By Mohamed Belkhayat and Mohammed Bourdi
By Mohamed Belkhayat and Mohammed Bourdi
Washington D.C – Moroccan American residents from the Washington D.C.area and volunteer public servants to the Moroccan community were invited to discuss the Moroccan diaspora’s engagement in civil society. Other topics included education and feedback on articles* 16, 17, 18, 30 and 163 of the Moroccan constitution pertaining to Moroccans residing abroad (MRA). The meeting was held at the Marriott Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland on October 23, 2015.
The meeting was organized by Nadia Serhani, a member of CCME and the founder of AMLEN, the American Moroccan Legal Empowerment Network. The event was sponsored by ARPA, the Alliance for Rule of Law Promotion & Alternative Dispute Resolution. Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal greeted the first arrivals and took time for some photographs with the community prior to leaving.
The CCME team was made up of mostly Moroccan French members, a Moroccan Italian, a Moroccan Spanish and a Moroccan resident of Senegal. Most of the members were volunteers. A participant from the U.S.cordially alerted the CCME that the Moroccan French members dominated the meeting at the expense of Moroccan Americans that could have joined the event. The light-hearted comment was well taken and duly noted. Participants also suggested that CCME could benefit from more diversity by engaging the American perspective and way of thinking in a more direct way.
Other notable attendees included Dr. Claudio Grossman, the dean of law school at American University, who was also a panelist, Dr. Fatima Hadji of George Mason University and Hanane Zelouani, a democracy advocate.
The main objective of the meeting was to see how Moroccans abroad could interact with Morocco under the new constitution. The second objective was to share each other’s experiences in the relevant areas of work. Feedback on the interpretation of the five articles was welcomed as it was acknowledged early on that these articles were not full enacted as laws yet. In fact, CCME signaled that this is a first in a series of meetings that they hope to conduct with the Moroccan American community throughout the United States.
Ms. Serhani opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and introduced Mr. Rahhaly, the new Moroccan Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) who read the ambassador’s welcome message, officially engaging the Moroccan community under the new constitution.
CCME’s Mr. AbdelhamidEl Jamri briefly spoke about the progress that Morocco has made in the past decade and gave a summary of the articles being discussed. He stated that the articles protected MRA’s rights, including language, art, culture and religious affiliation. He, also, mentioned the new Mohammed VI International Imam Training Center that was recently decreed by His Majesty Mohammed VI for the training and education of international religious leaders in moderate Islam.
Dr. El Abdi Abdelilahof Mohammed V University covered the last 16 years of progress Morocco has made in terms of sociopolitical reforms, including the Moudawana and the new constitution.
Mr. Jean AbiNader, Director of the Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center (MATIC), gave brief statistics on the Moroccan community being roughly 90,000 “according” to the census bureau, a small number compared to other estimates. He, also, mentioned that Moroccan Americans constitute approximately 3.5% of the Arab community in the U.S. and are generally considered to be well-educated, given as 41% of them are graduates of Moroccan and/or American Universities.
Dr. Grossman, the current chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture, highlighted the importance of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and cited some examples, infractions, or mis-perceptions. He, then, stated that Morocco needs to abide by its ratification against torture to which CCME responded deliberately and carefully.
Dr. Younes Abouyoub, Senior Political Officer to the UN and co-founder of Humanity without Boarders, spoke about the American Dream and the Moroccan community. Based on his research studies, the Moroccan emigration is generally for economic purposes and not political in nature.
Dr. Mohamed Belkhayat, president of the Home of Moroccan Educators and Moroccan Students in America (HMEMSA) gave a presentation about education as the foundation of good citizenship, which would allow full engagement at a constitutional level. Given the relatively high illiteracy rate in Morocco, full engagement in the constitutional rights is still a very tough challenge. He highlighted English as one of the critical needs for the new arrivals who come to the United States to continue their education or in search of jobs.
Also, given the large body of knowledge available online in the English language through E-learning, Morocco stands to benefit from utilizing more English in the Moroccan curriculum. Other important needs for MRA include Arabic and a well-balanced religious education especially for the second generation of Moroccans in the U.S. He also compared the two systems of education and strongly recommended independent evaluation and accreditation of the educational system in Morocco. He suggested that mosques should allow and welcome school tutoring and simple computer programming for both rural and urban communities in Morocco, and not be constrained to only spiritual teachings. He gave the example of churches and mosques in the United States and how they serve their communities.
Dr. Mohammed Bourdi, former president of the Moroccan American Society for Life Sciences,discussed the opportunities and the challenges facing the academic cooperation between Morocco and the U.S. He highlighted the fact that Moroccan scientist expatriates in the U.S.A. and abroad have managed to provide academic support to students and researchers in Morocco in many ways. However, he added that there are many hurdles that limit their actions namely the lack of real commitment of institutions and researchers in Morocco to develop win-win partnerships with their Moroccan counterparts abroad and the absence of a formal status for Moroccan expatriate academics to advance higher education and scientific research in Morocco.
Dr. Bourdi also stressed that Morocco and its institutions are in a real need of the expatriates’ participation in Morocco’s academic institutions to face significant challenges, such as the shortage of faculty in universities (the overall needed number of teachers by 2020 is an average of 1800 teachers per year) and low scientific productivity. Dr. Bourdi added that Morocco needs a clear strategy to involve a large number of Moroccan expatriates in academic institutions and underlined the need for a national entity in Morocco to support and coordinate the Moroccan expatriates’ academic activities in Morocco while protecting their rights and interests.
Dr. Rachid Chriqi, board member of Moroccan Evaluation Association (MEA), spoke about the importance of evaluation and the fact that it has been enshrined in the constitution. Policy evaluation is included in the constitution and as such creates an important tool for feedback on what works, what doesn’t and what can be improved. Mr. Aloumouti, a manager of social services in Virginia and community leader, gave important statistics about the Moroccan community in the United States and stressed the need for professional community centers to provide Moroccan Americans with necessary information and assistance.
In closing, Ms. Serhani thanked all the participants and summarized the main discussion points, then adjourned the meeting. It was agreed that CCME could play an even larger role by engaging the Moroccan American community.
Articles of the 2011 constitution relevant to Moroccans living abroad
The Kingdom of Morocco works for the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the Moroccan citizens residents abroad, within respect for international law and for the laws in force in the host countries. It is committed to the maintenance and to the development of their human link, notably cultural, with the Kingdom and the preservation of their national identity. It sees to the reinforcement of their contribution to the development of their homeland, Morocco, and to strengthening of ties of amity and of cooperation between the governments and the societies of the countries where they reside and of which they are citizens.
The Moroccans resident abroad enjoy the full rights of citizenship, including the right to be electors and eligible to be elected. They can be candidates to the elections at the level of lists and of local, regional and national electoral circumscriptions. The law establishes the specific criteria of eligibility and of incompatibility. It determines as well the conditions and the modalities of the effective exercise of the right to vote and of candidature from the countries of residence.
The public powers work to ensure participation as extensive as possible to Moroccans resident abroad, in the consultative institutions as well as institutions of good governance created by the Constitution or by the law.
All the citizens [feminine] and citizens [masculine] of majority, enjoying their civil and political rights[,] are electors and eligible to be elected. The law shall provide equal access to women and men in this regard. The vote is a personal right and a national duty. Foreigners enjoy the fundamental freedoms recognized to Moroccan citizens in accordance with the law. Those among them who reside in Morocco can participate in local elections by virtue of the law, of the application of international conventions or of practices of reciprocity. The conditions of extradition and of granting of the right of asylum are defined by the law.
The Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad [Conseil de la communautémarocaine à l’étranger] is charged, notably, to give its opinion on the orientations of public policies ensuring to the Moroccans resident abroad the continuation of close ties with their Moroccan identity, to guarantee their rights, to preserve their interests, to contribute to the human and lasting development of their country of origin and to its progress.
Edited by: Fatima Zahra El Alami
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