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Morocco Week in Review 
June 3 2017

Ramadan Life and Traditions in Morocco

By Morocco World News -- By Khadija El Mary  Agadir

I often receive emails from friends asking if it is o.k. to visit Morocco during Ramadan, what the celebration means, how long it lasts, and what are its traditions. So, I have decided to talk here about Ramadan in Morocco, hoping to answer these questions. 

What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar; it is also the most sacred month of the year. It is the anniversary of the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed in the Cave of Hira. During Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, sexual intercourse and tobacco during daylight. It is a celebratory holiday, but has other, deeper spiritual meanings. Ramadan is not just about food and drink, but is an occasion during which Muslims reflect upon their past year’s actions, seek forgiveness for transgressions, purify the soul, refocus on spiritual practice, and help the poor and needy.

When Will Ramadan Take Place?
The fast starts on the first day of the lunar month of Ramadan. Since the Gregorian date changes every year, the first day will likely start about 10-12 days earlier in the next calendar year. Muslims do not agree on the exact date to start the fasting because of the differences between Chiâa and Sunnah. And, some countries start their fasting with Saudi Arabia and others with Iran and Syria, based simply upon political issues. In 2011, the first day of Ramadan began on August 2. In 2012, it started on July 20 or 21, and in 2013, on July 11th or 12th. This year 2014, Ramadan is likely to start in the end of June.

Generally, in Morocco and in many other Muslim countries, the official first day of fasting is based on the moon sighting. However, there are two different thoughts about the locale of the sighting: some believe Ramadan should start at one single moon sighting regardless of where the Muslim lives, whereas others insist that the beginning should be when the moon is sighted in the locality where the Muslim himself lives. In Morocco, Muslims are split on this issue, and there is a group of people called “Ikhwan Muslimine” who always fast one day before the rest of Moroccan Muslims, also celebrating Eid adha one day before. Ironically, the religion that is supposed to strengthen the ties of families, relatives and friends has sometimes been reduced to a spiritual tool by varying religious groups, leading us to separated paths and to the formation of distinctive groups.

Who Must Fast?
Not all Muslims fast during this month, but those who don’t must be specifically exempted. The first exemption is for children. Although the Quran does not specify an age to begin fasting, generally speaking, children start fasting when they reach puberty. But, the age is different between Chiâa and Sunnah, and between the Islamists and social-modern Muslims. Some Islamists-Extremists force their children to fast at an early age, and they will proudly repeat in front of friends and family how the child is a “good Muslim” for doing so. I personally do not agree with starting children at this age and think we need to create a new job, with the title “Ramadan Social Workers!” On the other hand, I do believe it is good to allow the children to experience the fasting of Ramadan so long as their health is not harmed (for example, fasting for a few hours or half a day). Ramadan should be a good childhood memory instead of a painful experience. That way, as children mature, they will more likely embrace their parents’ religious beliefs and understand the meaning of Ramadan, just like many of us did!

Another group exempted from the requirements of fasting is travelers. If a Muslim is traveling, he/she is permitted to break the fast, provided that the missed day or days are made up.
There are also health issues exempting Muslims from fasting. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not fast, since an intermittent schedule of drinking and eating during the day is not healthy for the baby. Also, women menstruating, with postpartum bleeding, and going through menopause are exempt, as well as those who suffer from severe migraines. These exemptions are provided because fasting during Ramadan blood loss frequently results in fatigue, severe headache, stomach ache, dizziness, vomiting, physical weakness and bad mood. Of course, one should make up the missed days when the condition is resolved.

The final category of those Muslims who are not obligated to fast encompasses old people, mentally ill people and people with diabetes or other serious diseases. In general, if a Muslim is suffering from a sickness or takes medication which makes fasting detrimental, he shouldn’t fast. The doctor and common sense should decide.

Food and Its Traditions: Ramadan means fasting from dawn to sunset, but does not mean “Light Food or Less Cooking.” There are many traditional, rich dishes made especially for Ramadan, which also differ widely from one region to another. Ramadan’s main meal is called “Ftoor” in Darija (“IFTAR” in Arabic), meaning the end of fasting at sunset. Ftoor is a happy, special celebration for families to eat and get-together, listening to the Quran, or to Tarab Andaloussi (Moroccan Classic Music) or to simply chat, share recipes and tell stories. The meal lasts for a couple of hours. Sometimes so many people are in attendance and the food so varied that the meal is served on 3 or 4 tables.

A few days before Ramadan begins, children become excited, knowing it means less school, exams and homework. More importantly they will get a lot of special and traditional treats, basically a party every night for thirty straight days. Mothers are busy stocking their pantries to have the essential ingredients on hand. If you go to the souk or market a few days before Ramadan, you can see mothers shopping, hustling and bustling about, getting ready to prepare the most popular Ramadan treats in Morocco i.e. Chabakiya, the famous tressed cookies soaked in honey, KrachelHariraBriwat, Mini-BastillaSalloo, Rziza, Mssamen, Malwi, BaghrirHarsha etc. One week before Ramadan, Moroccan streets are transformed into Food Workshops and Iron Chef Competitions!

Traditions of Ramadan in Morocco:“Zowaka”: This is a traditional practice identifying the time of Ftoor in Morocco. An Air Raid Siren (Zowaka {Z O W A K A}) is heard, announcing the end of day’s fasting. This startling, loud sound is followed immediately by the ritual “Adan or Athan,” or “the call to prayer.” This tradition has been replaced by a recorded sound, aired on national TV or Radio.

Lilt Sab3a W3achrin: Called in Quran “Laylat Al-Quadr or Al9adr,” it is the 27th night of Ramadan. The first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Mohammed on this very night, so it is quite special. The first Sura revealed to him was “Surat Al-Alaq:” “Read in the name of your Lord who created…”

During this big family gathering night, children offer gifts to parents and grandparents. The gifts given are usually traditional Moroccan clothes (Kaftan, Jlaba, Charbil, Balgha) or money. On this night, it is also important to perform Tarawih, which are prayers that come after the Isha prayer, performed in pairs. Women usually prefer to pray their Tarawih at home, whereas the men choose the Mosque, taking brief breaks between Tarawih by coming back home for a cup of Moroccan mint tea and spoonfuls of Sellou or Tquawt.

Another particularity that sets “lilt sab7a w3achrin” apart from all other Ramadan nights is a lovely smell in every single house. L’Bkhour (incense) is burned in M’bakhra (incense burner); some call the heavenly scent the “smell of paradise.” The smell can last for few days, especially if L’Bkhour is of high quality. Some say that L’Bkhour coming from Saudi Arabia is the best and the most expensive.

Stars of Lilt Saba w3achrineThe special night of Laylat Al-Quadr is a celebration of children who begin fasting. To celebrate, parents hold a traditional family ceremony after Ftoor meal. It marks the beginning of their upbringing in the Islam faith. With the help of Negafa (a woman who offers stylist and make-up services), the girls wear beautiful make-up, formal Moroccan traditional clothes and gold. Boys wear traditional Jelaba, Fassi hat (the Fez hut), and Balgha. The boys take a short ride on a beautiful horse, usually accompanied by one of the parents. The horse is dressed in beautiful traditional attire, parading the street, followed by a group of traditional musicians performing cheerful music, followed by Zgharit (women roll their tongues and produce this cheerful sound). These horses look stunning and I think they are well schooled to tolerate all what is associated with the drums, dancing and music sound, even seeming to enjoy themselves! This Ramadan event is one of the best childhood moments for every Moroccan!

Nafar, a volunteer who is a kind of town “Crier”: This is another special, old tradition of Ramadan in Morocco. A Nafar is a kind of town “Crier,” whose task is to walk down the streets playing a special instrument, like a trumpet, or calling people by their family names, to wake them up for the Shoor meal, the last meal before sunrise. A Nafar is usually chosen from the local community and he knows everyone in the neighborhood.

Charities: During the entire month of Ramadan in Morocco, there are many charities, volunteers and mosques throughout the kingdom, who hand out free Ftoor meals to the poor and the needy. In Addition, every muslim, male or female, old or young, is obliged to pay Zakat al Fitr to the poor at the end of Ramadan.

Night Promenade: After the Ftoor meal, most families, including children go out to have fresh air, forget about food and enjoy the rest of the evening. Needless to say, working and school hours are greatly reduced to suit Ramadan schedules.

Greetings: Since Ramadan is the time for celebrations, all Moroccans send greetings and best wishes to their family members, hoping that they have a long and healthy life. A long time ago, greetings were conveyed by family visits one or two days before the starting of Ramadan, talking about Ramadan preparations and enjoying a fresh mint tea with Dwaz-Atay. However, now, many greetings are conveyed in the form of phone calls, text messaging, e-mail, facebook, google, twitter, blogging, etc.

Visiting Morocco During Ramadan: Most tourists avoid travelling to Morocco during Ramadan. However, if you do come, it is good to know that it is a very special time for majority of Moroccans-Muslims. Not all Moroccans celebrate Ramadan, including Moroccan-Jews, Moroccan-Christians and others who do not fast. In general, Moroccans are very tolerant of non-Muslims eating, drinking and smoking during Ramadan, unlike Saudi Arabia that often threatens to expel those who engage in these activities. In Morocco’s tourist areas, a few restaurants and food stores will be open during the day, but it is respectful to avoid eating and drinking publicly. You can always eat in a hotel during the day without worry.

Ramadan does provide some positives for non-Muslim tourists during the day, especially in the mornings. The streets, markets and souks are less crowded and less busy than usual. The beaches are almost empty because Moroccan-Muslims will not go to the beach while fasting. There are also good flight deals to travel to Morocco during Ramadan; during that time, a five-star hotel for 1 or 2 weeks might not blow your budget.

If you have Moroccan friends, don’t hesitate to ask them to join you for a home cooked Ftoor meal. In is in the traditional Moroccan house that a person will have the best chance to taste the uniquely Ramadan dishes prepared to perfection. Enjoy your trip in Morocco, celebrating Ramadan! Wishing all of you and your Family a very Blessed Ramadan Mobarak! Ftourkom Mabrouk, as we say in Morocco.
Edited by Ann Smith
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/06/132599/ramadan-life-and-traditions-in-morocco/
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Moroccan Ministry of Education Launches Online Baccalaureate Scholarship Service

By Morocco World News -June 2, 2017 Rabat 

The Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, Vocational Training, and Scientific Research launched on Thursday a new online service, “Minhaty” for the benefit of 2016-2017 Baccalaureate students seeking college scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year. According to the ministry, this scholarship is intended for students who do not have enough financial necessities to pursue thigher education.“Minhaty” is the first of its kind in Morocco. The ministry says its aim is to improve communication services for students as well as to simplify and modernize applications and administrative procedures for grant seekers.

Students wishing to use the service can do so by filling out an online application form on www.minhaty.ma. The registration deadline is July 31. The 2017 baccalaureate exams in Morocco will take place on June 6, 7, and 8 with make-upson July 8, 9, and 10.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/218489/moroccan-ministry-education-launches-online-baccalaureate-scholarship-service/
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325,191 Moroccan Students to Sit 2017 Baccalaureate Exam.

By Morocco World News -June 2, 2017 , Rabat 

The Ministry of National Education revealed on Friday that 325,191 students would take the 2017 baccalaureate examination. This year’s national exams are scheduled for June 6, 7 and 8, with retakes taking place on July 8, 9 and 10. Male students represent 51 percent of those taking the exam, with females representing the remaining 49 percent. The number of public school students set to take the national exam is 295,145, and this represents 91 percent of all baccalaureate students. The remaining nine percent of exam-takers come from private schools, and they number 30,446.

The ministry announced that 20,730 classrooms were to be devoted to the 2017 national exams, and that across the country, 41,460 teachers would oversee exam conditions, The ministry added that a further 40,000 teachers would take care of correcting approximately 3.6 milion exam papers. The ministry assured that strict measures would be taken for fairness both before and during the exam.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/218529/325191-moroccan-students-sit-2017-baccalaureate-exam/
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Three Moroccan Universities in Top 28 of Arab World: Times Higher Education.

By Morocco World News -May 29, 2017 By Lery Hiciano Rabat 

The three Moroccan universities were the University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad, Mohammed V University of Rabat, and Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdullah University in Fez. The three, relative to their Arab peers, were ranked 17th, 21st, and 28th, respectively.

Last week, the Times Higher Education magazine published its annual ranking of the best 980 universities in the world. The list included twenty-eight universities categorized as within the Arab world, geographically speaking, from Morocco to Kuwait. Within that category, Morocco was tied with two other countries, Jordan and United Arab Emirates, with three universities on the list, behind Egypt’s eight, and Saudi Arabia’s four.

Saudi Arabia had the leading three universities in the Arab region, with another elsewhere, making a total of four in the top ten, according to the ranking.
Having three universities recognized this year is a significant improvement for Morocco. Last year only one Moroccan university, University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad, was on the list. Just three years ago, no Moroccan
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217995/3-moroccan-universities-top-28-arab-world-times-higher-education/
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Morocco’s Chef Moha Wins Award in Washington, Amazes Judges With Tanjia

By Morocco World News -May 25, 2017 , Rabat

Moha Fedal, one of Morocco’s most famous chefs, has won Embassy Chef Challenge 2017 in Washington DC. The Moroccan chef won the Judges Choice Award at the annual international cooking competition held in Washington DC, where embassies choose chefs representing their countries to create dishes from their national cuisines. Chefs from 34 countries, including Chile, Greece and Indonesia, competed during the event where Moroccan chef shone with a traditional Tanjia, the pride of his native city, Marrakech. Assisted by by Moroccan young chef, Fayçal Zahraoui, Moha amazed the judges with the Tanjia, all under the eye of Lalla Joumala, Morocco’s ambassador to the United States.

“Moroccan cuisine has always been known for being rich and of great qualities, which makes it very competitive on the international level”, he told the Moroccan state agency MAP.
Before growing to become one of Morocco’s most famous chefs, the Marrakech native started his professional career in Switzerland where he went to study cooking and remained for 14 years, accumulating experience in international cuisine along with his mastery of Moroccan traditional dishes. Master Chef Morocco, which has been aired on the national TV station 2M, brought him to a larger audience.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217577/chef-moha-wins-award-washington/
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Visiting Morocco During Ramadan; What To Expect.

By Constance Renton - May 26, 2017 Toronto

 For anyone unfamiliar with the lunar calendar followed by Muslims throughout the world, Ramadan falls during the ninth month, to honour the month when the Quran was first revealed. If you are in Morocco for Ramadan, here are a few things which you may find helpful.

What Does Ramadan Mean?
According to Muslim history, the angel Jibral (Gabriel) visited the prophet Muhammad and told him to read. This was an instruction the prophet could not obey because it was a skill he didn’t possess. Alone near Mecca, Jibral taught Muhammad how to read over the next ten days, the result of which were ten verses which became the foundation of what would come to be called the Holy Quran.
Accepted Muslim historical record holds this event taking place in the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar and so, Ramadan occurs in the ninth month of each Muslim year.

For the 30-day duration of Ramadan, Muslims the world over fast from sunrise to sunset each and every day. Neither food nor liquid of any kind is permitted to the observant Muslim until the day’s fasting is broken at sunset. A canon report or siren heralds the approach of sunrise and the day’s last permissible intake of nourishment. A final canon or siren brings the welcome news that the sun has set and eating may commence.

The official end of Ramadan is celebrated in a three-day holiday known as Eid Fitr and celebration is an apt word for the event. Family and friends travel from far and wide to unite in a release marked by special prayers, feasts, sweets and gift-giving.

What Does This Mean for Tourists?
Basically, most tourists shouldn’t see a disruption to service or a diminishment in the legendary Moroccan hospitality whatsoever. Despite the deprivation, despite the usually challenging heat, the Moroccan tourism industry maintains a status quo. There are tourists who express feelings of discomfort with being served meals and other refreshments in front of people they know to be fasting. There is, however, no taboo involved although respect and discretion is most likely very much appreciated by adherent Muslims. If possible, try to avoid eating or drinking while you walk through the streets during Ramadan.

Shop hours may alter slightly to accommodate observant Muslims getting home for their sunset meal but no major closures will be experienced. Some hotels have even been known to lower their rates during Ramadan because it generally a bit less crowded. When it comes to Eid-ul-Fitr, however, there will be noticeable closures. Shops and souks will most likely be closed for the three-day holiday.
Otherwise, by all means enjoy what promises to be an unforgettable visit to one of the world’s most captivating countries!
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217767/visiting-morocco-ramadan-expect/
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Must-Do Activities for Tourists During Ramadan in Morocco.

By Amira El Masaiti -May 29, 2017 Rabat

Are you traveling to Morocco this summer and your vacation dates fall during Ramadan? Are you worried there might not be enough activities during the holy month? Worry not! From sightseeing to delicious dishes, Morocco is a holiday destination even during Ramadan. Take a look at our Must-Do Ramadan Activities to get the gist of some of the culturally enriching experiences Morocco has to offer.  

Have Iftar and a Suhur Meal
The iftar meal with which Muslims break their fast after sunset, is a celebration in Morocco. Cities burst to life with endless feasts and plenty of the traditional Moroccan tomato soup.  From the ambrosial foods to the gatherings of family and friends, be sure that iftar will be one of your favorite experiences while visiting Morocco during Ramadan. If you’re acquainted with Moroccan families, make sure to schedule an Iftar together as it can guarantee a genuine Ramadan Moroccan experience and some delicious home cooked food.
Suhur, a pre-fast meal taken before dawn, is also worth a try. So, make sure to experience it as well.

Experience Suhur and Iftar on the beach
The early morning and post-sunset hours in summer are usually the best for a visit. Pack up your food and blankets and enjoy your feast by the waves and sand.

Do Some Shopping
A trip to Morocco would be incomplete without a post-iftar shopping trip to the local market, which offers Ramadan related items such as Moroccan-style candle holders, misbaha and lanterns.
Right after iftar, people come out to enjoy the medinas,gardens, henna artists, street art performers and many more things. Big cities in Morocco tend to live life in haste. The holy month, however, slows things down. Work hours are generally shorter and shopping centers are a lot less crowded and busy, a perfect occasion for shopping and contemplation on the cities.

Eat in Fast-food Restaurants
Tourists won’t have trouble exploring Morocco during Ramadan as most of the tourist attractions are available during the day. Fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds and Quick don’t close during the holy month, in case you want to grab food as you enjoy the location you are in.

See the Mosques
An ideal way to understand the spiritual importance of Ramadan is to pay the surrounding mosques a visit and observe the time and energy Muslims devote to prayer during Ramadan.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/218075/must-activities-tourists-ramadan-morocco/
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Ramadan: Traditions That Comfort, Phenomena That Inspire.

By Constance Renton -May 28, 2017 , Toronto

There can be a certain comfort in tradition, however rigid the motivation for it. For Muslims around the world, Ramadan presents a set of compulsory observances but it has also been the inspiration for a collection of traditions and phenomena that each community has come to hold dear. Morocco is no different. To begin with, Ramadan represents the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. According to historical record, this is the month the angel Jibril (Gabriel) visited the prophet Muhammad and told him to read. This was an instruction the prophet could not obey because it was a skill he didn’t possess. Alone near Mecca, Jibril taught Muhammad how to read over the next ten days, the result of which were ten verses which became the foundation of what would come to be called the Holy Quran.

Creativity as a Tool
Since those times, the ninth month has been marked by Muslims worldwide with 30 days of fasting and abstinence from worldly pleasures. Such dedication can make the mind curiously creative in finding ways to cope with the privation. A favourite past time during Ramadan is to deal with the inevitable food cravings by using them as inspiration for distraction. To deal with the repetitive and deliberate hunger, Moroccans engage in creative imaginings of their favourite ftour meals, counting down the hours then minutes and seconds before they can partake in the daily breaking of the fast.

The Ftour Table and the Inevitable Overeating Phenomenon
As the sun sets each day, a new ftour table is set, creaking with family Ramadan favourites. Delicious servings of Harira and Chebbakiya await the empty bellies. Without these two holy month essentials, Ramadan simply wouldn’t be the same. Still, there is the inevitable tendency to overindulge. Realistically speaking, it would be difficult to avoid. Officially frowned upon, overeating still occurs with widespread regularity although it is seen as counter to the purpose of fasting which is meant to build discipline and purify. The delicious ftour table is simply no match for the well-intentioned but hungry.

Ramadan as a Family Affair
Breaking the day’s fast is an event celebrated in Morocco and elsewhere as a time for family and loved ones to gather together. Most inevitably gather around the television, watching Ramadan-themed programming devolped especially for the holy month. Moroccan television stars have been born with programs including Lalla Fatima ad l’Couple.

Nightlife Takes on New Meaning
Moroccan nightlife has always been lively but during Ramadan this takes on an entirely new meaning as scores of people look to the sky for the first signs of the moon’s appearance. After the fast is joyfully broken the streets fill with newly sated, happy people. The cafes are crowded to bursting with many choosing to stay awake until Souhour. With prayer representing one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan presents the unforgettable nighttime spectacle of crowds of men on long white robes making their way to the non-compulsory Tarawih prayers, carrying their prayer mats on their shoulders.

Bad Breath is a Good Sign?
At any other time of the year, Halitosis might be a cause for embarrassment. But during Ramadan, it becomes a symbol of the level of one’s adherence. Some choose to wear it as a badge of honour, proof of their dedication to their faith. According to Tajuddin B. Shu’aib, author of Essentials of Ramadan, “the Fasting Month, the coating on the tongue occurs when “after desiring food, the body begins to digest such waste material and deposits of fat as are available to it. This coating on the tongue is an outward proof that inner elimination is in progress.”

A Reminder to Volunteer
There is never a bad time to volunteer, but Ramadan serves as a critical reminder of the call of it’s importance in a civilized society. Whether it’s providing food and water to the poor, attending to the homeless or extending a helping hand to their animal charges, Moroccans generosity during Ramadan in unparalleled.

If the Streets Are empty it Must be Ftour
Even Morocco’s most famously bustling streets go quiet at sunset during Ramadan. It’s a curious phenomenon to look upon cities like Casablanca deserted as thousands of hungry Moroccans head home to dive into their favourite ftour foods. It’s an enthusiasm that would make any world-class chef weep.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217931/ramadan-traditions-comfort-phenomena-inspire/
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Ramadan Is Here but Muslim World Is Not in Peace with Itself.

By Mohamed Chtatou - May 30, 2017 ,

Islam, a religion of peace
Ramadan is one of the sacred months of the Muslim lunar calendar; ashhor al-Horum but probably the most sacred of all and the most important socially in the sense that it is a month of prayer and celebration during which people pray more, recite the Quran and help out the needy. Fasting from dawn to dusk is not only about abstaining from eating food, taking liquids and engaging in sexual intercourse but also about stopping speaking ill of others or undertaking any violent action against anybody and most importantly enduring the hardships of hunger to help out the indigent on a frequent basis. So it is about loving the other, caring about him and sharing food and money with him.

Religiously speaking, it is the most important month of the year in the sense that Allah revealed the Holy Book Koran through the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH and it is worth the equivalent of thousand months. In this regard the Koran says clearly: “Indeed We have revealed it (Qur’an) in the night of Power. And what will explain to you what the night of Power is? The night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Jibreel) by Allah’s permission, on every errand: (they say) “Peace” (continuously) till the rise of Morning!” ( 97:1-5)

Ramadan, the nine month of the Islamic calendar is all about respect, compassion, love of the other and self-restraint. Self-restraint from thinking ill, doing ill and speaking ill such as backbiting and gossip: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” (2: 183).

The Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, addressed his companions on the last day of Sha`ban, saying: “Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast, shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all.” [Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah]

Sharing and caring
The world is not a fair environment; there are rich people but also many poor people. There are the haves and the have nots and as such Ramadan is a month of compassion and piety. The faithful by fasting for hours during daylight are thus meant to experience hunger, to experience thirst for only a month whereas the indigent have to live with hunger and lack of means. Therefore this month is a test month to make the pious think about the wretched of the land and come to their rescue now and then with money, food and care. The importance of helping out the needy is highlighted even more at the end of the month-long fast by the obligatory charity every Muslim have to make to the indigent to validate his fast. It is zakat al-Fitr.

Islam is a community-based religion meaning that communities are morally instructed care about the needs of their people and create a close-knit social fabric where the poor do not feel left out and do not feel different. Is not it the case after all that the Muslim prayers when performed at the mosque people stand in lines irrespective of their wealth or power position? It is not said anywhere in the scriptures that the wealthy and powerful stand up front.

The meaning of Ramadan
Many people think of Ramadan as a month of privation followed excessive eating, a month of praying, staying out late at night reveling and having a good time and then next day failing to fulfill normal workload on the excuse that one is fasting.
Ramadan is not this, it is the entire contrary. It is a month of testing and endurance, a month of prayer and piety, a month of giving and helping out the other. It is a month of peace with oneself and the whole world.
So the month of Ramadan, highlights among the faithful such important values as:

The Pilgrimage to Makkah:
The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it.  About two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe.  Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.  Male pilgrims wear special simple clothes which strip away distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal before God. The rites of the Hajj include circling the Kaaba seven times and going seven times between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa, as Hagar did during her search for water.  Then the pilgrims stand together in Arafa and ask God for what they wish and for His forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Day of Judgment. The end of the Hajj is marked by a festival, Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers.  This, and Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the two annual festivals of the Muslim calendar.

Islam in pain
Ramadan is here, but the Muslim world is in pain. It is not in peace with itself. It is torn apart by civil wars, by violence and discontent.

Torn apart by chaos
Chaos is coming to the Middle East in the aftermath of the failure of the so-called Arab Spring, and it is coming big. However, one wonders, quite rightly, that the chaos in question, brought about by the national chapters of the multinational of terrorism al-Qaeda and extremists of different Islamic colorations, is not the chaos prophesized or sown by President Bush Jr and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after the fall of Saddam’s Iraq ?

The very al-Qaeda that was felt out by the Arab uprisings years ago and that was beheaded by The American military machinery when killing, in a daring operation executed by the Navy Seals in Abbotabbad, Pakistan, its charismatic leader Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda is coming back, in the form of ISIS, with the promise of more death and chaos in the region. Bin Laden might be dead but the nihilist philosophy of the movement is still alive and kicking with Al-Baghdadi, thank you very much.

ISIS does not want a democratic Middle East because that would mean its demise, since it is a theocratic absurdity and not a democratic movement. It is a faceless beast that thrives on chaos and it has lethal dormant cells in this part of the world in addition to many sympathizers and followers worldwide.

How did Chaos come to the region?
Actually, many analysts believe that chaos came to the region when the Tunisian vegetable seller Bouazizi set fire to his body, and by so doing igniting the Arab uprisings, but the truth of the matter is that the door to chaos was opened by the invasion of Kuwait undertaken by the megalomaniac pan-Arab dictator Saddam Hussein. At the height of his career, after the war with Iran, he believed strongly that he could do anything and get away with it, and since he owed so much money to Kuwait and was not ready to pay it back, he decided to rob the bank named Kuwait and settle the problem once for all.

Thus, on July 1st, 1991, he sent his army into Kuwait on the ground that it was part of historical Iraq before the arrival of British colonialism. On discovering oil in this territory, the British decided to create a mini state to serve their purpose of controlling oil flow in the region, maybe Brunei Darussalam is a similar case in South East Asia, and even today Malaysia has not swallowed the bitter pill of the British creation of this small state out of its national territory.

By invading Kuwait and robbing its wealth, Saddam Hussein inadvertently opened the gates of hell on the region. Fearing the fact that emboldened by his act in this small country, he would sweep through Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States; the West expected the worst and started preparations to counter his moves. If Saddam had succeeded in controlling the Gulf States, he would have controlled the oil routes and the flow of this important commodity necessary for the whole world and especially for the developed countries whose economies rely on it heavily. Has this have happened, the world would have gone anew on a recession as in 1973 when the Arab countries imposed an oil embargo on the West following the Ramadan War.

So to avoid this happening again, the West moved quickly to put an end to the threat represented by Saddam to its interests and to the security of the friendly countries of the area. America armed with the resolutions of the United Nations, put together a large coalition of 34 countries to liberate Kuwait. The Gulf War I, codenamed Operation Desert Storm took place from 17 January 1991 to 28 February 1991, and the coalition, in no time, achieved the declared objectives of this campaign. The Iraqi army was defeated and expelled from Kuwait and the door of hell and chaos on the area was opened wide.

While most the armies of the coalition returned home after completing the assigned mission, American troops remained in the area to protect their allies and with them remained an unanswered question: why did not President Bush Sr. order the American troops to go in hot pursuit of Iraqi defeated soldiers? The answer is that such a project is another episode for which the US had a different agenda. However, the Americans still, indirectly, encouraged the Shi’ites to rise against Saddam which they did in the southern provinces but their revolt was crushed in blood. It seems that the Americans when encouraging such a move had two things in mind, knowing better the demonic psychology of Saddam in addition to making Saddam regain confidence in his power after the defeat and, also, increase the enmity of the Shi’ites against his rule to utilize them appropriately in the second episode of the onslaught on his rule.

Following this bloody episode, the Shi’ites became the fifth column of the Americans by which they would prepare the final assault on Saddam Hussein and his eviction from power for ever. The Shi’ites role was not only to assist the Americans in their designs but also lead the country after the fall of Saddam, given that they are numerically a majority in the country and was always ruled by a Sunni minority.

In the interval to the Gulf War II of 2003, the Shi’ites helped the American intelligence community in preparing for this final chapter of war on Saddam. They were instrumental in collecting military and civilian data for use by the Americans and in training their troops to have access to power and usher in chaos in the region.

The Neo-Inquisition 
The Charlie Hebdo unfortunate and condemnable criminal act cannot be justified at all, whether in the Islamic religion or any religion, for that matter. It is an abominable act of violence and terrorism. It is a terrible face-off between religious radicals and intellectual extremists that were at each other’s throat for some time; each believing to be, the one and only, to hold the universal truth, when truth is in fact multifaceted.

Alas, this heinous and inhuman act is going to justify the upcoming emotional and physical violence and, probably, who knows, the repeat of the Inquisition, after the fall of Grenada in 1492 and the Reconquista of Muslim Spain. The European Muslims are already in the grip of moral terror and nobody can protect them now. Maybe, like what happened with the Moors and the Jews of Spain, they will be given the choice of either to convert to Christianity or leave and that is what probably Eric Zemmour is referring to when he invoked mass deportation: indirect coercion.

As for the writer Michel Houellebecq, he is actually missing the point, the next President in 2022, or even before then, is going to be Le Pen not a Muslim. He knows that very well. His book is a tool to spread fear and, maybe, make the Muslims leave without any political, economic or ethical price. It would be nice, to get rid of the “Islamic evil” without any effort or cost. The political fiction of Houellebecq is ridiculous. How can 5 million Muslims win a presidential election, even if some other party gives them their votes or enters in alliance with them? How could they get a majority in the parliament and how could they sustain this majority?

Houellebecq cultivates fear in a horrendous way, he asserts that when Muslims arrive to power, though they will pretend to be moderate, yet they will allow polygamy, suppress women and bar them for working and going out, outlaw alcohol and make fasting Ramadan and praying five times compulsory.

However, in the midst of all this verbal violence, there are some voices that are calling for tolerance, like the journalist Christoph Hasselbach, who wrote in the German Qantara:
“We cannot deceive ourselves here: living together is not going to get any easier. This is why it is all the more important to remain level-headed. Yes, this is an horrific attack on our freedom, which can never be justified. We will not let anyone take this freedom from us. But nor must we let anyone take away our tolerance. There is no reason to put all Muslims under general suspicion or to doubt the model of a peaceful coexistence.” 

Islamophobia on the rise
Prior to the Paris two brutal and violent incidents, there were demonstrations against Islam in various European cities; the most prominent were the Pegida protests of Germany. In France a controversial essayist, Eric Zemmour has called for mass deportation of the Muslims. To where, bearing in mind that most of them are second, third or even fourth generation French citizens?
All of this denotes, one and only one thing, probably a European desire to get rid of the migrants because, by now, they have become a true social burden on these countries: so much for the “multi-cultural society” discourse.

Western state terrorism
None wants to be apologetic for any form of terrorism, but one wonders why there is no debate on the state terrorism of the West on the Muslim world. The West has been emasculating the Muslim world uninterruptedly since the 19th century, to exploit unashamedly its riches. At times, using violence and, at other times, complotting, and this still continues today, and by so doing, deny democracy to the people of this vast area.

When the US-led coalition declared war on Saddam, they used all kind of weapons to bring down Iraq to its knees, killing and maiming thousands of civilians in this country. Iraq is gone to the dogs forever. Now, it is a fragmented country, where Sunnis and Shi’ites are exterminating each other, slowly but surely. Not to mention that the destruction of Iraq, undertaken methodically by the West, has led to the appearance of an absurd regime that calls itself The Islamic State -IS- and wants to take, by sheer force, the whole Islamic world to the time of the Caliphate, a rather ridiculous move and action. Today, sensible Muslims are wondering, quite rightly, who is behind this laughable and dangerous creation, and who wants to make the Muslims the laughing stock of the world?

In Afghanistan, the West and its military arm, NATO, has been destroying systematically the poorest country of the world and with it the wretched lives of its people, for over a decade, and today the former are pulling out of the country, without having achieved anything, but more hatred and more radicalism, which will breed more violence and more terrorism in the future.
They did not, even, apologize to the living, for their war crimes; they just called them collateral damage. Therefore, that means that the life of a single Western person is worth that of thousands in the Muslim world.

American Jihad 
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the West put pressure on Saudi Arabia to call for Jihad against the invading Red Army. Pakistan was solicited to train the thousands of young people coming from all over the world to fight. When the Soviets were defeated and sent home packing, there was pressure on Pakistan to send the Jihadists back to their countries of origin and those who escaped been rounded, created with Ben Laden al-Qaeda, with the aim of punishing America for its ungrateful treatment, which they duly did. Since then, the Islamists are on the rise because the can of worms was opened and nobody could control the spread of the vermin, anymore. The result started with the unfortunate and unpardonable 9/11 and it continues unabated today with condemnable terrorist attacks in the West and Muslim world alike.

A last thought
The Muslim world is faced, today, more than ever, with many challenges: poverty, illiteracy, corruption, patriarchy, nepotism, absolutism, etc. it surely needs peace to get on with its development and democratic drive.
May this Ramadan bring peace and well-being to all Muslims, wherever they are? Amen.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/218128/ramadan-muslim-world-not-peace/
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The Smothering of Femininity in Ramadan.

