Power comes not from the barrel of a gun, but from one's awareness of his or her own cultural strength and the unlimited capacity to empathize with, feel for, care, and love one's brothers and sisters.
Power comes not from the barrel of a gun, but from one’s awareness of his or her own cultural strength and the unlimited capacity to empathize with, feel for, care, and love one’s brothers and sisters.
Addison Gayle Jr
Rabat – In his book dhakirat malik “Recollections of a King,” the late king Hassan II stated forcefully that if modernity is about permissive behavior debasing and insulting traditional and religious culture, then he does not want it neither for himself nor for his people. He would rather have Morocco considered to be in the Middle Ages and keep to its traditional way of life and respectable origins, though modest, instead.
Needless to say that Hassan II was a man open onto the world and onto change, but very respectful of traditions and attached to religion and legacy. For him, a modern Morocco has to be first and foremost anchored in the heritage and proud of the past.
The golden boy of the Moroccan nouveaux riches social class, Nabil Ayouch by making an X-rated film about prostitution in Morocco has consciously opted for a modernity that has an insulting and reductive edge, as well as an attitude that is totally disrespectful of religion, culture and the way of life of the majority of the Moroccan people.
Nabil Ayouch is a Franco-Morroccan born in Paris, France in 1969 to a Tunisian Jewish woman and a Moroccan mogul of the media, who is very close to the establishment.
The Father, controversially called for making darija the official language of Morocco, some time ago, a move that was rejected by the whole of Morocco and especially thinkers, intellectuals, religious leaders, educators and linguists on the ground that not only it is unfeasible, but it is most importantly a form of cultural hara kiri.
Nabil Ayouch, adopting the same condescending attitude as Charlie Hebdo, has taken upon himself the mission of insulting Moroccan women by depecting them as brazen prostitutes, Morocco as the land of permissiveness and Moroccan culture as the ultimate expression of debauchery.
Nobody denies the existence of prostitution in Morocco. It is a fatality resulting from poverty, illiteracy and lack of employment, but again prostitution exists everywhere. Is not it, after all, the oldest profession in the world?
Nabil Ayouch in his film “Much Loved,” has showed quite clearly that he has acted very much like a French citizen not as a Moroccan, by focusing on a thorny issue without taking into consideration Moroccan cultural etiquette, either out of total ignorance or just mere spite and condescending behavior.
Any cultural or intercultural communication is based on a protocol adopting the following criteria:
- Mutual acceptance (accepting of the other in his “otherness”);
- Respect of cultural etiquette;
- Sensitivity to the concerns of others to avoid alienation;
- Mutual respect; and
- Thorough two-way communication.
In his film, Ayouch has intentionally broken all the cultural communication codes to make his work look avant-gardist, give it prominence and have it considered as a work of art. A valid proof of this is that the Franco-Moroccan filmmaker hurriedly screened his controversial film at the Cannes Film Festival 2015 as if to seek the acceptance and blessing of a renowned international cinematographic institution, which in his mind is probably more important than that of the concerned people i.e. the Moroccan public.
The second explanation of this swift action is that having realized that his film will be rejected by the Moroccan viewers and that even legal action might be taken against him, he wanted to have some sort of French/international recognition to ward off such a reaction and place himself above it and consequently become the victim of injustice and not its perpetrator.
In Morocco, and by extension in the Arab world, the traditions/culture and religion are very important factors in everyday life, negating their existence or ignoring them is tantamount to an expression of cultural superiority reminiscent of the dark ages of colonial superiority and imperialistic emasculation.
The Franco-Moroccan Nabil Ayouch, through his film proves that either he does not understand and internalize the concept of cultural sensitivity, or he does and, out of a feeling of superiority, rejects it flatly. An action which exhibits his cultural insensitivity in a gross fashion and this could mean that his French upbringing and culture are more predominant in his education and psyche than the Moroccan cultural substratum, if it exists at all.
This film proves that Nabil Ayouch has failed his cross-cultural exam and that in the end he is more French than Moroccan since he does not know how to abide by cultural protocols accepted in Moroccan culture and as a result ends up in flagrant situation of cultural insensitivity no Moroccan would ever dare, even out of malice, want to be in, ever.
Nabil Ayouch is the “Moroccan” Charlie Hebdo
When the terrorists attacked and assassinated the Charlie Hebdo journalists on January 7, 2015, in revenge for the latter blasphemous attack on the prophet Muhammad. The whole world condemned this heinous act and so did the official Muslim world, in fact just to pay lip service to France and the West. The truth of the matter is that the Muslim people did not feel the same as their leaders. The prophet Muhammad, in the eyes of the Muslims, is above criticism, something Charle Hebdo failed to understand and still does not and with them the French for whom laicité has become as powerful and dogmatic as any religion.
The Muslim world rejected the French attitude because it is in total breach of cultural sensitivity, whereby the latter believe they can insult religions in the name of press freedom, but when the followers of this creed reject such an attack they are vilified in a condescending fashion. So, the Muslims think that the French are making use of double standards attitude: what is permissible for them is not for the others. However, cultural sensitivity is considered a sacrosanct cultural concept in the United States and Great Britain, in particular, and the Anglo-Saxon world, in general.
True to his French upbringing, Nabil Ayouch has made his film “Much loved”, knowing that it is dealing with sex in an explicit manner and would, as a result, be rejected by the Moroccan society and the rest of the Muslim world.
Unlike in the Western culture, sex in Islam is considered to be a personal matter not to be discussed in public, out of respect. This cultural concept is referred to as hichma. Hichma is falsely understood by many Westerners as “taboo,” it is not. It is a linguistic protocol that shows what can be discussed openly in public and what cannot according to the Islamic culture and if you do not understand and do not want to stick to these protocols then you are in breach of the social etiquette.
Nabil Ayouch certainly knew the code of hichma and has transgressed it on purpose to send a clear message to the Moroccans, in particular, and Muslims, in general, that modernity, according to him, is the answer to their woes and problems. Alas, his message is similar, in effrontery and brazen boldness, to that of Charlie Hebdo, henceforth, the popular backlash and call to bring him before justice.
However, many people wonder whether this suicidal move was his own, out of ignorance, or premeditated because dictated to him by the French, who want to attack the impregnable citadel of tradition in Morocco and the Muslim world, in the name of freedom of expression and democracy and of course laicité.
The linguistic Register of the Film is All Wrong
The linguistic register used by Nabil Ayouch in his film is all wrong and again this means that either he does not understand the impact of the language in the Arab world or he is aware of it and he is trying to drive a clear message to the concerned people.
In one of the scenes, a prostitute used very strong language and just because of that, the general public will boycott the film and will ask the government to bring the perpetrator before justice and, in fact, they are already doing that.
In the scene in question, the prostitute talks about the penis of an Arab Gulf would-be client by using the socially abhorred word zebb and makes reference in her talk to many lewd allusions in a very brazen language transgressing the linguistic and social codes.
In Morocco, when people want to talk about sex in gender groups they use less charged lexical terms. So, the penis is referred to as qalam “pen” or jihaz tanasuli “procreation tool,” in Arabic, or azwar “root,” in some Amazigh dialects. Besides, people when talking about sexual intercourse, they never use the word lHwa which means “fucking” but instead they use jima’ “bringing a couple together” or nikaH “legal sexual intercourse within marriage.”
Besides the insulting and permissive verbal language, the body language is even worse in the film. Scenes show prostitutes performing lustful belly dancing and lap dances to Arab Gulf customers who are mesmerized by the performances and the women curves at the same time. So, this dirty dancing is considered by the general public as the most offensive way of presenting Moroccan culture.
The double use of immoral verbal and body language to portray the life of four Moroccan prostitutes in Marrakesh and their daily dealings with Arab Gulf sex-famished males shows quite clearly that the film was made with a double intention:
– Maybe please the French and embolden them in their ridiculous crusade against Islam and its symbols; and
– Achieve popularity and singularity by being the Moroccan filmmaker who touched upon some of the most thorny issues in his movies: street children in his film “Ali Zaoua” (2000), the rise of radical Islam among the poverty belts of Casablanca “The horses of God” (2012), etc.
Does the Film Advance Women Struggle in Morocco?
The film, alas, does not advance in anyway the fight of women for equality in Moroccan society, on the contrary it sends a subliminal message to the rest of the world and especially to the Arab Gulf countries that Moroccan females are easy women to have and strengthens the already solid stereotype that Morocco is a paradise for sexual perversity and that money can buy women for use and abuse.
The other subliminal message that this film will send is that Morocco is the Muslim’s world Thailand, where sex can be bought with money and customers can have all their wildest phantasms satisfied, at will.
It might be the case that women are not the equal of men in Morocco and that they are still treated badly in some areas and that they are still subjected to violence and sexual abuse in others. It is, also, the case that women, because of poverty and illiteracy might work as prostitutes to feed their families. But, in spite of all this, women are held in high esteem within Moroccan culture, society and the Islamic religion because they are:
– The mother (lumm, lwalida, lmmima, ), who is considered, within the Moroccan culture, as the pillar of the household, the groundwork of the family, the cultural reference of society and the guardian of national heritage. Islamic religion, on the other hand, sanctifies the mother and her role in religion and civilization. As for Amazigh societies, which are matriarchal by nature, they have even made of the mother the central pillar within the extended family;
– The sister (‘ukht, khtita, lkhwadriya, ), who is the princess of the family and the jewel of its throne. Everything is done to protect her from shame and abuse and her marriage is the best celebration of the family’s lifetime and everything is done to make it the best and the biggest; and
– The wife, who is moulat dar (the household lord), mwat lwlad (the mother of the offspring), ‘maret dar (the essence of the household), etc. The wife is considered as the central pillar of the family, the educator and the source of love and affection to children and husband.
It is true that prostitution is a plague that has to be dealt with seriously and efficiently, especially through strict legislation, but not through a sensational and a pornographic film like Ayouch’s “Much Loved,” which unfortunately will only send the wrong image abroad. Endemic prostitution has to be combatted with much strength and vigor through: functional literacy programs, female education, entrepreneurship education and women empowerment in every circle of life.
Unfortunately, Nabil Ayouch was motivated by fame and personal gain only and not by rendering a service to Moroccan society, in general, and women, in particular. His controversial film will send the wrong message, to certain parts of the world, and strengthen further the stereotypes that they have about Morocco and its women there.
Nabil Ayouch, is, no doubt, a good filmmaker and director, he could have focused on other topics related to the advancement of women in Moroccan society such as the curse of illiteracy among rural Amazigh women, the abuse of young girls maids (child labor and sexual abuse, too), the plight of the Amazigh mule women of the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Mellila, etc. but, alas, instead, he chose the “hot” topic of high class prostitution which he treated in a sensational manner that has caused tremendous injury to the Moroccan people, in general, and women, in particular. If that is his initial goal, then, surely he will achieve fame elsewhere and much disrepute in his country of origin.
What Is Wrong with the Ayouch Tribe?
It seems that the Ayouch family because of their French education, influence and allegiance have got everything wrong about the Moroccan culture. One even wonders if they do understand the essence of Morocco or not? From their controversial actions and repetitive social faux pas, one can say that they definitely do not, in the least.
The father, about a year ago stirred controversy in the Moroccan society by calling for considering recognizing formally Moroccan colloquial Arabic darija as the official language. As a media professional, this would be probably beneficial for his advertising business, but, otherwise, it is pure suicide for the culture.
Formal Arabic links Morocco to the rest of the Arab world and that is important culturally and also commercially for the nation. Furthermore, Arabic is important for a big chunk of the population because it is the language of the Holy Koran and many pious people want to learn it to read Koran and do their prayers and related religious rituals.
Ayouch’s suggestion was met with anger and mockery and many people thought his proposal was made to render service to French linguistic imperialism, bearing in mind that French language is currently imperiled by the universalization of English.
Now the son, following in the footsteps of his father, has made an injurious film “Much loved” about high-class prostitution, choosing the pornographic format instead of a didactic and pedagogic approach.
Nabil Ayouch, through his film, has not only insulted the populace, but also Moroccan artists and particularly the late popular and much-loved singer Abd SadeK Chekkara from the city of Tetouan, whose song hit was called “bent bledi” and known among the general public as “zin li fik,” the very Arabic title the film director chose for his movie.
And because of this controversial movie, his past cinematographic achievements will, undoubtedly, go down the drain, in the eyes of the populace and he might even be declared the enemy of Islam by the radical religious zealots for his injurious work.
In the End, This Is the Beginning of a Long Debate
Responding to the popular outcry and heeding the controversy this film has ignited, the government has responded by banning it, though not in the legal procedure fashion required, to be in harmony with the Moroccans’ attitude toward this cinematographic work. This was stated clearly in the communiqué of the Moroccan Ministry of Communication”:
“The film undermines the moral values, and dignity of Moroccan women, as well as all the image of Morocco,”
Actually, this is opening the gate for a long debate between those who want an all-out modernity, with no strings, and those who stick to tradition and heritage and want the country to modernize but reject modernity that is adopted and encouraged by the West because it is not respectful of Islam. The debate will be long and heated. Be prepared….
You can follow Dr Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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