect Algeria, their declared French province.
Moroccan Algerian Feud
In 1963 Morocco attacked Algeria after many cross border skirmiches between the armies of the two countries. The Moroccan army took control of swathes of Algerian land after a crushing defeat of the newly formed Algerian Army. Then, in an unexpected volte-face, Hassan II called on his army to come home. Nobody understood ever why this sudden change of heart. Later on Hassan II stated that he did not want to leave a legacy of enmity for his successor, but the harm was done and Algeria never pardoned Morocco for this, ever.
Since then, an atmosphere of cold war settled down between the two countries and is still there today. The two countries often exchange official amabilities, but in reality they hate the guts of each other so bad. This hatred reached its apogee in 1975 when Spain decided to decolonize the Western Sahara and Morocco claimed it as part of its territory on the grounds of the historical links of allegiance bey’a. For Algeria, it was an unhoped for occasion to take revenge on Morocco. It hurriedly financed and armed a separatist movement called Polisario. As Morocco and Spain reached some sort of agreement on the territory and Morocco moved in. Algeria housed the Polisario and pushed it to attack Morocco. So in many ways Algeria was having its war on Morocco by proxy and the Polisario became its Trojan horse.
In 1994, some Algerian terrorists of French nationality attacked a hotel in Marrakesh, hurriedly Morocco sealed off its borders with Algeria and imposed the visa for Algerian visitors and Algeria did the same for Moroccans, in retaliation. After Mohammed VI assumed power, he called on Algeria to open the land borders, to no avail. Realizing that such a move would be an enormous economic gain for Morocco, Algeria flatly refused.
However, the feud is raging more on the media front (the modern “pre-Islamic poets”) whereby papers and televisions exchange usually insults and hate stories, but luckily the officials are keeping cool heads and are abstaining from getting on war paths because they realize that war can only be destructive for both countries, in the long run.
Morocco vs Egypt
In the last year or so, Egypt has progressively been aligning itself on Algeria, the reason been the two countries are anti-Islamists. But actually, the fact is that the two countries deposed by force a democratically-elected government. In Algeria, the military junta denied the Islamists FIS party it’s overwhelming landslide victory in the legislative elections of 1992 and the Egyptian army deposed the democratically-elected president Morsi in 2013 and took power to put el-Sisi in his place.
Since el-Sisi came to power, he took upon himself to fight Islamists worldwide. Turkey was the first country to counter his design. But why Morocco?
Morocco is undoubtedly one of the rare Muslim countries where the Islamists are in power under the tutelage of the monarchy. For Egypt, Morocco, by allowing them to continue to govern, has become potentially an enemy. So el-Sisi is trying to put together a new political order where democracy, be it just partial, has no room, whatsoever.
Realizing that Morocco is not going to go along the Egyptian approach, el-Sisi instructed the media (the modern “pre-Islamic poets”) to launch attacks on Morocco.
Morocco, the exception that bothers many Arabs
Morocco is a country that has initiated reforms back in 1996, when the late king Hassan II, father of the present monarch, realizing that he did not have long to live, due to health problems, wanted to prepare the ground for his son by releasing political prisoners, declaring amnesty for expatriate opponents and inviting the opposition in the government. The opposition USFP, under the leadership of the longtime militant for democracy Abderrahmane El Youssfi became the prime minister of the consensual political alternance, the first such daring political initiative in the Arab world.
When Mohammed VI arrived to power, on the death of his father, he immediately launched many important reforms, no other Arab leader dared undertake before. In October 17, 2001, he recognized solemnly the Amazigh culture, which is undoubtedly the substratum of the whole Moroccan culture, that, in itself, is quite an exception in this part of the world. The recognition was followed by two important steps: firstly the creation of the Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh –IRCAM- and, then, the adoption of Tifinagh (time-old Amazigh script), as the official alphabet of Tamazight language.
This was followed few years later, on February 5, 2004, by the adoption of a very liberal family code moudawana that gave women many rights, in a society that was, hitherto, very patriarchal.
In January 7, 2004 the King initiated a very important change by allowing the creation of the Instance Equité et Réconciliation –IER- which recognized the responsibility of the state in the imprisonment and suffering of thousands of political opponents during the Years of Lead (sanawat rasas). The victims were allowed to talk and expose publicly their suffering and get compensation for it. Apart from South Africa, Morocco was the first Arab country to initiate this form of transitional justice, to date.
Last but not least, in 2011, at the height of the Arab uprisings, Mohammed VI proposed a more liberal constitution, in which the various identities of Morocco: Muslim, Arab, Amazigh, Andalusian, Hebraic and African were acknwledged officially in the preamble and in which, also, the head of the Government got more power. However, the most important attribute of this constitution is undoubtedly the strenghtening of the process of incremental democracy.
For this and more, Morocco is incurring the wrath of many patriarchal, tribal and undemocratic countries like Algeria and Egypt. Rather than applaud the effort and follow suit, they spend millions of dollars to hire pens (modern « pre-Islamic poets ») to sully the image of Morocco on the international scene, but to no avail. And that which does not destroy Morocco, makes it instead strong,like what the famous German philosopher and philologist Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) said.
Riding storms successfully
Most importantly, Morocco is one of the few countries in the Arab world that has rode the Arab Spring with much success. Apart from Tunisia, all the other Arab Spring countries have, either become failed states such as Libya or countries grappling with civil war: Syria, Iraq or Yemen, or gone under military dictatorships: Egypt.
The proverbial stability of Morocco is creating enemies around the Arab world. And what is infuriating them more is the fact that Morocco is not only stable but, also, prospering economically though it is not an oil-producing country. And the proof of this is that the Moroccan miracle is being exported to Africa where it has a big standing, thanks to the Tidjane moderate religious influence which finds its source in Fes.
An old Arab saying has it that only fruit-bearing trees are stoned to pick up their riches, non fruit-bearing trees are duly ignored. So if you are attacked, vilified and insulted, it only means one and only one thing: you are doing just fine.
Alas, the Arab world has not changed a bit in the least, it is still tribal and patriarchal. The Arabs are not considered in the least full citizens but only subjects under-age unable to decide for themselves, and, as such, they can certainly not merit full democracy for some time to come and only patriarchs can decide for them. This proves one and only one thing, the tug of the past in the Arab world is stronger than what is estimated in the first place.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed