Rabat - To begin, I must make a few warning remarks. I would like to invite anyone who is reading this text with the specific purpose of finding evidence that I reject Islam or that I hate Arabs or that I have been alienated by Western ideologies to stop the exercise here as, one, they will not, and two, I will not let them get away with it. Also, with no false humility, I would extend the same invitation to those who have traditionally striven to find fault with what I say and have pretended that I do not know what I am talking about, because I do and better than many who claim being experts. For those who do not know, I must inform them that I was raised in a family in which reading and discussing texts, of many languages, and in as many areas as language, ante-Islamic and medieval literature and philosophy, history, religion and the arts were habits and daily practices. They structured the culture of our lives.
Rabat – To begin, I must make a few warning remarks. I would like to invite anyone who is reading this text with the specific purpose of finding evidence that I reject Islam or that I hate Arabs or that I have been alienated by Western ideologies to stop the exercise here as, one, they will not, and two, I will not let them get away with it. Also, with no false humility, I would extend the same invitation to those who have traditionally striven to find fault with what I say and have pretended that I do not know what I am talking about, because I do and better than many who claim being experts. For those who do not know, I must inform them that I was raised in a family in which reading and discussing texts, of many languages, and in as many areas as language, ante-Islamic and medieval literature and philosophy, history, religion and the arts were habits and daily practices. They structured the culture of our lives.
I would also like to warn those who wish to find evidence of attitudes towards given religions, religious people or ethnic groups that they will not find any for the simple reason that, for historical and sociological circumstances specific to Morocco, I have had close friends and relatives of as many religions and races one can think of and that I have learnt to know them, appreciate them, respect them and not only accept them in their differences and similarities, as I am sure they also have, but I have learnt to see myself through them and in them. I see them as a necessary extension of myself, as fundamental arguments in how I define myself and as an important part of the happy justification of my life. Furthermore, my own identity partakes directly and wholly in all. So, no room for accusations and hypothetical insinuations!
I will be using “we” to refer to what I think is the collective awareness of those individuals who believe they have in common, even when it is only partially, Islam and the territories extending from Arabia to the Atlantic Ocean and the various cultures, languages and traditions therein. These include therefore individuals and groups who may not share the same ways of life, religions, languages and cultures and who may not have always been on a very pleasant terms. More specifically, “we” refers to the most complex, diverse and inclusive social, ethnic, linguistics, religious and cultural roots, branches, layers and dimensions of my own identity as a Moroccan.
This being said, let me say that with decades of age piling up over the sixth, nothing aggravates me more than what I hear about, on the one hand, how nice, beautiful, peaceful, generous, open, tolerant and loving we, as a people, a community and a culture, have always been throughout history. On the other hand, how we have always been targets of the evil schemes and violence of enemies who hate us, are jealous of what we enjoy and whose sole purpose in life is to destroy us, steal our wealth, erase our religion, humiliate our culture, spit on our civilization and deny the authenticity of our glorious history. Moreover, having been an eyewitness of the rise and fast increasing spread of this discourse, I have also been subjected to the intellectual pains of seeing less and less meaningful reactions to it being expressed.
While, taken one by one, any of these virtues and or accusations may have some actual specific references in history and in our daily lives, they may not be put together in a theory to justify the call for the collective rejection of all others nor to incite hatred of the rest of humanity nor the claim that we are and have always been the best and that we deserve to rule over the whole world and be its masters until its end.
It is a fact that as a nation we are entitled to take pride in many glorious moments of our history and to claim great contributions to human civilization, knowledge, science, the arts and culture. It is also a fact that traits of generosity and tolerance have marked the character of much of our ancestry. As a nation, it happened to us to have interests, convictions and values we felt entitled to cross over with into other lands to other peoples just as others long prior to us and much later than us had felt and done. Just as others long before us, we held ourselves to be the best, the chosen and the ones everyone else had to submit to. As it usually happens in such relationships, contrary interests, opposed ideas, convictions competing with counterparts have often contributed to undermining the conditions for peaceful coexistence, mutual appreciation and acceptance of difference, let alone respect of it. Likewise, as usual, such times of hardships give way to moments of understanding, generosity and bright contributions to the arts, science and knowledge. In this process, we, as a nation, have differed in nothing from any other nation. We behaved and reacted in the same manners as all the others have throughout history.
It is also a fact that in many periods of our history we fell prey to others. We were invaded and colonized. Our culture and civilization were attacked at their foundations. Our languages were marginalized systematically and excluded from mainstream use. Campaigns to wipeout the cement that made our religion hold us together were steered by highly competent competing religious interests. Our culture was humiliated and alternatives to it promoted through costly and comprehensive communication strategies. These are facts, but have we not been guilty of the same at various times of our history. Have we not invaded lands and called them ours and their populations minorities? Have we not promoted one language at the expense of native languages which we have excluded systematically? Have we not insulted and cursed other religions in our mosques? Have we not humiliated minorities in our streets? Have we not discriminated against others and made them live in isolation? Have we not driven our armies beyond our frontiers to take our religion to where other ones were observed? Have we not kidnapped women, wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of others and made them our slaves? These are but a few historical facts we, as a nation, have shared and continue to share with others. None of them is of a moral nature and should therefore not be presented or assessed as such.
Like most other nations, we burned books, torn down libraries, hanged thinkers, exiled philosophers, accused poets and artists of immorality, found severe faults and sins with our contenders in the field of ideas, criminalized readings and interpretations different from our own and imposed silence to mourners of minorities. Many of these practices we are still holding to and performing with pride and when our minds are described as backward we cry that we are being abused, our culture is being humiliated, our religion is disgraced and our identity is denied the right to being.
We are about the only nation left that still prides on promising a better afterlife by retrieving the life of others simply because they will not adhere to our own convictions or accept submission to us. Which other nation pushes its youth to explode themselves to take other lives and promise them heaven? We are the only nation that makes of a woman’s uncovering her hair or parts of her body the major argument to explain draughts, earthquakes and tsunamis. We censor books, journals and movies without even having seen or read them. We cheat in elections, set up parliaments and require that everyone complies with their decisions. We form governments with unnatural political alliances and are surprised that the people rise against them. We issue laws against the will of those they will be enforced on and when they resist and protest, we beat them and imprison them. When one of us denounces corruption, we jail him.
We reduce the pensions of civil servants and refuse to readjust those of ministers and members of parliament. We pretend we are tolerant and we insult and curse all other religions in our mosques every time we meet for prayer. We teach our children that others are descendants of hogs and apes and we, the purest, of Adam. Some of our scholars still repeat to whoever they can make to listen to them that a donkey had spoken to our most honored prophet and informed him that he – the donkey – is the last heir of a dynasty of asses that served only prophets and that this secret had been revealed to him – the donkey – by his parents. We have reduced our religion to a mythology threaded in prohibition, reasons for fear and warnings of sufferings. We have prohibited music and the arts and made joy and play deadly sins. The only happiness we recognize is that a few may enjoy after they die. We have made innovation and creativity sins to be punished.
We have become champions of faking truth and ending up believing in our own lies. We claim victory when we are defeated and call the victory of others defeat when they have overcome. We hate reality and anyone who reflects it to us. No one is ever right and we are never wrong. We are never responsible and the consequences of our acts are for others to assume and pay for. We imagine we are in a position to compete while half of us are illiterate, unproductive, too lazy to work and too proud to admit it. We crash the individual and the present so that the illusion of a destiny designed in bygone ages by past groups and communities may unfold. We have condemned languages and ethnic groups in their own lands and territories so that ours prevail. We had times in which we seized opportunities and made the best of them. Those are times gone and with them our taste for excellence, intelligence, imagination, challenge, taking risks, exploring matter and mind, building coherence between nature and man and making language comply to thought and thought to will.
We have made wars to ourselves and turned our weapons against each other. We have sold our natural resources raw for too little and bought gadgets, weapons and drugs for too much. We have invested in soccer teams, race cars and horses in rich countries while our young men and women are unemployed, more than half of us sleep hungry, many or our women give birth in streets and many die unattended, too poor to afford antibiotics. We have imported stories, songs and games and taught our children the history of others while our own we have put all our efforts to conceal and hide away from them.
That things are not brighter elsewhere or for others is of no concern to me here. That others are making life difficult for us does not exonerate us from getting loose of our own hatred. That others are demonizing us, demeaning our religious symbols and abusing our sacred beliefs is no excuse for us to deny reason and mind or to call for mass shootings in theaters or by posting snipers on roofs to collect the lives of passersby. That we are targeted by enemies that strive to remove us from human memory should not in any way condone our search for find assistance in some lesser enemies!
It is a fact, our image is gloomier than it has ever been. It is also a fact, adversaries have been working hard at it. But it is also a fact that we did help quite a bit. As long as we are unwilling or unable, it does not matter which, to admit to our chronic failures, we will not set ourselves free nor will we get out of the vicious cycle we are stuck in.
We should by now have become wise enough to be, at least, aware that the history of a nation has ups and downs, that history moves in seesawing swings. One can but hope, however, that the ups will not be moments of too long upsurges of injustice and violence and the downs not too low or too deep for clean air to be caught and for fundamental distinctive cultural features to resist and survive.
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