Since the news of the barbaric and cruel tragedy in Imlil broke out, Moroccans have been voicing their collective shock and outrage. Reactions became even stronger since it turned out that this heinous double murder was a terrorist act.
By Brahim Fassi Fihri
Rabat – Just like many of my fellow citizens, I have experienced real pain in recent days. When I saw the photos and videos of the two young women, who were very lively individuals, I was, like many Moroccans, heartbroken.
For a very short moment, I felt like I knew Maren Ueland and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, so far from me, so far from us, yet so close that a Muslim nation came together to mourn the loss of two foreigners whose blood has been shed on our soil.
As I was scrolling down a social network’s news feed, I came across the odious portraits of these cowards—these traitors to our religion, these Grim Reapers, these lowlifes—who attacked their easy prey, alone and half their number, at night.
The contrast between the two victims’ photos and those of their attackers is, of course, striking. The images of Maren and Louisa portray happiness, optimism, and life.
The photos of the criminals, from the same generation as their victims, evoke hatred, darkness, and death. Two opposite yet parallel life trajectories unfortunately crossed paths for a macabre meeting in a remote and isolated place in the Atlas Mountains.
Terrorism has no identity. It has no face, no color, no smell, no nationality, no religion. It is the most vicious manifestation of human cowardice.
Terrorism is rooted in economic and social exclusion. The cult of ignorance is its catalyst, as opposed to our religion, which fosters knowledge and Ijtihad (studiousness). The seed of terror grows in the fertile soil of frustration and poor education.
In Morocco, perhaps more than in any other Muslim country, hate speech, “othering”, and religious fanaticism are not part of our identity. Since the 1980s, we have been exposed to a rigid discourse, with which a tiny minority of Moroccans has chosen to identify.
It is true that the authors of the Imlil tragedy are Moroccans, but their modus operandi is not, and neither is their value system. Their “allegiance” to ISIS is the evidence.
We should not reduce this double murder to a simple story of four amateur terrorists who had an opportunity, probably coincidental, to live their “big moment.” The atrocity of this crime and the intense emotions it has provoked—in Morocco and elsewhere—are exceptional.
Also, we should not accept simplistic suggestions that Morocco has become more radical, that Wahhabism has prevailed, and that many Moroccans are future terrorists in the making. That is absurd.
Although a latent yet non-violent conservatism is on the rise in Moroccan society today, alongside a real desire for emancipation, we are still very far from the “retrogressive” reality that prevails in many other Muslim countries. The century-old tolerance and the deep-seated tradition of openness in the Kingdom are what ISIS wants to bring down.
This heinous act is, still, isolated. Moroccans, from all social groups, reacted genuinely and unanimously by rejecting terrorism in the clearest possible way.
Morocco is, and will always be, a safe country. This is largely due to the preventive measures to counter violent radicalism being deployed in our country, including the management of religious activities, unlike in many neighboring countries, and use of a vigilant, expert, and knowledgeable security service, of which we can be very proud.
For the past 48 hours, I have seen the words “Sorry” and “Pardon” sent on social networks to Denmark, Norway, and the two victims’ loved ones. Morocco has been overwhelmed with strong emotions and relentless rejections of the terror act.
However, even though many of us had the urge to expel our emotions, making apologies is uncalled for.
Apologize for what, exactly? Being Moroccan? Being Muslim, when these barbaric criminals are smearing Islam? Not being able to protect Maren and Louisa? Why apologize when there is no such thing as “zero risk” in the war on terror? The risk is present in Morocco and elsewhere, because today no country can claim to be immune to this global threat.
In ten years, the Kingdom has experienced only two terrorist acts that have resulted in 19 fatalities. Meanwhile, in France there were 14 attacks—mainly perpetrated by French citizens who were born in France and having always lived in France—and more than 230 deaths. Why, then, should we apologize, when our counter-radicalization and security strategy should inspire several Western and Muslim countries?
Could it be a sort of guilt trip to avoid being confused in the West with these obscurantist black sheep?
Perhaps we should apologize to ourselves first. We have been so busy sharing hashtags and “I am” sympathy slogans with other countries that have had attacks in recent years that we forgot this could happen to us.
Perhaps some of us, intimidated into a spiral of silence over the reality that our religion is being misrepresented by an insignificant minority, should apologize for focusing too much on complex conspiracy theories when Islamist terrorism has just hit us in its most basic and barbaric form.
Like many Moroccans, I was hurt after this unspeakable tragedy. The Imlil event is a wake-up call. It must make us all more determined to fight all forms of hatred and extremism, without complacency, exceptions, concessions, or attenuating circumstances.
“Our misfortune is that we live with people who think that God has guided no one but them.” — Ibn Sina (Avicenna)
ماتخسرش_ليا_بلادي# (“Don’t ruin my country”)
Brahim Fassi Fihri is Founding President of the Amadeus Institute
Translated by Zakaria Ouadghiri