Rabat - I have recently made the unfortunate experience of learning that myths not only did not belong to the past, as I thought, and that legend had not lost any of its extraordinary power to explain history and command current affairs, but that mythology is still fertile and is still producing characters strong enough to rule over minds, to raise wealth and to make destinies.
Rabat – I have recently made the unfortunate experience of learning that myths not only did not belong to the past, as I thought, and that legend had not lost any of its extraordinary power to explain history and command current affairs, but that mythology is still fertile and is still producing characters strong enough to rule over minds, to raise wealth and to make destinies.
The discovery, in itself, would not have been so problematic to me had it not drawn me, personally, so closely to the heat of the authority of modern mythology. In fact, I have been lately called to order by a gatekeeper – and perhaps also mouthpiece – of a leading representative of the mythological establishment. He gave me two choices either to shut my mouth if I was unable to submit to the myth he adheres to or to face consequences. The person, now a university professor, whom I had known as a student about four decades ago and whom I haven’t heard of since the late seventies when he still identified himself as a man of the left, called me late at night to warn me against continuing to write about his sect – this is the word he actually used – and its patron.
After a short reminder of who he was, which includes a member of a notorious family closely related to a sect, he took a paternal tone which immediately turned into what I have felt as open threats. His argument was that because, unlike him who had been frequenting the sect and the patron for over twenty five years, I was unable to understand anything about it and had, therefore, no right to criticize the public manifestations of its practices.
The rituals of the sect include dancing about, jerking, shaking, hopping and skipping while chanting – at times yelling – in a collective trance allegedly to glorify God and the Prophet. Kissing the hands and feet of the patron lying in a bed, too old to move, to speak or actually open his eyes, can be part of the observance of the ritual. The sect, he argued, is what has preserved the Kingdom and maintained the political and social stability of the country. The sect was strong and highly credible and has drawn scientists, academics, and personalities of all nationalities and convictions. To my remark that kissing the feet of a person did not seem to me as any act of glorifying God or his Prophet or of any scholarly standard nor of any nature to protect the country from anything, he replied that the man was the evidence of the presence of God and that as should be done to fathers, his feet can be kissed. He was to him more than a father, he said. He asked me whether I did not or would not kiss my father’s feet. That was not the issue, I did not have to discuss that, I had to reply. According to my traditional orthodox religious culture this was very short of associanism, shirk, and of putting an intermediary between the creator and his creation, one to intercede!
It seems the gatekeeper of the sect did not expect his attempt to scare me and to humiliate me not to work. I insisted that he changed his paternal and menacing tone for the conversation to continue. As it seemed it was natural for him to bully people around and for them to bend and as I am not of the kind to bend to threats, we ended up hanging up on each another.
To be fair to the guy, I have to admit I had reacted in a rather straightforward manner on a social media to a text whose purpose was to justify the many centuries old sect’s survival in the twenty first century, to document its religious and historical legitimacy and to convince of its beneficial roles for us all Moroccans and to humanity in general. I had referred to the sect as a backward institution and as a residue of the Middle Ages whose function is to alienate ideologically and intellectually vulnerable people and to manipulate them. It is that I find it impossible to imagine the holiness of a person just because we are told that his father had appointed him heir to his authority upon a Devine recommendation. I simply find it all incoherent and incongruous to the times I am living in. In any case, whatever my feelings about the sect and its patron, they must not justify threats of any type.
In exchanges I had with colleagues whose opinion I hold in high esteem and who are close enough to the sect to be aware of its various practices, they confirmed to me their strategy to exact support from people and to force into silence those who will not follow them or be mouthpieces for them. They also confirmed to me that many who attend the rituals are drawn either by curiosity or by some utilitarian reason and not by any spiritual need or search of internal peace and conciliation. Some have referred to the bold decision to close the Bouya Omar mental asylum and the rising voices to ban practices of eating animals alive that surface back from time to time in specific occasions as signs of hope that the social, intellectual and political validity of such practices is nearing expiration time.
I am left perplexed, I afraid we might be entering the era of sects …. an era we will either join the trance or be silenced … an era in which mysticism will lead science and scholarship or are we, rather, starting ahead on the way out of ages of darkness into territories in which reason, knowledge, light, truth, peace and happiness for all will overcome.
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