Washington DC - I decided to to give my opinion on recent events in Morocco and how Moroccans are reacting on social media. My take on these events, is that we Moroccans need to be adults, let go of our addiction to being offended, and learn to live together in a pluralist society, regardless of our different beliefs. If we can’t do that, we will tear our country apart.
Washington DC – I decided to to give my opinion on recent events in Morocco and how Moroccans are reacting on social media. My take on these events, is that we Moroccans need to be adults, let go of our addiction to being offended, and learn to live together in a pluralist society, regardless of our different beliefs. If we can’t do that, we will tear our country apart.
Let me recap the recent events in question:
– Dr. Chafik Chraibi, head of Obstetrics at Les Orangers in Rabat, was suspended for advocating decriminalizing extramarital sex and abortion to prevent women dying from illegal abortions (he was reinstated);
– Two Femen activists were arrested and convicted on obscenity charges, and expelled from Morocco, for kissing bare-breasted in front of Mohammed V’s mausoleum;
– A writer publicly outed a gay couple, resulting in their arrest and conviction to four months in jail;
– Jennifer Lopez’s performance at the Mawazine festival was broadcast on state-sponsored 2M TV, and a minister of the same state sued her for lewdness;
– Young men on a beach in Agadir posted a picture of themselves holding up a sign that read “Respect Ramadan: no Bikinis;”
– Two young women in Inezgane were sexually harassed and subsequently arrested for wearing dresses in a market, which according to the police and the prosecutor constituted an attack on the country’s moral values; and
– A mob in Fez beat up a man wearing a dress (he was perceived to be gay or transgender, we’re not quite sure).
Here are my observations on the commentary I have read on social media:
1) Morocco is a country where the government used to tell us what to believe and and how to behave, so we behaved accordingly and kept our opinions to ourselves. Now we are able to hold opinions, but we have forgotten how to tolerate divergent opinions or lifestyles. Our school books value conservative Islamic beliefs over critical thinking; our families value a conservative family code and obedience above all else. As a consequence, when Moroccans want to rebel, they are extreme in their rebellion. Or, if they’re compliant, when presented with someone or something outside their norms, few Moroccans seem able to engage in civil debate about it. We often default to the most extreme version of our position possible. Let’s rewrite the school books to emphasize critical thinking and mutual respect, and we’ll get more mature, moderate thoughts and behaviors from people.
2) Moroccans are so deeply divided on issues and cling so deeply to feeling offended that the state sometimes reflects that in its behavior, which then reflects poorly on all of Morocco. It’s like we’re addicted to being offended, and we want to throw a tantrum every time it happens.
This is how on the one hand the state issues permits for Mawazine, even asking state-sponsored TV to broadcast it, and on the other hand it reacts to citizens’ outrage at the broadcast by having a minister of government sue an internationally famous artist who had not been told to tone down her act. I understand that deeply conservative people might have been offended by Jennifer Lopez shaking her money-maker on TV, but what happened to changing the channel if you don’t like what’s on TV?
3) We love our country deeply, and we think it’s under attack. Depending on who is talking, we’re under attack by atheists, Salafists, drug addicts, gays, the West, America, Israel, the Gulf, African migrants, Arabic, Darija, Tamazight, French, the upper classes, the unwashed masses, the Femen, the Jews, the Christians, and more.
If we want to be the Morocco that respects all of its citizens and also attracts tourists, encourages investment, and is internationally respected, we’re going to have to relearn coexistence with people who believe in things and behave in ways that are different from our beliefs and behaviors—as long as we are all living under the law of the land and according to the Constitution—and work together on solutions to the many real challenges facing our country, rather than focusing on irrelevant issues. We have to accept that differences of opinion and practice are not attacks on Morocco, and that our differences actually can contribute to a stronger country.
If we want to be a country that roots itself in Wahhabi Islam rather than our pluralist Constitution and our tolerant Islam, then Morocco will become Saudi Arabia, where there is order, but where gay people, adulterers, and non-religious people are executed; women’s dress codes reflect the belief that women are inherently sinful; religious minorities cannot worship; foreigners have no rights, and unfortunately, only the wealthy prosper. This is not a country that I could love, and I believe it is not a country most Moroccans want. It lacks respect for its own citizens. Plus, is it in our best economic interest to be this kind of country? What tourist is going to want to visit “no bikini” Wahhabi Morocco?
Worse yet, if we don’t decide on either of these and we continue to disagree with each other more vocally, more violently, until we’re shooting at each other over our differences, we will become Afghanistan or Somalia. Guess what, in those countries there are no tourists, no jobs, no rights and no order or peace.
I don’t want to live in Afghanistan, Somalia, or Saudi Arabia. Those countries are going in the wrong direction for long-term stability, harmony, and citizen rights. So I choose the other road. Moderation, compassion, humility, consideration, joy in life, understanding of culture and mutual respect for our differences of opinion and practice. Calm debate. Patient coexistence. I choose pluralism. I choose the Moroccan way.
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