Rabat – André Azoulay, senior advisor to King Mohammed VI, praised Morocco as a model for cultural and religious pluralism at an awards ceremony in New York on Thursday.
“Thanks to the visionary and dynamic leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco has become a haven of coexistence and cultural resilience, deeply rooted in the values of modernity and humanism that distinguish the Moroccan model in today’s world,” said Larbi Rmiki, Head of Public Diplomacy at the Moroccan Embassy in the United States, speaking on behalf of Azoulay, who could not attend the ceremony.
Azoulay was awarded the World-Recognized Sephardic Jewish Leader Prize by the Foundation for Preserving the Visual History of the Jewish People for his work to bridge religious divides through arts and cultural collaborations.
“I am deeply grateful to the Foundation for the work you are doing in preserving Jewish history around the world and I am especially honored that you have dedicated a memorable moment to my country.”
In his speech, Azoulay payed a heartwarming tribute to his childhood city, Essaouira, “a city that has been, throughout the centuries, a living and dynamic center of Jewish life, so much that at one point in history it was able to welcome in its fold a majority Jewish citizens.”
In front of a large audience that came to celebrate the universality of the Moroccan model and understand the proximity and conviviality between Islam and Judaism in the Kingdom, Azoulay added that he has always felt that Essaouira is “a microcosm of Morocco, a land rich in the depth of its diversity where Islam and Judaism have mutually nourished and cultivated each other.” He stressed that “since my childhood I have learned that the preservation of Judaism in Morocco is a matter of dignity and justice honored by all Moroccans.”
The King’s councilor also touched on the long-standing religious conflicts plaguing the Middle East, saying that through his “long search for a just peace in the region in the early 1970s when I founded the group “Identity and Dialogue” in Paris, he spent the following decades demonstrating that “Islamic and Jewish cultures were not opposed, but rather interdependent and complementary.”
“As part of my work with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and as President of the Anna Lindh Foundation,” said the royal advisor, “I have striven to tell the world that my Moroccan Jewish culture and identity have been nourished at the heart of the the Arab-Muslim world and would thus be reduced without the Muslim dimension, to the same extent that the Moroccan civilization would be incomplete without the enriching influence of Judaism.”
He added that he “was fortunate enough to put my hometown, Essaouira-Mogador, on the map of the world as a Mediterranean flagship of intercultural dialogue and a resilient city where everything related to human culture and the spiritual exchanges between Islam and Judaism converge.”
“It is fascinating,” he concluded, “that this singularity of the Moroccan model, in the land of Islam, continues to show the way to the rest of the world.”
The award ceremony was marked by the presence of several members of the diplomatic corps at the United Nations and Washington, as well as an array of international businessmen, artists and journalists. The event was also attended by the former US Ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg, and the former Under-Secretary of State for the Treasury, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat.