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Morocco Week in Review 
April 14 , 2012

‘RPCV/Morocco’ Ben Pennington: Interview with an American Who Lived in Morocco for Two Years (Part 2).
By Larbi Arbaoui  Morocco World News  Taroudant, Morocco, March 26, 2012

MWN has conducted an interview [read part 1] with Mr. Ben Pennington who is an American athlete, musician and poet. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in N’kob, Zagora, Morocco for two years [from 2009-2011].

Read more below: http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34880/ben-pennington-interview-with-an-american-who-lived-in-morocco-for-two-years-part-4-2/

Ben Pennington: Interview with an American Who Lived in Morocco for Two Years (Part 3) http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34880/ben-pennington-interview-with-an-american-who-lived-in-morocco-for-two-years-part-4-2/

Ben Pennington: Interview with an American Who Lived in Morocco for Two Years (Part 4)
By Larbi Arbaoui
Morocco World News Taroudant, Morocco, April 12, 2012
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34880/ben-pennington-interview-with-an-american-who-lived-in-morocco-for-two-years-part-4-2/
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The Political Implications of Morocco – US Free Trade Agreement
By Latifa Bousalham Morocco World News Casablanca, April 12, 2012

Free trade agreements have been promoted at an unprecedented rate during the last decades. Many countries have chosen to engage in preferential trade agreements for economic considerations. Morocco’s interest in expanding a preferential access to the American market met with a similar interest on the part of the American administration in furthering regional economic cooperation. However, various considerations account for such deals. The promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East, the war against terrorism, together with the issue of the Sahara were emerging issues high on both countries’ agenda.

The Former Moroccan secretary and then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taeb El Fassi Lfihri has successfully negotiated a free trade agreement with his USA counterpart Trade Representative, Bob Zoellick. After eight rounds of negotiations, the proposal received congressional approval and an agreement was reached on March 2, 2004. On June 15, 2004 the US / Moroccan Free trade Agreement was signed in Washington DC. And it was not until January 1, 2006 that the agreement entered into force offering new opportunities to deepen existing relations. The agreement had as an objective to reduce and eliminate barriers and boost trade and investment flows. It also comprised a set of arrangements favoring partners by extending tariff and non-tariff preferences.

To reaffirm its open door policy, the US granted Morocco a special position among few countries. The policy built upon the existing framework of political cooperation, which dates back to 1777 when the Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdullah announced his desire for friendship with America. This overture manifested in recognition of US’s independence and culminated in the concluding of The Treaty of Friendship in 1786, which was the longest unbroken treaty in US history.

Recently, the US engaged in an ambitious project to negotiate preferential free trade agreements with Middle East countries to boost economic cooperation, a project going hand in hand with political and military intervention in the region’s affairs. However, the US restricted eligibility to such markets to countries that meet specific requirements with regard to economic liberalization, peace prospects and the war against terrorism. The US’s policy headed towards establishing peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa. This message of economic integration aimed at achieving eventual normalization of relations between Arabs and Israel and attempted to stop Arab economic boycott of Israel and accept it as a partner.

In recognition of its pivotal role in promoting peace and security in so a turbulent area well-known for its chronic instability, Morocco was deemed eligible and gained US confidence as a prospective peace partner who spared no effort to ensure a favorable climate to negotiate peace agreements between Israel and the Arab World. Morocco’s centrality as a long-standing and geo-strategic ally to US made it well-positioned for this role as a veteran mediator in the Middle East peace process.

Economically speaking, the Moroccan government advanced an ambitious privatization program, encouraged investment in all sectors and brought about a series of important reforms. The US responded positively and offered political and economic support for Morocco. Such a position presented this moderate state as a role model for other developing countries that still hesitate in taking bold steps to implement economic reforms and trade liberalization, key ingredients of modernization and crucial determinants for enhancing development.

On the one hand, and as a fervent opponent of terrorism, Morocco has played a pivotal role in the war on terrorism. For the US, the engagement of third world countries in economic deals with the West is the new weapon in the war on terrorism. Eventually, when countries are involved in economic partnerships, there is more likeliness for peace and tolerance and partners tend to shun away from any conflict that would shake stability or affect business and investments negatively. Again, Morocco has been one of the more open partners with regard to human rights and democratization. Throughout the last decades, Morocco has engaged in an ambitious democratic modern project based on strong commitments to shared values and political, economic and institutional reforms. The Bush Administration described the FTA with Morocco “as an effort to build strategic, economic, and political ties with a moderate, friendly regime in the region that will serve, in turn, as a model for other countries”, (White, 597-616).

In return, the Sahara issue was high on the list of Moroccan priorities. Morocco counts on these advanced relations with the US to garner stronger support from American policy-makers for the Autonomy Plan presented by the kingdom in April 2007. US’ support can help achieve a negotiated compromise to settle the Sahara dispute and the future of the region. The USA can make a big difference with regard to its hegemony and leadership.

Eventually, the rapid spread of preferential trade agreements is one of the most pressing issues which pose a big challenge to the multilateral trade system. The US / Moroccan FTA sets a policy of ambitious objectives of partnerships that addresses trade issues from different perspectives where three main fields of activity overlap, namely the economic, the political and the social. However, in a global world characterized by high competitiveness, the pressing question is whether this historic deal will integrate Moroccan economy with the largest and most dynamic economy in the world, whether Morocco – as a third world country modestly forcing its way in a highly competitive world – is qualified to cope with the changing rules of the game.

Aspiring to achieve real partnerships which have the capacity to address vital sectors within a comprehensive approach, state and non-state actors – who are involved in policy-making process – are required to play their part to influence choices about whether to emphasize preferential trade agreements or disregard them. In this context, they need to ensure that such deals seek lasting benefits for all partners through a non-discriminatory trading and financial system. Again, such agreements should consider the local specifications of different partners without jeopardizing one’s own traditions and values. All these concerns and others may account for why many practitioners continue to view free trade agreements skeptically.

Latifa Bousalham is a master student majoring in Moroccan-American Studies at Hassan II University in Mohammedia, Faculty of Humanities/Ben M’sik/Casablanca. She obtained her BA in English Literature at the same university in 1998.  She is a secondary school teacher since 1998.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34803/the-political-implications-of-morocco-us-free-trade-agreement/
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Morocco to raise solidarity tax on firms to help poor.
By Souhail Karam Mon Apr 9, 2012 RABAT, April 9 (Reuters

* Budget amendment extends reach of tax in 2012
* Funds to help develop poor areas to stem discontent
* Two rates, depending on level of profit

Morocco's government has agreed to amendments from parliament to widen the imposition of a new tax on firms to help it develop poor areas and help quash grumbling discontent over social inequalities, officials said on Monday.

Plans for the so-called solidarity fund tax were announced in the midst of mass protests last year in Morocco that were inspired by the Arab Spring revolts. Proceeds from the new tax will help raise 2 billion dirhams ($235 million) for a social solidarity fund to develop poor areas in a country that has one of the widest wealth inequalities in the region and where protesters still take to the streets over poverty, joblessness and corruption. The fund is also expected to pave the way for a reform of food and energy subsidies - which even the government says benefit mostly those who need them the least.

The 2012 budget now provides for the imposition in 2012 of a tax equal to 1.5 percent of the net profit for firms that make between 50 million and 100 million dirhams in net annual gains, Finance Ministry and parliament officials said. Firms with annual net profits above 100 million dirhams will be subject to a 2.5 percent tax on their net profit in 2012, they added. The government also agreed to raise tax on beer and spirits in 2012 by 12.5 and 43 percent respectively, the first increase since 2010, the officials said. In its draft budget for 2012, the government had initially fixed the contribution at 1.5 percent of net profit for firms that make over 200 million dirhams in annual gains.

"The government has agreed to the majority's proposed amendments for the ratio and scope of the new solidarity tax but it rejected the (majority's) demand that this tax applies beyond 2012," a parliament official said.

The fund should enable authorities to develop poor areas, many of which have seen protests about poverty, unemployment and poor infrastructure and access to basic amenities. Official data shows that 24 percent of Morocco's near-34 million population lives in poverty.

Morocco's budget deficit in 2011 rose to its highest level since the 1990s, or 7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), with those subsidies costing nearly as much as the budget shortfall. Morocco's parliament is expected to vote and endorse the amended budget before the end of this week. ($1 = 8.5141 Moroccan dirhams) (Editing by Alison Williams)
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/09/morocco-economy-taxation-idUSL6E8F90S120120409
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Morocco aids drought-stricken farmers.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 12/04/12

Morocco is taking action to help farmers suffering from the drought. Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane on March 27th met a delegation from the Moroccan Agriculture and Rural Development Confederation to discuss a plan to help farmers and save livestock.

It is the government's duty to help the agriculture sector, Benkirane said as he explained that the government decided to safeguard a key component of the Moroccan economy. The government plans to implement a 1.53 billion dirham programme for the affected areas. The government will waive customs duty on imported barley, implement a livestock assistance programme, supply seed, boost subsidies granted for certified seeds and ensure that insured farmers whose crops and legumes have been harmed are compensated for their losses. Benkirane stressed the importance of adopting a participatory approach based on co-ordinating the efforts of different departments and operators within the sector in order to find appropriate solutions to various issues.

The Moroccan agricultural season has been troubled due to cold weather earlier this year and the onset of a drought. Farming in the kingdom provides the main source of income for 80% of the rural population and 14-20% of the country's GDP, according to figures from the finance ministry. The growth forecast of 4.2% anticipated by the government for 2012 must be revised downwards, according to Central Bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri. "This year will be characterised by drought and an unpredictable international situation," he said. "The Central Bank predicts that growth will be below 3% this year."

Farmers who have been waiting for action will receive much needed assistance from the government to help them to make it through the tough season. "In addition to 1.53 billion dirhams set aside to support the sector, another 1 billion dirhams has been allocated to rural areas," Ahmed Ouayache, the president of the Moroccan Agriculture and Rural Development Confederation said. Crédit Agricole will also restructure loans to support farmers, he added.

The president of the National Association of Agricultural Investors, Abou Baker Belkora, said that the drought was just one element of the "structural problems" affecting the agricultural sector. "What is essential," he argued, "is to find proper solutions and not merely adopt one-off measures and budgets."

Economist Magid Badri had the same view, underlining that "the government must now devise a plan to end reliance on good weather alone." "Morocco's medium-term outlook is still dependent on the agricultural sector and all efforts to modernise it must be co-ordinated, especially given the scale of the government's ambitions," Badri said.

Badri said that the Moroccan government is hoping to increase the contribution made by the agricultural sector to the GDP from an average of 74 billion dirhams to somewhere between 100 and 174 billion dirhams by year 2020. "This will create 1.5 million new jobs and double incomes for nearly 1.5 million inhabitants of rural areas," he said.

Small-scale farmers have high hopes. Hmida El Mhaidi, a farmer in Kenitra, said that the most pressing issue was the need to save livestock. "Farmers are eagerly waiting to receive subsidies from the government to help them deal with the lack of rainfall and the high prices of animal feed and fodder," he said.
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2012/04/12/feature-03
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Morocco's drought to support Prairie durum prospects.
Apr 11, 2012   By: Phil Franz-Warkentin Commodity News Service Canada

Drought concerns in Spain and Morocco could bode well for Canadian durum exports, as the two Mediterranean countries are both major producers of the crop. "The dryness in Morocco has been building since December, and we've seen it continue to build," said Stuart McMillan, a weather and crop analyst with the CWB in Winnipeg.

Nearby Algeria and Tunisia have seen adequate moisture for their durum crops, but expectations for Morocco's durum crop have declined considerably. After two to three years of favourable weather and good yields, cyclical North African weather patterns have trended back to dryness, said McMillan. The cyclical weather also leads to cyclical demand from the region, which is a major player in the world durum market, he said.

He estimated the Moroccan durum crop was advanced to the point where rainfall would provide very little upside to the production prospects. As a result, Morocco's durum crop may end up about a third of the size of the previous year's, said McMillan. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegs all wheat production in the country, including durum, at 2.3 million tonnes, which compares with 5.8 million in 2011-12.

Weather patterns keeping moisture out of Morocco have also caused problems across the Strait of Gibraltar, in Spain. The challenges in Spain mean the country won't be in a position to meet any export demand that comes out of Morocco this year, said McMillan.

Morocco recently signed a free trade agreement with the U.S., which means U.S. durum may be more likely to fill any increased demand from the North African country. However, U.S. supplies are also on the tight side, and the relatively small number of players in the international durum market will see Canadian prices supported as well. Canada exported 597,600 tonnes of durum to Morocco in 2010-11, according to Canadian Grain Commission data, making the country the second largest destination for Canadian durum exports that year. In the 2011-12 crop year to date, Canada has exported 185,100 tonnes of durum to Morocco, which compares with 412,700 tonnes at the same point the previous year. Total Canadian durum exports to all destinations in both 2011-12 and the upcoming 2012-13 crop year are currently forecast by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at 3.5 million tonnes. That compares with exports in 2010-11 of 3.304 million. As far as Canada's durum crop is concerned, McMillan said recent precipitation in the durum-growing areas of Saskatchewan helped top up moisture levels after a dry winter.

Farmers are showing interest in growing the crop, he said, but any increases in seeded area will be subdued. The CWB currently forecasts Prairie durum seedings in 2012 at 4.45 million acres, up from 4.02 million in 2011 but slightly below the five-year average of 4.72 million. http://www.manitobacooperator.ca/news/moroccos-drought-to-support-prairie-durum-prospects/1001062905/
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A year of Change, Reform, and Progress in Morocco
by  Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) March 15, 2012

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel, POMED Wire (Washington, DC, March 16, 2012)

In a written statement, former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel, asserted that “Morocco stood out from the very beginning” from the Arab Spring. Gabriel highlighted that “Morocco’s King Mohammed VI’s historic March 9 th [2011] speech, calling for a commission to bring together Morocco’s political and civil society leaders, trade unions, and youth to propose wide-reaching reforms,” was supported by the U.S.  Gabriel quoted Senator John McCain, who called Morocco a “positive example to governments across the Middle East and North Africa.”  In 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said Morocco was “well-positioned to lead” a resolution to the crisis in Libya. Gabriel applauded Congress’ approval of U.S. program assistance to all “regions and territories administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara.”

Gabriel also pointed out “genuine reform demonstrated by the Moroccan people and the King” to “solidify democratization.” He affirms that Morocco’s November parliamentary elections “reminds us of Morocco’s commitment to democracy when the country’s political parties united to form a strong governing parliamentary coalition which made the socio-economic and political empowerment of Moroccans its priority.” On security issues, Gabriel asserted that “the U.S. firmly supports Morocco’s redoubled efforts to combat Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other terrorist groups who are increasingly intent on destabilizing the region.”

Gabriel concluded that the U.S. and Morocco will continue to “process and progress closely” as “Moroccans are a vital friend in a region grappling with threats to stability, security, and democracy.” With Morocco preparing to enter the U.N. Security Council for the next two years, Gabriel is “confident that we will not only continue to watch Morocco move forward, but the U.S. will actively work to support our historic friend and partner in peace, progress, and prosperity.”

Americans watched the Arab Spring unfold and saw the common aspirations for democracy, freedom, and economic empowerment across North Africa and the Middle East.  However, we did not look at the region from a single point of view—to the contrary, the various triggers, reactions, successes, and failures led us to understand the uniqueness of each country involved.  Morocco stood out from the very beginning.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI’s historic March 9 th speech, calling for a commission to bring together Morocco’s political and civil society leaders, trade unions, and youth to propose wide-reaching reforms, quickly caught the United States’ attention and the reaction and ensuing support were unequivocal. At the time, Senator John McCain, who had visited Morocco a month before the speech, praised the King’s “long-standing commitment to lead Morocco to a future of reform and modernization,” and called Morocco a “positive example to governments across the Middle East and North Africa,”—a powerful endorsement at a time when regional unrest was intensifying.

Later that month,Morocco’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Taeib Fassi Fihri, the highest ranking Arab leader to visit theUnited Statessince the Arab Spring began, met with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She emphasized that Morocco was “well-positioned to lead” in working with the international community to peacefully resolve the crisis in Libya. She further reiterated that the longstanding US policy supporting a peaceful end to the Sahara conflict through autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty “remained constant” and described the Moroccan plan as “serious, realistic, and credible – a potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.”

Just a few weeks ago, Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the commitment to and continuity of US solidarity and support when she met with Morocco’s new Foreign Minister, Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani in Rabat.  She made clear, as she has done numerous times during her tenure, that “US policy toward the Western Sahara has remained constant for many years” and took steps with Minister Othmani to further the strategic dialogue between Morocco and the US.

To further strengthen this long-standing support for a resolution to the Western Sahara conflict, the US Congress approved, for the first time, the use of US program assistance to Morocco in all “regions and territories administered by Morocco,” including the Western Sahara.  These funds will support Morocco’s extensive and ongoing programs aimed at building infrastructure, providing training, and improving the lives of all of its citizens, including the Southern Provinces.  Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Chairman of the newly reconstituted Morocco Caucus in the US House of Representatives, applauded Congress’ “vital change in U.S. foreign assistance” and called its actions “an acknowledgement of the unprecedented reforms in Morocco and reinforces strong support for a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.”

Americans watched as Moroccans from all segments of society proposed, debated, and articulated the reforms necessary to solidify democratization in Morocco. We took note of a process that was largely peaceful and swift, yet thoughtful and thorough, taking place in a spirit of cooperation and desire for genuine reform demonstrated by the Moroccan people and the King, whose vision for irreversible progress was clear.  As Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted, “King Mohammed’s proposed constitutional changes are a welcome start in what must be a long-term process to increase democracy and enhance stability in Morocco. […] If adopted, expanded, and fully implemented,Morocco’s reform agenda could serve as an example for the region.”

The entire world—not just the United States—closely watched Morocco’s November parliamentary election, the first of-its-kind since the Arab Spring. Once again, we were reminded ofMorocco’s commitment to democracy when the country’s political parties united to form a strong governing parliamentary coalition which made the socio-economic and political empowerment of Moroccans its priority for the coming year.

We stood in solidarity with the Moroccan people following the tragedy of the senseless bombing in  Jemaa el Fna and were encouraged by Morocco’s commitment to prevent these violent actions of a few to derail the commitment of the millions determined to build a stronger, more inclusive Morocco. TheUSfirmly supportsMorocco’s redoubled efforts to combat AQIM and other terrorist groups who are increasingly intent on destabilizing the region and placing obstacles in the way of progress.

The US continues to follow Morocco’s process and progress closely for more many reasons: both countries share a history of more than two centuries of partnership and cooperation, andMoroccois a vital friend in a region grappling with threats to stability, security, and democracy.  As Morocco joins the United Stateson the United Nations Security Council for the next two years, these ties will be more important than ever as both nations partner to tackle the most important international political issues of our time.  I am confident that we will not only continue to watchMoroccomove forward, but the US will actively work to support our historic friend and partner in peace, progress, and prosperity.- -Amb. EMG
http://moroccoonthemove.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/ambassador-ed-gabriel-change-reform-and-progress-in-morocco-the-pomed-wire/
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Orange blossom special
At this time of year the scent of Fez is the scent of orange blossom, writes Derek Workman.

Today was hot, with crystal air and bright blue sky; one of the best days Fez has seen for a while. A week or so ago the air began to fill with the scent of zhar; the heady aroma of orange blossom. Young boys, and occasionally their sisters and mothers, take to the streets with poles to belt the orange trees and shake loose their snow fall of dainty white blossom.

Gathered in baskets, it is taken to the vendors in the Medina, and for the next couple of weeks the air will be rich with the pungent bouquet, as housewives swoop down to buy the basic ingredient of a scent and flavouring that permeates Moroccan culture. Taste a Moroccan pastry, and there is a fair chance that a dribble of orange blossom water has been added to the mix; visit a hammam, and the rich soaps and ungents might release a light perfume of orange; go to a celebration, particularly a wedding, and you will have your hands sprinkled with the water as a sign of welcome and good luck.

Orange blossom water is big commercial business, but many households still prepare their own – and it’s a family affair. I've been invited to the Medina home of Michelle Reeves,  where her mother-in-law, Mama Fatima Abdelmoula, is preparing the delicate brew, as she has done every year for the last forty-three years, since a neighbour taught her as a girl of fourteen.

We exchange salaams as I’m introduced to Mama Fatima, Fatima Chafik, Michelle’s girl Friday, and Khadija, Michelle’s daughter. Introductions aside, coffee, and mint tea are prepared, and a plate of wonderful pastries is produced, bought from a local bakery. Parts of a copper still, a katara, are waiting to be assembled, but there is the process of mixing the orange blossom to be gone through first. I take a bite of a brioche, a mouthful of coffee, and watch.

Michelle bought the blossom four days earlier, and it has been wrapped in layers of cotton since then, drying enough to remove excess moisture, but not enough to deplete the aromatic essence. I’m staying at a riad with an orange tree in the centre of the patio, and when I wake up each morning the scent drifts into my room. The morning is said to be the best time to buy the blossom, before the heat of the day has had a chance to drain the heady perfume away. I pick a small flower, and when I crush it between my palms the scent isn’t as intense as I expect it to be, so it seems that the blossom has to mature to the point of falling from the trees before it has enough essence for the distillation process to work.

The first step is to check the burner, heated from a gas bottle and hired along with the katara, the still. Rachida, nanny to Khadija and her baby sister Olivia, waves a cigarette lighter around the connection, and a small flame flares out from the connection of the plastic orange tube to the burner. The gas bottle supplier is sent for, appearing within a few minutes, and yes, he definitely agrees that it’s best not to continue until the escape is sorted out. From the bulbous pockets of his jacket he pulls out a spanner and undoes the connector, trims the end of the orange tube, and then finds that the screw clip that tightens tube to burner is broken and won’t tighten, hence the gas escape, and a new one of the correct size is the last thing he thought to bring. Could Fatima please nip down to his shop and get another one? She’s back in a couple of minutes, new connection made, and all is working wonderfully, and, as the kettle has just been boiled and the mint tea is ready to be poured he is invited to stay. The polite dialogue of, “I have to go,” “But you must have a glass of tea and a bun,” “Oh, alright then, if you insist,” is gone through and he is served a glass of mint tea and a splendid pastry dribbled in chocolate.

Mama Fatima begins the mix. Two kilos of orange blossom will provide about five litres of perfumed water. The still is in three parts; the bottom one contains the water for the distillation, the second one the mix, and the third one is a container of cold water which has to be continually changed to create the steam that is part of the distillation process.

A thick layer of blossom is laid in the middle section of the katara, on top of it is placed an orange, which is then covered over with more blossom. The bottom section is filled with water, a few big handfuls of blossom, a couple of oranges and the peel of a lemon. This increases the intensity of the perfume as the liquid passes through the distillation process.

When Michelle told me about gathering the orange blossom I was confused. If they remove the blossom, how does the fruit grow? (I remember being told by an orange grower in Spain that the orange is the only tree that can bear blossom and fruit at the same time.) Apparently, the tree bears little fruit anyway, and you would be very unwise to eat it. It’s a bitter fruit, commonly known as a Seville orange, (wonderful in marmalade), and even though it has been the main tree found in Arab gardens for millennia, it was only ever used to provide decoration and flavourings for food and cosmetics. It is only marginally less tear-making than sucking on a lemon.

I’m chewing my second bun when the water container is put on the burner, the middle section with the majority of the blossom set in the tight- fitting flange of the base, and the cold water section placed on top. Mama Fatima asks for salt, and takes a handful from the container Fatima two hands her. “Part of the recipe,” I think, and then realise I’ve jumped the gun a bit as she scatters it in a circle around the base of the burner. “To keep Satan away,” she explains with a grin.

Fatima junior brings in two plastic kitchen bowls, which seem slightly out of keeping with the burnished copper of the still and abolishing the devil. In one is a murky, glutinous liquid and in the other are a pile of grubby strips of cloth. The sludge is argile, a green clay from the Middle Atlas Mountains, and known for its rejuvenation properties, which is why it is used in face packs. On this occasion it is being spread on the cloth strips before being wound around the joints of the three sections of the katara, and when it dries it will form a seal to stop the steam escaping. It seems that it is an excellent glue for the purpose, which sets me to think that when used as a face pack and sets, removing it quite literally peals away the years.

The tank begins to boil and Mama Fatima patches the odd seam in the cloths to prevent the luxurious essence escaping. The room begins to hint of the aroma of oranges. Mama and gas bottle man agree that all the seals are working to perfection, gas and steam, so he leaves. Surprisingly quickly, a fine stream of liquid begins to appear from the spout on the top section, and Mama Fatima carefully positions a five litre plastic water bottle under the dribble. Marginally quicker that watching paint dry, I see the bottle slowly filling with liquid as the perfume hangs thicker in the air. The plastic bottle begins to buckle and contract from the heat of the liquid, and Mama Fatima has to replace it with the smaller bottle that the orange blossom water will eventually be decanted into.

Every few minutes the top container has to be emptied, replacing the hot water with cold, to continue the distillation. You know when distillation is over because the perfume of oranges slowly fades. The bottles are filled and left for forty days to mature. I’d hoped to take a bottle back to England to celebrate the wedding of my son in three week’s time, but it looks as though I’ll have to buy a commercially produced bottle and cheat a little.

But they do say it’s the thought that counts.
Story by Derek Workman for The View From Fez.
http://riadzany.blogspot.com/
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Terror cell dismantled in Morocco.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 10/04/12

Three Meknes men are accused of planning attacks on banks, security stations and power supplies in the kingdom. Morocco broke up a terror cell in Agourai, near Meknes, the interior ministry announced Monday (April 9th).

The members of the Islamist group planned to destroy government facilities and banks branches in the region, officials said. The three suspects allegedly sought to cut off power in the target areas to ensure maximum destruction. "The suspects spread their extremist ideas on the internet. They advocated disobedience through protests and acts of destruction. Their aim was to recruit the largest possible number of sympathisers in order to involve them in bringing their conspiracy to fruition," the ministry statement said.

The arrest of the alleged terrorists by the judicial police (BNPJ) highlights the fact that Morocco must remain vigilant if it wants to thwart the plans of terrorists, experts said. Vigilance by security services has spared the country several deadly attacks, political analyst Magid Ibrahimi noted.   "Breaking up a cell at this stage of planning is not easy," he added.

Efforts to overcome the terrorist threat must be co-ordinated at the national and regional levels, Ibrahimi said, adding that the Maghreb faces security challenges to which a collective response with both security and social dimensions must be found.

That view was shared by sociologist Samira Kassimi, who said that efforts to tackle poverty and raise awareness in schools are essential to ensure that young Moroccans will not be easy targets for extremists and fanatics. She argued that schoolchildren and their families must be made aware of the dangers so that pupils can be forearmed. "The role of schools and families is essential. Children must be warned of the dangers of extremism at an early age. They must also be taught the values of tolerance and openness," she said.

As for the public, opinions were split between those who welcomed the vigilance of the security services and those who have doubts about the interior ministry's claims to have broken up a terrorist cell.

Abbas Chihabi, a 32-year-old employee, was one of the sceptics. He claimed it was a ploy by the interior ministry to scare people and prevent demonstrations.

But student Charifa Batali disagrees. She believes that fanaticism and extremism do exist in Morocco and that this makes it essential to guard against disaster at all times. "I have faith in the competence of the Moroccan security services. Their ability to thwart the plans of terrorists is no longer in doubt. Despite this vigilance, however, there have been some attacks, because you can't wipe out the terrorist mind-set completely," she said.
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Who We Are: Identity & Destiny
KARIM KADIRI
 Wednesday, 11 April 2012 Casablanca / Morocco Board News

If we were to think logically we’d soon realize that we are but a crossroads of a few unrelated elements:
-The circumstances in which we are born
-Our respective living environments 
-The quality or type of brain we are given
Altering any single element in this equation would most certainly produce a different “us”.

-Circumstances include among other things, the era in which we were born as well as our parents’ economic situation.
-Environment refers to the country or region as well as the family religion.
-Last but not least is our debatably preprogrammed brain with its innate traits and various possible degrees of intelligence.

With this analogy in mind, I came to the conclusion that we could neither be blamed nor take credit for our deeds, for they are merely the fruit of coincidences of nature. Naturally, the ramifications of such a statement can be controversial and wide ranging as they do absolve criminals of the horrors they have perpetrated and on the other end of the spectrum, discredit the giants that have punctuated human history.  

If Einstein had been the recipient of a different brain or had been born in a forsaken village in the Amazon forest, he would’ve most likely never been the great scientist we’ve come to know. The same applies to any and all of us.

Minority status: Though the title of this piece « the world according to me » may sound arrogant, it really is not meant to be.  I in fact simply could not find a more adequate name for this very personal essay given its content and subject matter.

One can say that I have always been an infinitely minute “minority” in this world, not in the racial sense of course but rather in the literal meaning of the word itself; I am very simply a minority with regards to most of my worldly and existential views. 

As a very young boy already, I began to feel as though the world was completely illogical to my inexperienced mind.

From the silly to the serious, I had a problem with almost everything:

-I could never understand why we had to wake up so early for school when logic seemed to indicate that we should instead sleep in to our hearts’ content, wake up refreshed and leave a bit later. What was the rush about, where was the fire?

-As I saw it, we humans, were constantly putting undue strain on our bodies and minds without ever stepping back to question ourselves or our lifestyles. I did not understand why humanity ever chose to make the workweek five days rather than a fairer split of three, three and a half or even four days out of seven.

-What mind conceived of the plan whereby adults would have to work a whole year in order to obtain two or three weeks of liberty?

 Anti-conformism:

-My biggest beef in life has always been and continues to be with the premise of tradition. 

I absolutely cannot begin to comprehend why it is that we have to replicate (like monkeys would) an act, an action or a scenario at a specific time of year simply because somebody supposedly important had done so before us, on that same calendar day, years, decades or centuries before.  

Is it sentimentalism, faith or a lack of imagination? 

Regardless, I could not be party to any of it (to my family’s dismay).

The reasons for my ambivalence and anti-conformism are nowadays simply too numerous to cite but suffice it to say that I have always been the black sheep wherever I went.

I have often said that it hadn’t been easy being me!

Being out of place at home and at school is no fun for a kid that cannot yet articulate his thoughts adequately.

Today the trend continues but with a wider arena to share my views, I simply have more opportunities to get myself in trouble and a greater potential for more serious consequences.

Constantly swimming against the current of universally accepted normality requires developing thick skin, a stronger personality and a deeper soul as defense mechanisms against the very likely possibilities of isolation from family and peers. Fortunately, my oddity has instead amused and intrigued friends that have elected to stick around.

My social, political stance:

I could begin by saying that I am a John Lennon liberal and a Jacques Brel aspiring intellectual; 

My angle is always one of peace and non violence and as such I am often the recipient of anger and harshness as I assert my hippy ish views on issues like nationalism, flags and alike: 

I often speak against the dangers of pride and patriotism for as I see it, those are but witting tools of division between peoples. Meaning no disrespect to Morocco, the US or any other land, I never adhered to the unwritten rule that states we have to love the country of our birth, be proud of being from it and had to always be ready to defend it with our lives. 

I fully reject the nationalistic, patriotic hyperbole we are bombarded with from birth. The rule I aim to live by is much simpler; I am for right and against wrong regardless of geography, color, religion or any other divisive label. As I see it my place of birth is a mere geographic accidental occurrence and as such I do not need to prefer Morocco over China or any other country; what I like is simply based on my innate taste and not on an inculcated belief system. 

Proud of being from Morocco, the US or Tibet is similar to being proud of being born on a given day of the week; it is in other words of no consequential significance!

This line of thinking also extends to the family structure; I treat members of my family in direct accordance with their character and behavior towards myself and others. Being a brother, uncle or mother does not give one a free pass on ethics. We all have to earn the love and respect we wish to get from others. 

I’ve always said “what if my father were Hitler?” Would I have to be nice to him too?

How to maintain happiness

Life is simply too short to waste on angry, unsavory moments with anyone. To that end I have embraced the simple recipe that calls for staying away from negative forces, whoever and wherever they may be (close family included). I have instead elected to seize the good moments when they came, celebrating them to their fullest and without hesitation. Only by doing so can I ever be happy and more balanced, therefore more apt to give more of myself to those who genuinely deserve my time, love and attention.

To further cement my happiness equilibrium, I have also long lowered my worldly expectations (this may sound like a paradox or a contradiction but it isn’t):

Based on my observations and experiences I have come to simply expect nothing good to come out of daily life; as such I am never hurt, offended or even shocked when things do go awry as they tend to so naturally and so often. On the other hand when things do go my way, I am genuinely and pleasantly surprised; I have an unscheduled reason to celebrate.

My philosophy

I call it my cosmic reality: This analogy is comprised of two basic ingredients; time and space.

-We were all born twelve billions years after the big bang and will also all be dead for eternity. 

With that perspective in mind we have to admit to ourselves that our entire existence is shorter than brief and also completely inconsequential.

-On another front, we have to consider that we are part of a universe composed of billions of galaxies, themselves comprised of billions of stars and planets; in light of this inalienable fact we have to humbly admit how insignificant we truly are.

These undeniable realities have helped me not worry or expand energy on earthly issues. 

We do say that everything is relative and with the perspective of this “Cosmic reality” we begin to realize that no tragedy on earth is worthy of the importance we give it! To those who see the world from my vantage point, worrying about mundane issues such as money, country, love, power and so forth is simply losing sight of the big picture.

Though many have found my philosophy solid and self-standing, none has claimed to be able to live by it. Humans are simply not built to be entirely cerebral and objective. We are, for the most part, animals of feelings and emotions with a great need for idealism and of spirituality that offer us a false sense of security and hope. 

Conclusion: With the mix of environment, Circumstances I was born into and brain I was given (which produced who I happen to be) I have elected to not accept pre-chewed ideas and approved mass thinking.

 I have instead chosen to always take the necessary time to dissect all world assumptions in order to come up with conclusions I truly believed with every fiber of my body.

If like me you feel like an oddball, simply remember that the world was made better by freethinkers willing to challenge public opinion and not by mere followers in need of the comfort of a given group or movement!
http://www.moroccoboard.com/viewpoint/40-karim-kadiri/5599-who-we-are-identity-a-destiny
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Do Moroccans Speak Arabic?
MATT SCHUMANN
 Monday, 09 April 2012 Washington/ Morocco News Board

After my Fulbright grant ended last July I traveled to America to visit family and friends for about two months before returning to Morocco to study Arabic. Of all the people I saw, I looked forward the most to reuniting with my undergraduate advisor, a professor in the Religious Studies department at Rice. For three years, he was my guru, especially in Arabic. He guided me through Classical Arabic, its broken plurals, irregular masdars, ma / min constructions, and instilled in me a great appreciation for the language in its most intricate forms.

We met one night in Houston for dinner, and he made me defend my choice to stay in Morocco to him. He did so with the best intention. He had encouraged me to go abroad and stay abroad, emphasizing the importance of 'real world' experience and language skills for any Arabic / Middle East scholar. So I was surprised when, after explaining to him my decision to stay in Morocco, that he told me, "Matt, if you want to get serious about Arabic, you need to leave Morocco and go somewhere else."

Feelings like his are common in the United States, among students and teachers of Arabic, and in the Arab world.

In the introduction to her book Arabic Sociolinguistics, Dr. Reem Bassiouney of Georgetown University offers this anecdote of meeting a young Moroccan woman in London:

I came across a young Moroccan woman working in the Foreign Office. She was a second-generation Moroccan, and I was happy to discover that her parents were keen on teaching her 'Arabic' and that she spoke 'Arabic' fluently. And indeed she did - except that she spoke Moroccan Arabic. We decided to meet for lunch, and she started complaining to me in Moroccan Arabic about her Moroccan husband, who did not understand her. Apart from knowing the general topic of discussion, I did not understand much of what she said, nor did she understand much of Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA), nor even my attempts at speaking Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). We basically, after five minutes, reached a deadlock. It was clear that we both had to switch to English to understand each other. It was also clear that the Moroccan woman was exposed to neither ECA nor MSA. She was fluent only in Moroccan Arabic. Had the woman been exposed to ECA or any other dialect and not specifically MSA via the media, TV and satellite channels, our communication would have been much easier. The dialects are sometimes mutually unintelligible, and while educate speakers have developed sets of strategies across dialect boundaries that include various resources from MSA, someone who knows only a dialect of spoken Arabic will be likely not to understand an educated speaker of another dialect or be able to make herself or himself understood, especially if one of the speakers comes from North Africa and the other does not. Speakers of ECA have an advantage, but only if their interlocutor has watched a lot of television in a country that broadcasts programmes from Egypt. Thus, after this incident I could understand the fear that Arabs have of losing their grip on MSA and thus losing their concept of the nation."

It's clear from this that Dr. Bassiouney, an Egyptian, shares my advisor's views: North Africa is not the center of the Arab World and that North Africans are not concerned with learning Arabic (at least not as much as Egyptians, ostensibly). Dr. Bassiouney goes farther to insinuate that Moroccans and their Maghrebi brethren neglect their bonds to 'the Arab nation.' 

I shared this anecdote with a Moroccan friend today and she was rightfully shocked. "Who does she think she is?" she said before mockingly explaining how all Moroccans girls know Egyptian Colloquial Arabic because they are in love with Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny. And she's right, many Moroccans do understand Egyptian Arabic, and even speak it. Of course those who are abroad and grow up in the West have a poorer understanding of Arabic, not living in Arab countries. Which is why using a second-generation Moroccan immigrant as a representative of all Moroccans and their command of Arabic is a startling oversight.

Dr. Bassiouney's views are at best highly problematic generalizations based on terrible evidence. But what she, and my professor, believe reflects the reality of Arabic and the Arab World.

Arabic is unique in its diglossia. This term refers to the fact that Arabs speak multiple 'Arabics', usually a 'high' variety, or the Modern Standard Arabic referred to above, and a 'low' variety, i.e. the colloquial Arabic dialects.

In other words, the Arabic that is printed in books is different from the Arabic that people grow up speaking, or their mother tongues. And this difference is much different from the stylistic and lexical differences we find between written and spoken English. Generally, the Arabic dialects and Standard Arabic are mutually unintelligible.

Like dialects in other languages, the Arabic dialects differ based on geography. The greater the distance between two dialects, the greater the difference. Jordanian Arabic is similar to Shami, spoken in neighboring Palestine and Lebanon. The Arabic spoken in Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates is so similar that its referred to collectively as khalijiyya خليجية , or Gulf Arabic. Naturally, Moroccan dialect, which developed thousands of miles from Jordan, the Gulf and Egypt, is significantly different. And it is true, as Dr. Bassiouney observes, that Moroccan dialect, or darija, is incomprehensible to most Jordanians, Khalijis and Egyptians.

But this incomprehensibility is relative, not absolute. Reading Dr. Bassiouney's anecdote makes one think that somehow Moroccans speak inferior Arabic, that their dialect is somehow 'less Arab' than Egyptian, thereby leading to the two women's inability to communicate. The notion that Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and even Libya, are 'less Arab' than Middle Eastern states is popularly held, though utterly unfounded.

What measure are we to use to determine the 'Arabness' of one of Arabic's dialects? Moroccan Arabic speakers identify as 'Arab' so as Egyptians do, so how are they less Arab? Many blame the influence of French and Berber on darija's lexicon and grammar. But no dialect is immune of such foreign influences. Where you find French glosses in Moroccan Arabic, you can find English ones in Egyptian. Even Standard Arabic is a repository of French and English words written with Arabic letters.

I would argue that darija is no farther from Standard Arabic than any other dialect, and maybe closer than Egyptian dialect. Lexically speaking, Moroccan Arabic makes use of some uncommon, deeply Classical Arabic words. For example the verb بغى , which means 'to want' and 'to like' in Moroccan darija, appears in Classical texts, but only rarely in Modern Standard Arabic, and not in Egyptian dialect. Additionally, many Moroccans, particularly Fessis, use Standard Arabic pronunciation, notably pronouncing their ق qafs and ج jims appropriately. Egyptians pronounce these letters much differently, or not at all, resulting in great dissonance with Standard Arabic.

Claims comparing the 'Arabness' of one dialect to another are dangerous. Not only are they philosophically and factually flawed, they also reak of a sort of nationalist thought that borders on racism. The truth is that all Arab nations have participated in creating greater Arab culture, and all of their contributions, regardless of geography, are valuable.

What bothers me the most is how attitudes like Dr. Bassiouney's and even my undergraduate advisor's go against this truth, choosing to elevate certain Arab nations over others. Yes, Egypt and its dialect are prominent in the region because of their role in popular Arab culture (Egypt is referred to as the Hollywood of the Middle East). But just because Morocco lacks that cultural presence, or the natural resources that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States possess, doesn't mean it is 'less Arab'. Certainly, its dialect is less common, but no less authentic and no less valuable.
http://www.moroccoboard.com/viewpoint/367-matt-schumann/5597-do-moroccans-speak-arabic
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Moroccan Identity: Becoming Moroccan again
By Bilal Zouheir Morocco World News Rouen, France, April 13, 2012

Mr. Khelfi’s recent decision to reduce foreign languages’ share on national television needs to be seen in a broader context.

Ingrained in our culture is the belief that leaving the homeland is the best means of improving our socio-economic status. We do not see immigration as a choice but as a goal, and until achieving that goal we judge each other based on how “western” we look or speak.

To whom does “we” refer? It’s the hundreds of thousands of Moroccans on Facebook, the disillusioned high school and university students, the unemployed, the disgruntled public servant who earns a meager salary—the majority of the Moroccan population. Clearly, we are not satisfied with our current status and we tend to blame our conditions on who we are and how we were raised. We neglect other factors such as incompetent leadership and corrupt leaderships, decrepit infrastructures and an outdated educational system.

These realities have led us to adopt the feeling that we are inferior to our foreign counterparts. When confronted about this self-defeatist thinking, most Moroccans would be quick to deny it. But when Westerners visit Morocco and take strolls in the medinas and beaches, most Moroccans are captivated by and express admiration for their visitors. Even if that Westerner happens to be a pedophile hunting for minors in our streets, they still command the same amount of attention. The inferiority complex is further nurtured by our attitude in the economic realm. French, and increasingly English, are the lingua franca of business and you are judged favorably if you have fluency in these languages. European companies have significant business holdings in Morocco and manage big-scale projects such as TGV, Rabat and Casablanca tramways, and TangerMed.  Unless you are a French speaker, you need not bother applying for work with these companies.

Regrettably, the inferiority complex inherent in the minds and attitudes of Moroccans is carried across the Mediterranean. For instance, when Moroccan students arrive in France, they try and do their best to forgo their Moroccan identities. They are quick to dispose of Arabic and Tamazight and in an attempt to socially “integrate”, they engage in drinking, smoking and fraternizing in nights in bars. I am not suggesting that every Moroccan succumbs to this pathetic change of lifestyle. I am alluding to those Moroccans who have lived in great luxury back home, who had cars before having a driver’s license! There is nothing more sad than a person who rather than celebrating his identity, he hides it and treats it with condescendence and disgrace.

I’m afraid that if I start talking about how diverse and rich our culture is, the reader might think that I am advocating for that false sense of patriotism. It’s great that we know how lucky we are to have such a rich culture, but let’s start appreciating our identity. Let’s celebrate being a melting pot and keep pushing towards greater advancement.

So how exactly is it possible? First, we need to make sure that foreign languages stay…foreign. Meaning that while it’s great and indispensable to speak many languages, our own have to take priority. The most important and representative element of culture is language; it is a way of saying “we are unique”. And as Dr. Mehdi Elmandjra insists, in human history, there isn’t a single nation that prospered culturally and economically using a language that is different from its own.

Consequently, when the government obliges a national TV channel to discriminate between our languages and foreign ones, we should show relief. It hurts me to write these words because I don’t agree with most of their policies. In many aspects, they are still neglecting vital issues such as unemployment, education and freedom of expression. While this is a humble start, imagine how using our own language would help revolutionize the way we look at our identity. The feeling of inferiority would disappear; students abroad would be better ambassadors of our traditions; companies would have easier communication and interaction; public administration would be more efficient as there will be no confusion caused by the use of two languages.

We have a long way to go. But it’s certainly an aim worthy of pursuit. We must stop rejecting our languages and embrace them for there is no alternative to development than true independence. If we must follow the West in everything, let me remind you that France 2, France 4, France 5, M6 and TF1 don’t broadcast TV programs in English, Spanish or any other languages; same for CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC.  These channels are respectively French and American. It is high time our media start being Moroccan.
Edited by Hisham El Koustaf
Bilal Zouheir is a graduate student at  Rouen Business School, France. He is a contributor to Morocco World News.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/35011/moroccan-identity-becoming-moroccan-again/
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Drought, falling tourism threaten Morocco economy.
By PAUL SCHEMM Associated Press   Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012 RABAT, Morocco

Morocco's new Islamist government finally passed its 2012 budget last week - four months late - while outside parliament hundreds of unemployed protesters demanding government jobs clashed with police.

Unemployed university graduates from across Morocco parade through the capital Rabat Wednesday April 11, 2012 and protest in front of the parliament demanding government jobs. Morocco's parliament is finally voting on the country's 2012 budget four months late amid rising expenditures, falling revenues and a serious drought hitting the agricultural sector. (AP Photo/Paul Schemm)

Long seen as a haven of stability and relative prosperity in North Africa, this close U.S. ally has a rough year ahead. Its budget is overstretched, its farm fields drought-stricken, its credit rating is wobbly, and economic crisis is hobbling its closest trading partners in Europe, even as protests by disgruntled Moroccans are on the rise.

Morocco escaped much of the unrest linked to the Arab Spring elsewhere in North Africa, where the governments of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt all fell, but it could face new troubles this year. The Islamist government elected in November has to pay off a heavy bill of salary increases and promised new government jobs made by its predecessors.

Meanwhile, the skies and Morocco's northern neighbors have made things even worse than originally expected.

Abdelilah Benkirane's government came in with a five-year plan predicting 5.5 percent growth, which it then had to revise downward at the beginning of the year to 4.2 percent. Then at the end of March, the central bank, noting the crisis in Europe and impending drought, cut its own predictions to less than 3 percent.

It was a long way from the past several years of around 5 percent growth buoyed by a string of excellent rains. This year, the harvest is dramatically down and sectors like tourism are suffering as well, as European tourists tighten their belts and forgo Moroccan vacations.

"The main engines of the Moroccan economy are in the process of running out of steam," said Najib Akesbi, an economist with the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy in Rabat.

Morocco remains reliant on agriculture, which makes up 15 percent of the gross domestic product and is almost entirely rain-fed.

In a report from mid-March, the U.S. Embassy estimated that the total cereal harvest would not exceed 3.2 million tons, a sharp drop from 8 million tons in 2011. "The crops this year suffered not just from drought but from freezing conditions - abnormally low temperatures sustained for a long time," said Hassan Ahmed, the report's author. "That's what really hurt the germination and the crop development."

The saying in Morocco is that the make or break limit for the rains to come in time for the harvest is March. This year, the rain didn't start falling until the final days of the month, long after the damage had been done. "The latest rains might help the vegetables, but for the wheat it's too late," said Mohammed Boujellaba, a small farmer along the coast, as a light rain pattered down on to his fields of stunted, calf-high wheat, south of the capital. "The wheat is now just between 20 and 30 centimeters (a foot) high, it's abnormal," he said. "In years where there is plentiful rain, it can reach up to a meter (yard) or more."

Bread is the country's main source of calories and Moroccans are among the highest per capita consumers of wheat in the world, eating 570 pounds (258 kilograms) a year, according to the U.S. embassy report. With an annual demand of at least 7 million tons, the country now faces a massive import bill.

In the debate to pass a budget, Finance Minister Nizar Barakat on Tuesday dismissed the effects of the drought, saying Morocco's economy had sufficiently diversified into other sectors.

Except that the non-agricultural parts of the economy are ailing as well. Tourism, which makes up at least 10 percent of GDP, was down across the board in 2011 amid the financial crisis in Europe. The number of hotel nights spent by visitors in Marrakech, the country's main tourist draw, dropped 9 percent, while in the resort city of Agadir they went down 7 percent, according to Tourism Ministry figures. The biggest drops were nights spent by French and Spanish visitors, 16 and 25 percent, respectively, which make up the bulk of Morocco's tourists.

These pale compared to the catastrophic drops experienced by Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring, but come at a bad time for Morocco. The figures help explain the rage of tour operators when the new Islamist justice minister made a recent dig at non-pious visitors.

Speaking at a Quranic school in Marrakech, Mustapha Ramid complimented the sheikh for his work in a city that "people come from all over the world to spend time sinning in and being far from God," he was quoted as saying in the press.

"It is economic suicide in a time crisis," stated an angry editorial in the French-language daily Le Matin on Thursday. "We are shooting ourselves in the foot when we attack tourists - it's irresponsible and dangerous."

Exports to Europe and remittances from Morrocans working abroad have also been hurt by the crisis there.

The new budget projects a deficit of 5 percent of GDP, which will have to be covered with further borrowing.

While international ratings agencies have given Morocco a stable outlook, the country's BBB- rating is just above the speculative level and more debt could prompt a lower rating - making international borrowing onerous. "Morocco's rating could be downgraded if the current increase in public deficits was not addressed and caused a further substantial increase in public debt ratio," noted Moody's Investor Service in a March statement.

Amid these grim figures, social unrest is on the rise. Hundreds of unemployed protesters had to be forcibly removed Wednesday from the parliament while the budget was approved, an action typical of the small-scale demonstrations breaking out all over the country.

With the economic situation hurting government efforts to address unemployment and the gaps between rich in poor that sparked last year's pro-democracy protests, more unrest could be on the way.

"Nothing, unfortunately, has changed or is on the road to change," said Akesbi. "The same causes will continue to produce the same effects in the coming year."
Associated Press reporter Aziz el-Yaakoubi contributed to this report.
http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20120414/API/1204140603?Title=Drought-falling-tourism-threaten-Morocco-economy
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Morocco: African Lion 12 Brings Humanitarian Civil Assistance
By Lance Corporal Kris Daberkoe, 12 April 2012 Agadir, Morocco

More than 70 dental and medical staff gathered to exchange techniques during the beginning of the humanitarian civil assistance (HCA) project for Exercise African Lion 12, April 9, 2012. Exercise African Lion is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, Marine Forces Africa-led exercise that involves various types of training, including command post, live-fire and maneuvering, peacekeeping operations, an intelligence capacity building seminar, aerial refueling/low-level flight training, as well as medical and dental assistance projects. All are designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures.

The class-based exchange was designed to create a sense of partnership for the members of the combined joint HCA team before launching the operation, during which doctors and staff are projected to treat approximately 1,000 patients daily.

"In these classrooms we will start building relationships so by the time we are working in the local communities, our group will have a one-team mentality and perform to a high standard," said Army Major Reece Roberts, an operations officer with the Utah Army National Guard attached to Task Force African Lion. "The participants will be learning from each other by sharing our better business practices," said Roberts. "This sets the foundation for what we are going to do for the rest of the exercise."

The classes included subjects such as cancer screening, deployment vaccinations, emergency dental procedures, dental hygiene and combat trauma treatment.

Recent innovations were discussed during the combat trauma treatment class, said Army Colonel Peter Taillac, the senior medical officer with the combined joint humanitarian civil assistance team during AF-12. "The main desired effect was to transfer knowledge and experience between militaries. The secondary effect was to get to know them a bit, and to become more comfortable with us and us with them," said Taillac.

The combined joint humanitarian civil assistance team is comprised of doctors from various practices, such as general medicine, surgery, optometry and pediatrics. Along with their support staff, they are scheduled to treat patients of various ailments in five community areas located outside Agadir.

For more information about the HCA and Exercise African Lion, visit the Marine Forces Africa's web site and Facebook page.
Source: DVIDS
http://allafrica.com/stories/201204121207.html
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Morocco Approves Expansionary $40.8 Billion 2012 Budget
By Aida Alami - Apr 12, 2012

Morocco’s parliament approved a delayed budget that set spending at 346 billion dirham ($40.8 billion), and targeted a deficit of around 5 percent, as the North African country looked to stave off unrest that has rocked other Arab nations. Revenue for 2012 was projected at 314.5 billion dirhams. The government also looked to boost public sector jobs by 40 percent, a move aimed at easing disquiet in the country where urban unemployment was at about 9 percent.

“That massive increase in public sector jobs is a bit awkward,” Said Hirsh, Mideast economist with Capital Economics, said in a telephone interview from London today. “Once they’re in place, they would have to be supported further down the line. That’s one thing that could be a burden in coming years.” Hirsh said that economic growth was projected to slow to 2 to 3 percent, while inflation was seen as climbing - twin developments that could add more pressure on the government.

The budget was based on an oil price of $100 a barrel, a level that may be too conservative, he said, and could end up costing the government more as it supports subsidies. The new plan allocates 46.5 billion dirhams for government subsidies.

Public investments were set to rise to 188 billion dirhams for the year from 167.3 billion dirhams in 2011.

‘Fiscal Reforms’

“The budget is expansionary -- big increases in subsidies, recruitments -- but no real effort has been put in fiscal reforms,” said Zouhair Ait Benhamou, a Moroccan blogger who closely watches the country’s economy and writes on the “Moorish Wanderer” blog. “Tax loopholes have not been closed, the moratorium on agricultural tax still benefits only a few wealthy farmers and the income tax falls heavily on middle classes.”

Coalition parties that won last November’s elections, led by the Islamist Justice and Development party, raised taxes on alcohol for the first time since 2010 by 12 percent for beer and 43 percent on other alcoholic beverages. The budget establishes a new “solidarity tax” of 1.5 percent on profits of companies whose annual profits are 50 to 100 million - measures aimed at addressing the social inequalities in the country.

Finance Minister Nizar Baraka said recently in parliament that the new budget bill aims to boost domestic growth, promote investment and boost social solidarity efforts. He said the government wants to reduce the deficit to 3 percent from 5 percent by 2016.

Last year, the country’s budget deficit widened as it spent heavily in an attempt to curtail economic challenges that helped spark uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.
To contact the reporter on this story: Aida Alami in Cairo at aalami2@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Digby Lidstone at dlidstone@bloomberg.net
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-12/morocco-approves-expansionary-40-8-billion-2012-budget.html
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Morocco’s Roman ruins
By PAUL SCHEMM Saturday April 14, 2012

Once a colony of the mighty Roman empire, Morocco boasts a handful of beautiful ruins from that distant era.

VISITORS to Morocco usually head straight for the beaches or plunge into the winding alleys of exotic medieval markets, but this rich North African country also has a wealth of ruins from its days as a Roman colony. Few visit Morocco’s handful of 2,000-year-old sites, but they are well worth the side trip, not least because the ancient city planners had a knack for picking the most stunning locations for their towns. In addition, the lack of tourists gives them a haunted, undiscovered feel.

The best sites – Volubilis and Lixus – are easy, two-hour drives from the capital Rabat, while the third site, Sala Colonia, is in Rabat itself. While they may lack the ostentatious grandeur of Turkey’s Ephesus or Tunisia’s Carthage, Morocco’s overgrown, often ill-kept ruins have their own charm, in part because they are so often overlooked. The only sound to break the silence during my recent visit to Volubilus, for example, was a donkey rustling through overgrown bushes to crop at weeds around a mosaic depicting the 12 labours of Hercules.

Volubilis

The jewel in the crown of Morocco’s Roman ruins must be Volubilis, located at the foot of the Atlas mountains in a sweeping valley filled with olive and almond trees. This city of 20,000 was the westernmost part of an empire that once stretched to the gates of Persia (now Iran).

The sprawling floor plans of its buildings and brilliant floor mosaics suggest great wealth. The site is dominated by the remains of the grand public buildings around the forum, with the impressive arches of the Basilica courthouse arrayed in front of pillars of the temple to the god Jupiter – now topped by bushy stork nests.

Every old ruin in Morocco appears to host its own of population of the large black-and-white birds, which soar over the sites or preen in their nests as tourists snap away with cameras. When they start clacking their beaks in chorus, it sends an eerie chattering sound across the ancient stones.

That old Roman standby of a triumphal arch, in this case commemorating Emperor Caracalla, who bestowed citizenship on the empire’s inhabitants in 212AD, marks the beginning of the city’s main street. Lined with shops, the Decumanus Maximus was the most desirable address in town.

Nearby, expansive villas still boast the colourful floor mosaics that have made these ruins famous. For those used to seeing such mosaics painstakingly wrought out of tiny coloured stones in museums, it is a surprise to see them set in the ground marked off by little more than a mouldy barrier of rope.

In one massive floor mosaic, Orpheus charms wild animals with his harp while in another room, dolphins frolic through the waves of what must have been the bathroom. Greek myths predominate as subject matter.

In one villa, licentious nymphs carry off the handsome Hylas, son of Hercules, who looks shocked. In another, the hunter Acteon surprises the goddess Diana bathing – an unfortunate story that ends with Diana turning the hapless interloper into a stag to be torn apart by his own dogs.

Depictions of Greek and Roman gods of wine, Dionysius and Bacchus, are everywhere, suggesting the inhabitants liked their drink. Nearby, Meknes remains the centre of Morocco’s wine production. Other mosaics depict geometric patterns that are repeated in the Berber rugs that can be bought in nearby mountain villages.

The quality of work attests to the wealth of the town, which came from olive orchards and wheat fields that fill the valley around the ruins. The city’s other main export was wild animals, including lions, jaguars and bears that went to fight in Rome’s Colosseum.

Within just 200 years, the beast population in the area was decimated, and indigenous species like the Barbary Lion and Atlas Bear had all but ceased to exist.

Volubilis was once the capital of Berber King Juba II, who was raised in Rome and went on to marry the daughter of doomed lovers, Anthony and Cleopatra. After his successor Ptolemy was murdered by the unstable Emperor Caligula for the crime of wearing too beautiful a robe, Morocco was made into the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitania in 40AD.

The site continued to be inhabited even after the embattled empire pulled out its legions 240 years later. It was reported that Latin was still spoken when the Arabs arrived in the 8th century. It is said that the ruins were in good shape until the 18th century when Sultan Moulay Ismail had them demolished, and used the materials for the palace he was building in nearby Meknes.

The easy accessibility to these mosaics, however, has taken its toll and the colours have faded from constant exposure to the elements. The site also suffers from lack of upkeep. Plants and grasses grow wild through the streets and in the rooms, giving it an undiscovered feel.

Sala Colonia

The grounds are a little better maintained in the ruins of Sala Colonia, conveniently located in the capital Rabat, where the remains of a Roman settlement were incorporated into a medieval necropolis called the Chellah.

It is easily the most visited of Morocco’s Roman sites. With its accompanying botanical gardens and Islamic-era ruins, it’s a popular leisure spot for local families on weekends.

Built on a trading post used by the Phoenicians, Sala sits on a hill with a panoramic view of the Bouregreg river flowing into the Atlantic and is now surrounded by a crenelated medieval wall with imposing towers. The ruins are not quite as extensive as Volubilis and there are no labels, so it takes a bit of effort to imagine the fallen pillars and fragments of carved stone littering the paved floor of the forum.

A statue of a figure in a toga, most likely some elder statesman of this port city, hints at the lost beauty of the main square.

Lixus

Farther north along the coast is Lixus, one of Morocco’s most intriguing Roman sites for its almost total obscurity and lack of visitors. It’s also the mythical site of the Garden of Hesperides, from which Hercules had to steal the golden apples for one of his trials.

The once-thriving port city sits on a hill overlooking the meandering Loukkos river.

Entrance to the grounds, and even parking, is free. Wandering up the hill, with no tourists in sight, makes you feel as if you are the first person to discover the tumbled blocks of a city that fell long ago.

Around the base of the hill are a series of deep pits and arches of the factories that made its principal export to Rome: a paste made of fermented fish entrails known as garum that was prized as a condiment throughout the empire, but has since been dropped from Italian cuisine.

Since making garum was a smelly business and the factories were always on the edge of town, one would have to walk up the hill to reach the city proper. Halfway up the summit, the path opens up to a partially restored amphitheatre with a stunning view of the valley below.

The deep pit at the base of the rows of seats suggests that animal and gladiator combats, as well theatre productions, took place here.

The summit is covered with a maze of walls and buildings, some at least 2m (more than 6ft) and give a sense of walking through the narrow alleys of an old stone town.

There are also the walls of a church built in the settlement’s final years and a clear view across the bay to the town of Larache, 4km away. The former Spanish colony still has charming colonial buildings and a beautiful, labyrinthine old city, not to mention the nearby beaches – certainly worth a visit.

The only time the site sees many visitors is on weekends when local youths ride their mopeds out and climb the hill to enjoy the view. – AP
http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2012/4/14/lifetravel/11082099&sec=lifetravel
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Textile and clothing trade hit by industrial action
Stuart Todd 12 April 2012

Already hit by a serious contraction in demand in Europe, Morocco's textile trade is now having to cope with a spate of industrial action. AMITH, the trade body for Moroccan textile and clothing manufacturers, claims labour disputes have become more common since the PJD political party came to power. National workers' union UNTM is affiliated to the PJD.

Globally, the industrial relations climate deteriorated sharply in Morocco last year, with the number of strikes almost doubling across all business sectors.

In the region of Tangiers, there are reports that five plants have been affected, with workers blocking deliveries and goods for export in protest at the non-payment of wages during temporary lay-offs.

Moroccan trade has been particularly hard hit by worsening economic conditions in Spain, where many of its customers are situated.

AMITH has called on the Moroccan government to help its members find new outlets for their products, such as Northern Europe, by focusing on representation at trade shows.

It painted a grim picture of the sector, underlining that with the crisis in Europe weighing on order books, some Moroccan firms faced rising debts and a struggle to survive. In October last year, AMITH revealed that a number of customers in Europe had cut their orders by close to 30%, largely due to the financial crisis surrounding the euro
http://www.just-style.com/news/textile-and-clothing-trade-hit-by-industrial-action_id114038.aspx
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Natural gas could fuel Morocco growth
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca – 09/04/12

The economic and environmental advantages of using natural gas make it a promising alternative energy source, experts say. In Morocco, as elsewhere, there is great economic potential for natural gas as an energy source as the price of oil keeps rising.

Delegates at an international conference on natural gas held March 29th in Casablanca called for a proper gas strategy to be developed in order to shore up Morocco's energy supply. During the meeting, experts took the opportunity to point out to the government the urgent need to create an attractive, consistent and clear legal framework to give companies and investors the visibility they need and protect consumers' interests.

In a statement to Magharebia, Moroccan Energy Federation President Abdellah Alaoui underlined that the country needs to diversify its energy supply. "Promoting natural gas will make Moroccan companies considerably more competitive," he commented, adding that this is a vital sector for the creation of jobs for young people and that a legal framework and a national gas strategy needs to be devised. "We will increase the use of natural gas by creating a legislative and institutional framework which makes provision for a power and gas regulatory body to be created," said Energy Minister Fouad Douiri. He argued that this legal framework could have a positive impact on Morocco's energy costs, make Moroccan companies more competitive and create jobs.

International experience in the use of natural gas was also shared at the conference. Jacques Percebois, head of the Centre for Research in Economics and Energy Law, believes that Morocco can rely on natural gas because of its affordable price, its abundance and its cleanliness.

Population trends in Morocco mean that the country's energy requirements will rise by 6% per year between now and 2050. To diversify the country's energy supply, the government plans to have a gas terminal built in order to import liquefied natural gas, probably in the Jorf Lasfar area. Analysts estimate that the country's requirements could then be met by importing natural gas via the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline and converting imported liquid gas.
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2012/04/09/feature-02
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A Sensory Journey Through Morocco, Africa
by Jessica Festa (RSS feed) on Apr 8th 2012

Morocco is a country in northern Africa that features unique sights and experiences for all travel styles. When I visited, I was amazed at how much there was to explore – the lively sounds of the markets, the tastes of flavorful spices, the feel of gentle hands during a neck massage and the spiritually felt at a sacred mosque.

More than just your average tourism trip, Morocco takes you on a journey of the mind, body and senses. Your eyes will be opened to a new culture and you will get the chance to visit beautiful and enlightening places that will transform your outlook on life.

Smell

Designed in the 1920s by French furniture maker Jacques Majorelle and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the 1980s, the Majorelle Garden (pictured) is a 12-acre botanical garden in Marrakech. The site is brimming with unusual tropical flowers, cacti and shocking displays of Yves Klein blue. Stroll through this exotic and vibrant garden, take in the unique aromas and visit Yves Saint Laurent's resting place.

Taste

Originated from the Berber people, the native inhabitants of Morocco, tagine is Morocco's unofficial national dish. Cooked in a conical clay pot of the same name, tagine is comparable to a slow-cooked stew with different tender meats, vegetables and sauces.

A typical Moroccan tagine is made of chicken, preserved lemons, onions and potatoes. Learn to make them in a cooking class like the one at La Maison Bleue in Fez.

Touch

Relax in a traditional Moroccan hammam, which begins with a steam bath and is followed by an exfoliating body scrub and polish with black soap made from argan nuts. The experience ends with a relaxing argan oil massage. Visiting a hammam is part of the daily life in Morocco and is used to de-stress, cleanse and relax the body. Visitors can find hammams in almost every town in Morocco and in many hotels and riads.

Experience

Visit an argan oil cooperative near the coastal city of Essaouira and experience how all-women cooperatives make argan oil from argan nuts using the same technique that has been passed down for centuries. Argan oil is used in a wide range of beauty products for skin and hair, and for cooking. This area of Morocco is the only place in the world where the argan tree grows.

Pray

Make a trip to the majestic Mosque Hassan II set on the Atlantic shore of Casablanca. The seventh largest mosque in the world, Mosque Hassan II is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are permitted to enter. The mosque can hold up to 105,000 worshippers at once and guided tours are offered to non-Muslim visitors in several different languages throughout the day.

Wonder

Enjoy the mysticism and magic of Marrakech's famed square, Djemaa el-Fna. Djemaa el-Fna comes alive in the evening with music, cobra charmers, acrobats and merchants selling dates, dried figs, almonds, walnuts and other foods. As dusk falls, the square becomes an open-air dining area packed with stalls lit by gas lanterns and the air is filled with wonderful smells of Moroccan spices and plumes of cooking smoke spiraling up into the night.

Browse

Stroll the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of the souk in Marrakech, the largest in Morocco. Visitors can buy traditional Moroccan clothing and crafts from artisanal vendors selling from stalls and small shops. The most popular items – many handcrafted on site in the souk – include Berber carpets, hammered-metal lanterns and traditional Moroccan pottery.

Stay

While in Morocco, rest your head in a guest room at a Riad – a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard and fountain. Hidden behind an unassuming door in the Medina (old city) of Marrakech, Dar Les Cigognes is an example of a traditional riad-turned guesthouse. It features 11 guest rooms off a sunny courtyard with orange trees and a gurgling fountain. Marrakech is brimming with hundreds of riads that provide peaceful hideaways from the bustling souk.

See

Witness traditional male craftsman producing one-of-a-kind leather goods from start to finish. These artisans employ techniques dating back to the medieval times in the world's oldest leather tannery in the Imperial city of Fez. Tour the famous tanneries and dye pits, bursting with vibrant color, in Fez's ancient Medina, which date back to the eleventh century.

Move

Morocco provides some of the most diverse options for outdoor adventures and sports – ski the Atlas Mountains in Oukaimeden, surf the Atlantic waves in Agadir or sand board the dunes of the Sahara Desert near Ouarzarzate. Due to Morocco's unique location and terrain, travelers can visit a ski resort in the Atlas Mountains by morning and end their day soaking up the sun on the beaches of Agadir. Visitors to Morocco also have the option to golf, kite surf, horseback ride and more.

For a visual idea of this sensory and spiritual journey through Morocco, check out the gallery below.
http://www.gadling.com/2012/04/08/a-sensory-journey-through-morocco-africa/
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Government “Reneges” on Its Commitment to Provide Direct Job to Unemployed Graduate.
Rabat , April 13, 2012 (MAP)

The general coordinator of the National Coordination of Unemployed Graduates, one of four coordinations involved in the July 20, 2011 minutes, Mohamed Amine Sekkal, said the government has “reneged” on its commitment to conduct direct employment of these high graduates.

In a statement to MAP news agency, Sekkal said the recent position taken by the government over this issue “contradicts his previous statements to comply with the minutes providing for the direct recruitment of the concerned high graduates.”

Communications Minister, government spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi, said Thursday at a press briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting, the Head of Government decided to submit for consideration by the General Secretariat of the Government the file of direct employment in civil service of the groups which signed the minutes of July 20.

“The direct recruitment, he said, is not possible from a legal standpoint because the constitution clearly stipulates in its Article 31 that the government is committed to ensuring equality among citizens in access to the public service based on merit.”

According to Mohamed Amine Sekkal, the Minutes of July 20 “was signed while the ministerial decree of April 2011 providing for the direct integration of unemployed graduates was still in force.” The coordination involved, he added, are determined to “continue their struggle, to demonstrate peacefully and to rely on the law to assert their legitimate claims on direct employment.”

The previous Executive had signed on July 20, 2011, a minute with four coordinations representing unemployed graduates, under which it undertook to carry out their direct integration into the civil service in 2012.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/35007/government-reneges-on-its-commitment-to-provide-direct-job-to-unemployed-graduate/
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Symposium Cambridge in Morocco organized in partnership with the British Council
By Loubna Flah   Morocco World News Casablanca, April 13, 2012

The British Council in partnership with Cambridge University, The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University Hassan II, University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, University Mohamed V and Morocco British Society organises the “Symposium Cambridge in Morocco “Perspectives on Islamic and North African Studies’ “from 16 to 20 April respectively in three major cities in Morocco, namely Fez, Rabat and Casablanca.

The event will be hosted in  prominent academic institutes in three Moroccan cities, where the British and Moroccanscholars will give presentations on their own research and bring together an intellectual community of scholars with cognates interests at the Universities of Cambridge, Mohammed V in Rabat, Hassan II in Casablanca, and  Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fez.

This intellectual congregation is expected to address an array of topics related to looking the geopolitics of Morocco taking into account its connections to the Mediterranean as well as its proximity to other parts of the Arab world (history of the Mediterranean, the Arab intellectual, social transformations, conflict management, EU policy in the region, relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council).

The British Council aims at laying the groundwork for research opportunities for the Moroccan university sector, partly by fostering institutional connections between Moroccan and UK universities; and “Cambridge in Morocco” will, we hope, contribute to this effort.

There will be a workshop on Humanities and Social Science research which will discuss the challenges of developing an infrastructure for university research in the respective countries.

http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34953/symposium-cambridge-in-morocco-organized-in-partnership-with-the-british-council/
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Author Mohammed Berrada, Winner of Fez’ Award of Creativity
By Nidal Chebbak  Morocco World News Fez, April 13, 2012

Book Club Foundation of Morocco decided to present the Fez’ Award of Creativity of this year to the Moroccan author Mohammed Berrada. The announcement and official award of the winner will be during the 4 th edition of the Mediterranean Book Festival of Fez which will take place in April 21-26, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and the Urban City Council of Fez and the support of the Ministry in Charge of Moroccans Living Abroad.

The Jury of the foundation’s decision to award the novelist and critic Mohammed Berrada comes as a result of their “solid conviction” about his intellectual status as “one of the most prominent Moroccan contributors to the cultural and literary fields in Morocco for years.”

During the event, a short documentary, that traces Mohammed Berrada’s path in the fields of literary criticism, novels and short stories, will be screened with the participation of a group of his friends who have shared his literary and intellectual journey.

Among Berrada’s works: Dirasat fi al-Qissah al-’Arabiyah : Waqa’i Nadwat Miknas (1986), L’ubat al-Nisyan (The Game of Forgetting) (1986), Al-Daw al-harib (Fugitive Light) (1993), Le Théâtre au Maroc : Tradition, Expérimentation et Perspectives (1998), Like a Summer that Will Not Come Back (2001), Imraat al-nisyan (2001), Fadaat Riwaeyah (2003), Siyaqat Thaqafiyah : Mawaqif, Mudakhalaat, Marafi’ (2003).

The opening ceremony of the festival is scheduled on Saturday, April 21 at the cultural complex al-Hurriya. The event is expected to witness the presence of a number of Moroccan and foreign authors and intellectuals.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/35027/moroccan-author-mohammed-berrada-winner-of-fez-award-of-creativity-2/
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Cheating: From Ethics to Conjectures.
By Hicham Chentoufi Morocco World News Rabat, April 14, 2012

Cheating has become a ‘demoralizing’ issue both at schools and elsewhere.  Much has been written about this ethical and quasi-human phenomenon from divergent points of view, depending on the field to which the act of cheating and the cheater(s) belong. Some shared elements, acts of cheating are not always conceived in the same way.  Talking about cheating others could be recognised from an entirely different angle when compared to looking into the others acts of cheating-not necessarily cheating us.  This is because, ‘for the most part, human beings live lives directed by the passions, not by reason’ as Steven Nadler [1] commented on Spinoza’s major and exhaustive work, The Ethics.

What is ethics?

Ethics or moral philosophy is one of the philosophical branches that have triggered a long and hectic debate since its dawn with the stoics and the great forbears of philosophy.   This stems mainly from the subject matter and the questions ethical theories deal with and endeavour to find an answer to. The subject matter is primarily concerned with sensible and judicious decisions that people make.  In other words, it is closely related to what is acceptable and inacceptable, good and bad, right and wrong, irrespective of   the moral system within which we function. However, the questions are essentially associated with some significant and yet embarrassing issues like: what is bad? What is good? Where do these judgments come from?  Why be moral ? Should we be too particular about what we know? Should we tell lies to maintain a good relationship with our beloved ones? Should we steal if we are living in abject poverty? etc.

 Finding answers to the above mentioned and many other questions has lead theorists to subdivide ethics itself into three broad scope subject areas whose boundaries are not clearly demarcated . The first is Metaethics; it looks into the source of our ethical principles, and moral grounds and tries to see whether they are expressions of sheer human emotions or they are merely social constructs that strive to manage human behavior. Providing moral guidelines or, what I would like to call, ‘a  social-moral kit’ that could be consulted whenever a  flustering question rise to the surface is what normative ethics concerned with. Finally, applied ethics or “the philosophical examination, from a moral standpoint, of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment ”[2] as defined by Brenda Almond :the examination of some contentious issues like abortion, self-immolation, euthanasia, and homosexuality… is the focus of applied ethics. As I said earlier, where one kind of ethics ends  and  the other starts  is not clearly defined.

Is cheating an ethical issue ?

Based on the aforeknown  definitions of ethics and its subdivisions , answering this question leave no room for doubt or quibbling, especially for those who equate cheating with bad attributes and ascribe it to inherent personality flaws!  It goes without saying that getting something that you don’t workor getting it  with the minimum possible of work while others have to  fight teeth and nail to get it  is utterly rejected. And it is quite certain that cheating is like a tumor that should be eradicated at early age and at all levels, otherwise the whole society is to pay. ‘Integrity is important in all areas of life’ as Bill Taylor noted in a letter to his students. [3]

 But looking at the other face of the coin, especially if we take into account that students are a product of a given culture, it would be too simplistic and, at the same time, too premature to attribute cheating to cheaters, using Lee Ross (1977) coined term “fundamental attribution error.”  The latter is defined as the inclination to “underestimate the impact of situational factors and to overestimate the role of dispositional factors in controlling behavior.”[4] This unidirectional analysis tends to focus on inherent attributes in personality and adumbrate the profound and unquestionable impact of environment on students’ behavior.

As a matter of fact, we should think twice before a value on students’ behaviour. Given the fact that  students are just a small cog in the wheel, their behavior according to social constructivists and acculturation theories  is  clearly marked by the society in which they are brought up.  This truth is best expressed by the American social psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, who stated that, “Human behavior is more influenced by things outside us than inside.”[5]

It would be arbitrary to judge a given behavior as ethically inacceptable while news reports on ethical transgressions of political officials, law makers, sportsmen and even ordinary people keep seeping incessantly. Not surprisingly, these category of people, that is students, will be averse to accept tedious sermons on the lofty moral grounds on which a student behavior should be based at school while the pervasiveness of cheating in their immediate environment doesn’t  need a genius to  be detected. Though they might not be aware of their claims, they tend to echo some deranging philosophical and political questions such as should we seek power or goodness? Who should get what?  Why be moral while others are not?    One way or another their arguments endorse the claim that laws and moral codes are made to manipulate the weak and underpin the status quo.

Why do cheaters cheat and should and should they be punished?

 Punishing or not punishing cheaters who are most of the time the real victims of cheating would be an ethically embarrassing and awkward question.  There is a consensus among most educational officials, both in Morocco and elsewhere , that cheating is bad and thus the best way to eradicate it is to enact laws, take drastic measures and issue sanctions, to name but a few.  It is this canonical conclusions or, strictly speaking , conjectures that make me restive.

Before tackling whether cheaters should be sanctioned or not, we should ask a very crucial question that is rarely asked: Why do students cheat?

In a culture of warpedvalues asking questions could lead to an impasse as people are praise addicts. We tend to pay much more attention to the immediate rewards than to what these rewards could breed as time goes by. In other words, cheating at schools can be considered as an end-product of what is being constantly inculcate in kids at an early age.

Almost every Moroccan child is lavished with praise for being nice, docile, agreeable or ‘drayaf’ as we say in Moroccan Arabic… it is this kind of verbal rewards that imbue children ’s selves with dependence and  make them live under the mercy of the adult wishes. This creation need for acceptance from the other is referred to by Rheta DeVrie as ‘sugarcoated control.’

It might sound that I am departing from one of the most stricken paths in educational psychology that came to life with B.F.Skinner and his successors. Despite their usefulness, rewards and punishments, effectiveness is culturally relative. They can beget good results when we are dealing with kids who are brought up in a culture of twisted values based on Conditional Positive Regard. A culture that values people on the account of their ability to be or to do better than  hypothetical or real competitors  depending on the space allotted by its ‘agency’.  They are also useful within the patterns of a culture where commands, unfairness, manipulation, and self-seeking are pervasive and tolerated.

The Form of questions, for example, in Moroccan national exams and textbooks is an example. Most questions are about ‘do’, ‘fill in’, ‘rewrite’, and ‘find in the text’…  Students don’t cross-examine the things schools and teachers do with words because they are conditioned not to question and produce the counter meaning.  In other words their behavior, including cheating, is the manifestation of ‘habits’ as it is laid bare by Bordieu. The oppressed self usually resort to wry strategies, cheating and the like, to assert itself evading the fall in the pit of oppression.

 However, because of their effects on the students’ academic performance, both punishments and rewards have been recently reconsidered and even rejected by leading educational and psychological theorists. Alfie Kohen, in a conversation with Alfie Kohen(1995), has brilliantly done things against the grain when asked about the wrongness of both rewarding and punishing students. Kohen declares that ‘ Rewards and punishments are both ways of manipulating behavior. They are two forms of doing things to students. And to that extent, all of the research that says it’s counterproductive to say to students, “Do this or here is what I’m going to do to you,” also applies to saying, “Do this and you’ll get that.” Ed Deci and Rich Ryan at the University of Rochester are right when they call rewards “control through seduction.”’[6]

To make the aforesaid ideas clear consider the following quote from a common core student: “students don’t cheat because they are bad but because they don’t like to be ridiculed by their peers, parents or teachers.” The quote reveals clearly what we have just discussed. First it shows that the students’ subconscious is conditioned to get both tangible and verbal rewards and depend on the evaluation of others, something which might be very damaging to the students’ self-esteem and personality in the long run.   It can be deemed as the very antithesis of taking risks and exploration and thus making sounds judgments and taking decisions.

Instead of verbal or tangible rewards, researchers, like Alfie Kohen and Rheta deVries, opt for feedback. “Good job!”, “well done!” or “kudos!” are different from “you did it” or showing the effect a given behavior on others. They don’t imbue competition or ‘the single most toxic ingredient to be found in a classroom, and it is also a reliable predictor of cheating’, and thereby create a healthy atmosphere free from anxiety and the shame complex.

In addition to the cultural and psychological causes, there are other variables that lead to cheating. The school variable is the most crucial of all. Students often complain about the curriculum overload which functions as a stumbling block towards more experience and knowledge enrichment. They also show deep resentment towards some subjects that are, according to them, neither engaging nor meaningful.

It might seem that the aforesaid arguments are a desperate attempt to sweeten the pill and find lame excuses for cheating. By contrast, the main aim is to try to look at things as they are without coming up with conjectures that are most of the time  based on our beliefs and attitudes. One might argue that to  let  cheaters go away with this wrong is a kind of encouragement to more cheating. Certainly, nobody would accept solving problems by proliferating them. But it would be naive and absolutely unethical to ask for goodness, honesty, integrity at school while the culture of dishonesty is the rule both at school itself and in other settings.

NOTES

1. Steve nadler,Spinoza’s Ethics: an introduction.(Cambridge:Cambridge university press:2006)
2. for more on this definition of applied ethics see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_ethics
3. Lee Ross, “The Intuitive Psychologist and His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process,”Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 10, edited by Leonard Berkowitz. New York: Academic Press, 1977, p. 183.
4.William Taylor,Academic Integrity: A Letter to my Students. See: http://www.jmu.edu/honor/wm_library/Letter%20To%20My%20Students.htm
5. Philip Zimbardo quoted in Claudia Dreifus, “Finding Hope in Knowing the Universal Capacity for Evil,”New York Times, April 3, 2007: D2.
6. Alfie Kohen,Punished by Rewards? A conversation with Alfie Kohn by Ron Brandt.(educational leadership,1995) http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/pbracwak.htm
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/35095/cheating-from-ethics-to-conjectures/
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A Jobless Mourning His Mother’s Dates
By Rachid Acim Morocco World News Beni Mellal, Morocco,  April 12, 2012

The problems Moroccan people suffer are numerous. They are hard to count these days! Some are most preoccupied with finding a modest accommodation to shelter their newly built families against the heat of summer and the cold winter. Some are crying low salaries, denial of many basic rights in mass protests. Some are taking up bad habits like theft, adultery, aggression to achieve an illusory dignity amongst their compatriots.

Also, some are coming back-desperate-leaving many abysmal stories, dramatic adventures behind, after they have been duped by the fancied myth of an artificial promised welfare. The other stream of people, are struggling inside the aquarium, to get a university degree and access the job market. Within this whole range of complex problems, there still is another category of people mourning sweet dreams, many unusual ambitions they have buried in a graveyard of misery, injurious afflictions.

Hélas! Who is responsible for all these sufferings?

Of course, it is very hard for a newborn government to find appropriate solutions to all these people. But we are not going to console ourselves with this above-mentioned fake excuse. The most serious problem, in my view, that needs deep reflection is the problem of our university graduates. Each year many students get high degrees, in different disciplines with good scores, attesting to their good potentials, seriousness while studying and, most importantly, the countless sacrifices of parents we hardly can mention.

The latter’s major concern was children’s education. To realize that, they did sell their house furniture, their youthfulness, even their blood to fund their progeny’s studies. While some could resist the critical circumstances of the family, continue the route with a strong determination and resolution, other students give up easily because there is no hand that can give them, support them, let alone applaud their efforts.

You may think, in this respect, of those orphaned students who have no parents to encourage them to study and achieve what their parents could not achieve. Personally, I always would tell my students that the best gift you can offer to your mothers is success. So, when the year comes to an end, the parents, especially mothers, look forward to hearing some good tidings from their children about the school results. This does not mean the father is not much interested in his sibling’s studies, but believe it or not, mothers give fundamental importance to studying. They can do anything just to guarantee that their children are studying in the best circumstances, wearing the best clothes like their school mates, albeit they may happen to be at home miserable and so distressed.

One teacher told me once that his wife told him she could bear extreme hunger, be patient to it, but she would ardently love to see her children studying in the best private schools, wearing beautiful clothes like their peers, laughing and playing. This quality of child care, I do believe, is shared by all mothers because they are more inclined to their children than the fathers. What we feel, from feelings oscillating between joy and despair, has already  been felt by our beloved mothers. Though we cannot communicate to them those feelings, there is a sixth or a seventh sense guiding them towards us. Don’t be surprised then if your mum tells this is what you did and what you did not the whole day! It is not clairvoyance, not even illumination or any other extrasensory perception. But it is the love of the mother that speaks!

Such strong care grows in our mothers. They will love to see their sons and daughters getting married, having their own kids, living in their own houses and achieving some sort of autonomy. This is why they would shout very often at us that we need to study hard, get for ourselves an honorable work and be beholden to them if ever we can do so. Nevertheless, will this be materialized when one gets a high degree and is forced to go back home, empty-handed, with no work?

How many university graduates have consecrated all their lifetime to studying and ended up selling if not polishing old shoes in the public markets, together with the trading immigrants! How many brilliant students, who used to give exam answers to their lazy fellows, ended up selling cigarettes in the streets, mixing up with drug-dealers and delinquents! How many clever girls, who used to have high scores in Math’s and Physics subjects, ended up working as maidens for people lesser educated than them! Finally, how many boys, who once were the top in their classes, modeling for their classmates what to do, ended up incarcerating themselves out of agony, dignity!

You may think I’m a bit exaggerating about the situation we are in, but this is the truth. We must admit. Some students were so lucky indeed! They have been favored over others not by virtue of their hard work, but in part by virtue of their family names.

All of us can remember when we were studying at the primary school, the teacher would ask us some humiliating questions we hesitate to answer, given his absolute authority. Among those questions, I myself can remember, what does your father do? Where does he work? How many members are in your family? What kinship do you have to that X or to that Y?…etc.

You can imagine what will be the situation like when a student has no father. Or, one who’s got a father, but is practising a humble profession, not honoring the father, let alone the kid! That was terrible indeed! We all know. Those teachers, unfortunately, were not fair enough to treat the students in the same way. Children of other teachers, who used to study with us, were praised for no effort. They were rewarded many prizes in school ceremonies. More than that, the front seats would go to them. They would never be beaten or muted. They would know even the school grades before us.

Those who think that things have changed are totally wrong. Some teachers are still in the same track. If they know who you are, they will respect you, gently address you and tolerate any eventual mistake you are more liable to do. We need not generalize since an elite of teachers, to whom we must feel obliged, would never lean towards any party. What counts to them is hard work. No more, no loess!

By the present presumption, I am not evaluating teachers or even students. There are many good measures for that. By contrast, I’m concerned with the equal opportunities we ought to provide inside and outside the classroom sphere. It makes non-sense to study and be jobless, and by extension, worthless! A respectful job is surely what can grant people’s dignity. If there is no job, you are of no value. You are not much different from the toilet paper!

The questions that we urgently need to raise are as follows: do our government officials know that if we have no job, we are reduced to a sheer toilet paper? Do they know that if we are jobless, the whole society looks down on us? Do they know that our mothers suffer to death when they see us sitting for exams and being rejected as we did not meet the jury’s expectations?

When I was younger, the school examination used to frighten me a lot. My mother used to hand me two dates and a glass of milk to be able to recall the lessons I have memorized before. Whoever has not undergone the same experience, then, she/he has never had any exam. It was a monster chasing me from class to class, but the dates and the milk kindly offered to me by my mother would soothe my ongoing panic. Will our mothers continue offering us some dates when jobless? A question that only the dates and milk can answer!

Rachid Acim is a high School English Teacher in Beni Mellal, Morocco. He is a Freelance translator, writer and poet. Rachid is a contributor to Morocco World News. He can be reached at: (r.acim@usms.ma)
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34820/a-jobless-mourning-his-mothers-dates/
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Social media on trial: what are the real boundaries?
By Rana Khoury April 11, 2012 (Alarabiya)

A Kuwaiti court sentenced a local writer on Tuesday to seven years in jail after he had insulted the Gulf state’s religious minority on Twitter. The public messaging site had already put several users in trouble with Kuwaiti authorities. Only last month, police had arrested another Kuwaiti citizen for insulting Prophet Mohammed on his Twitter account.

Similar incidents were witnessed in Tunisia where two young men were sentenced to seven years in prison last week for committing “blasphemy” in online posts deemed controversial.

In Palestine, security forces arrested on April 4, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq, a West Bank university lecturer for posting on her Facebook page a demand that President Mahmoud Abbas resign, and calling him a traitor.

A few months ago, young activists in Lebanon were detained (then released) for allegedly insulting the president of the republic on Facebook.

If it is not a government or regulatory authority passing judgment on what is posted on social media sites, it can be a community calling for individuals to be punished for expressing their views.

Sometimes it is both.

In February, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old journalist in Jeddah, posted a series of tweets of imaginary conversations with the Prophet. His tweets were met with a storm of condemnation from the public, some who demanded he be tried, others called for his death.

The list of people who have been sentenced, arrested, or condemned for expressing their views on social media platforms in the Arab world is long.

People in the online community discuss topics and issues raised every day in salons, coffee shops, universities …The only major difference is that once those views are online, the messages are archived and can be used as proof.

This begs the question: what are the true limits of free speech on the Internet? And should there be any limits in the first place?

In an interview with Al Arabiya, the director of SKeyes, the center for media and cultural freedom in the Middle East, Ayman Mhanna, said: “Governments are arming themselves with technologies that allow filtering information and monitoring what people write. China and Saudi Arabia are very clear examples of this.

“It is much harder for organizations, such as SKeyes to monitor whether freedom of speech online is respected, because we cannot, by definition, detect self-censorship. As a position of principle, we’re against government monitoring of free speech, but we call for the respect of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech while stating that there could be some exceptions, linked to high national security or private life issues, provided that they are openly defined in a democratically adopted law, to clearly depict the scope of these exceptions,” said Mhanna.

The dangers of freedom of speech online, according to SKeyes’ director, if any, are hate speech that can directly lead to criminal acts or calls for violence.

Talking about the Middle East, Ayman Mhnna said that “many websites and social media platforms are totally blocked in Syria for example and people are getting arrested [for] what they write on Facebook. In Palestine as well, many cases of arrests are reported based on declarations on social media networks. In Jordan, intelligence services can and are interfering with what online media outlets should publish or not on their websites.”

Mhanna continues: “Governments in the region are far from democratic standards. Their track record in respecting freedom of speech in general is dismal, so why would we trust them when it comes to online media?

“Governments have realized that people have organized themselves online to make change offline. Many important political and social topics (corruption, free speech, marginalized groups, women’s rights) are totally banned in the mainstream media. If an online space didn’t exist, all of these advocacy initiatives would certainly die, or have much harder chance to go public,” Mhanna stated.

What SKeyes is demanding from Arab governments is “lifting any filtering on websites, and increased bandwidth as well as Internet access and speed, and most importantly refrain from enacting any legislation that imposes restriction on free online speech. The only legislation that might be considered is one that tries to protect people from online identity theft, and that puts reasonable measures to protect intellectual property.”

According to Mhanna, the laws in the region are nebulous when it comes to online media and free speech: “Not only do the laws open room for interpretations, but they open ‘avenues’ for interpretations. And in most cases, the judicial authorities haven’t shown much leniency to ‘unorthodox’ messages. Open-minded judges are a ‘rare commodity’ in the region.”

The trial for violations committed online is unusual. Everyone is a witness. The law is shady. The person on trial may have posted something on an impulse or after deep reflection. And with one click, their whole life can be sent to the “recycle bin”.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34684/social-media-on-trial-what-are-the-real-boundaries/
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Rumi: A Poet Bridging Cultures and Religions
By Rachid Acim Morocco World News Beni Mellal, April 10, 2012

In case you’re wondering about this millennium’s top-selling poet, it is not Walt Whiteman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, or even Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The honor goes to a humble man, whose words have expressed the unutterable longing to merge with the eternal!  This man, beset with a good irony and life’s rational and irrational juxtapositions, is Mawlana Jalal ad-Dine Muhammad Rumi Balkhi, known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi. This great Persian poet spoke to us through his mystical verse, infinite wisdom of words, unprecedented lyrical grace, spiritual daringness and philosophical excellence as he sought to move us closer an ocean of unity with his Beloved God!

Many Americans have fallen in love with the poetry of this great mystic. They have been mesmerized by his soulful beauty, tolerant humanity and mysterious spontaneity. Their exposure to and appreciation of Rumi would not have happened without  the efforts of American scholars such as Coleman Barks, Ibrahim Gamard, Rawan Farhadi, who have translated almost all of Rumi’s quatrains, making his works accessible to the Anglophone readership.

When reciting Rumi’s poetry, Mr. Barks is very soft-spoken and humble as he is overcome by Rumi’s words. He has admitted that his work could never do justice to Rumi’s original Persian texts as it is impossible for English translations to capture the true essence of Rumi’s emotions and beliefs.

Rumi’s masterpiece, the Mathnawi, is a series of six books of poetry, each amounting to about 25,000 verses.  It remains the most fabulous work ever composed in human literature. It is not only an oceanic hodgepodge of suspenseful Sufi fables, scenes from everyday life and fantastic folktales, but also a philosophical reflection on Quranic revelations where the transient and the eternal speak loudly in utter harmony and wholeness with the divine.

Many in the East argue that while he was not a prophet, he definitely brought his own scripture. In the West, he is frequently praised and often quoted in many monasteries and synagogues. Pop singer Madonna has anal bum in which some sound tracks are attributed to him. Even former American president, George W. Bush, once quoted Rumi in one of his speeches. Undoubtedly, Rumi’s poetry made of him a bridge between all cultures and religions. He does not exclude anybody from his Sufi circle and invites all mankind to this divine embrace he calls love.

Rumi believed passionately in the use of poetry, music and dance as a mystic tool to achieve communion with God. His Sufi teachings were the base for the Mawlawi Order in Turkey and in many other countries. He is a cosmopolitan man, accepted and highly revered by everybody. His mystical poems are mysteries only a few can decode. They are love-letters sent from his beautiful soul to all people. His creed was: Here is love, come see it. Experience it!

Oh God
Let all lovers be content
Give them happy endings
Let their life be celebrations
Let their hearts dance in the fire of your love.

Rumi.

According to his admirers, at Rumi’s funeral, Christians confessed, “He was our Jesus!”, Jews proclaimed “He was our Moses!” and Muslims cried, “He was our Muhammed!” Indeed, Rumi was a romantic poet entirely obsessed with God.  He belonged to everyone, exalting the divine universality of the heart in every creation. He was that spokesman for transcendence and freedom of the mind, body and soul. His images are unique, playful and full of spiritual food for thought.

His ebullience is attributed to his spiritual master, Shams Tabrizi, who was his Muse and who marked a notable change in the life of Rumi.

This excellent poet, as Hegel called him, has inspired many Western poets including Emerson, Goethe and Robert Grave.  As the German poet Hans Meinke stated, “he is the only hope for the dark times we are living in.”

Gamble everything for love
If you’re a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.

Rumi.

At this moment of tension and mistrust, it behooves us to study the works of this renowned mystic and use his words to influence our thoughts and actions.  Rumi’s work could be invaluable as a remedy to many of the misunderstandings that continue to hinder world peace and stability.

In his famous work “Candide”, Voltair mentions a dervish saint who lived in Turkey, without revealing his name. Through the mouth of Candide, Voltair poses the following question to the dervish, “master…we have come to ask a favor. Will you kindly tell us why such a strange animal as man was ever made?”  The dervish, who many think is Rumi, answered, “when his Highness sends a ship to Egypt, do you suppose he worries whether the ship’s mice are comfortable or not”
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34576/rumi-a-poet-bridging-cultures-and-religions/
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Raising Taxes on Alcohol Will get the Islamist-led Government Nowhere
By Omar Bihmidine Morocco World News Sidi Ifni, Morocco, April 11, 2011

It’s been a little over three months since Mr. Benkirane and his PJD party assumed political power in Morocco. One thing is certain: the PJD-led government has not been shy to take what some have described as controversial decisions. For instance, we had the drama over the “Grimats”.  We were then treated to a shameful comment by the Minister of Justice over the Amina Filali case.  Now comes the strangest decision of this untested government: raising taxes on alcohol sales. While authorization for the sale of alcohol dates back to 1967 during king Hassan II’s reign, it is rather puzzling that the PJD-led government would propose such a measure given that its leadership and members have always attacked the sale of alcohol in principle and in practice as strictly forbidden by Islam.

Mr. Benkirane is perhaps more politically shrewd than we think. He knows that his government would commit political suicide if it tries to outlaw the sale of alcohol and tobacco. Maybe the wiser approach is for the Islamist-led government to raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco sales. If Mr. Benkirane proceeds with this proposal, he will inevitably have to address serious questions: what impact will his decision have on Morocco’s economy? How will he overcome the expected fight from the powerful families that monopolize alcohol production, distribution and sales? Will revenue from the proposed taxes help alleviate social problems, such as poverty, unemployment, shoddy health care and lack of housing?

 There is no doubt that the proposed tax hike will result in higher retail prices of alcohol and tobacco and therefore more revenue for the state. This is undoubtedly among the motives fueling the decision-makers. Perhaps another factor is social engineering. Through higher prices; there might be a decrease in alcohol consumption among poor segments of Moroccan society. With less and less consumption, certain societal ills associated with alcohol consumption (violent crime, domestic abuse, drinking and driving, etc) will also decrease.  Regrettably, well intended social engineering might not materialize as alcohol consumption in Morocco is quite high, especially among the poor.  Most are not social or recreational drinkers but are actual addicts.

As such, making alcohol consumption more expensive might not generate the desired result. Alcoholics will pursue their drinks no matter the cost.  Perhaps Mr. Benkirane should consult current New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. A few years ago, in an effort to reduce smoking, the mayor increased taxes on cigarettes to an unprecedented high.  New Yorkers, from all income categories, still smoke quite extensively.

If Mr. Benkirane turns to religion to justify the tax increase, he is preparing himself for a grilling. Islam does not just forbit consumption but also bans so much more: it is forbidden for the one who consumes it, who produces it, who serves it, who carries it, to whom is carried, who buys it, to whom it is bought, who sells it, to whom it is sold, and the one who earns from its sale. It’s crystal clear that the Moroccan government has always gained a lot from alcohol sales.  How will Mr. Benkirane justify earning even more than his non-Islamist predecessors.

Regrettably, the Islamist-led government always seeks excuses to exonerate itself from the same shameful acts of previous administrations. Rather than raising taxes on alcohol, Mr. Benkirane’s efforts should focus on treatment. Again turning to the United States for comparative purposes, the war on drugs has been a complete failure because every administration has focused on attacking the source/supply as opposed to treating the consumers. If the Benkirane government reached out to people on the ground and afforded them resources for treatment, this will not end alcohol consumption in Morocco.  It will nevertheless reinforce the PJD’s status as a party of the people that operates on Islamic principles of justice, care, and social cohesion.

The PJD-led government is fairly young and needs more time to be fairly judged.  Rather than attacking alcohol consumption, indeed a worthy cause, it should start with a steady focus on other challenges: corruption, accountability, lack of transparency, unemployment, and crippled educational and healthcare systems.  As the magazine TelQuel once published, Morocco has among the highest rates of alcohol consumption in all of North Africa and the Middle East.  It behooves the PJD-led government to tread carefully when attempting to overturn this sad Moroccan reality.
Edited by Hisham El Koustaf
Omar Bihmidine is  high school teacher of English. He obtained his Associate Degree at Choaib Eddoukali University in 2008. His writings take the form of short stories, poems and articles, many of which have been published in Sous Pens magazine, in the ALC magazine in Agadir, and in the late Casablanca analyst newspaper.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved.
http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/04/34662/raising-taxes-on-alcohol-will-get-the-islamist-led-government-nowhere/
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