By Chaima Lahsini -May 30, 2017 , Rabat

Ramadan, the holy month during which Muslims everywhere embark in a spiritual journey to strengthen their bond with God, can be a bit of a clothing dilemma for Muslim women. The sacred month comes with many rules and changes, from the schedule of prayers, the adequate behaviors to adopt, the do’s and don’ts, to the right dress code to obey. Islam has set up a particular dress code for Muslim women. Modesty is key, and showing off your body, sometimes even your hair, is frowned upon. In Ramadan, this particular rule seems to be doubly enforced.

For Hayat El Ouahrani, a professor of Sharia Law at the University of Fes, “Ramadan is like doing your prayer. You should not eat, you should not drink or look around.” The professor explained to Morocco World News that, during the holy month, “you are standing before Allah. So you have to pay careful attention to your daily behavior, including how you dress.”

Women’s clothing has been the subject of many fatwas throughout history. Ramadan or not, Muslim Ulemas always had an opinion on what women should and should not wear.  What is so controversial about it? The answer to that question often rubs feminists and Westerners the wrong way.

First of all, the way women are perceived in Islam is very particular. “If you walk down the street with your hair flowing down your back, your skin glowing under the sun, your attractive figure in full display, you’ll be fruit of temptation to fasting men,” explains El Ouahrani. Men: the key to decipher Islam’s perception of women. “Women are asked to cover themselves for a reason. It is not out of discrimination or oppression as many would think. It comes from a place of love,” the professor goes on. “Allah wanted to protect women when he recommended the Hijab, protect them from the ravenous gazes of men, from temptation and from sin,” she adds. El Ouahrani stresses however that it is still a matter of choice. “No woman should be forced to do something she doesn’t want to. If she doesn’t want to wear the hijab, it is her fundamental freedom and no one has the right to intervene with it.”

However, this freedom according the professor comes with consequences, mainly “fitnah.” The Arabic word fitnah bears the meaning of trial, discord, affliction, temptation and civil war, and any other strife “that ruptures the community’s unity and pits Muslim against fellow Muslim.” In this context, the word is used to refers to women as temptation.  The professor quotes one of the Prophet’s hadiths saying: “I have not left behind me any fitnah more harmful to men than women.” So is it more that men are weaker in their nature and get easily tempted, or that it’s women which causes men to fall into fitnah against their will?

To answer this question, El Ouahrani quotes God in the Holy Qur’an: “Made beautiful for mankind is the love of desires for women and offspring, of hoarded heaps of gold and silver, of branded horses, cattle and plantations.”[3:14] “Although the Quran speaks elsewhere of such things in a positive manner, as blessings for which people should be grateful, here they are spoken of seductively in terms of objects which men lust over, crave and covet,” the professor explains.

Unsurprisingly, women top the list. “Ramadan holds a special position in every Muslim’s heart. It is a month of worship and meditation when the gates of heaven are open to every believer. But it is also a month of challenge and discipline, where Muslims test their faith and limits,” El Ouahrani explains. “Fasting is not starving yourself from food. It is abstaining from the lusts of dunya, and keeping away from temptations, the biggest of which is the sin of flesh.”

Blessing, temptations, trial, sin— all words used to refer to women. This harsh terminology raises many questions. “In Islam, the feminine form which is desirable, alluring and sensuous, shouldn’t be made to appear so in the public sphere. It’s not just the objectifying male gaze that demeans or threatens women; sometimes some women need saving from their own intemperate selves,” further explains the professor.

Ramadan is the occasion to break out from a world “awashed with sin, porn and over sexualisation of women,” El Ouahrani says. “I am well aware that such wisdom is unlikely to be received with openness nowadays, especially in a time where notions of modesty, decency and respectability with regard to how women and men should interact are viciously twisted.” “Many feminists shout out misogyny and sexism when Islam suggests a modest and dignified way of being lady like, especially when we talk about how women should dress.”

But for El Ouahrani, modesty is not just about clothing. “It’s about how one behaves, carries themselves. It’s about the heart’s purity and its attachment to Allah.” In Morocco, Ramadan is not just a religious celebration. It is a deeply rooted cultural one that comes with specific traditions that reflects the unique Moroccan culture. “These principles (modesty) have been engraved in our Moroccan culture, which while being a conservative and Muslim one, is also known for being flexible and moderate.”

“If certain outfits are to be avoided, this does not prevent women from adorning themselves with their best clothes,” explains El Ouahrani. Admittedly, the professor says that “Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslim women to make themselves beautiful while being subject to certain conditions.” Conditions. Dress code. Rules. It appears that the Muslim holy month comes with many more limitations for women than for men.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/218214/the-smothering-of-femininity-in-ramadan/
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Unveiling Bigotry in the West

By Hind Berji -May 30, 2017 Rabat

The Western world equates personal freedom and expression with the clothing we choose to wear, paying special attention to gendered expression in relation to social behavior. For Muslim women, the pressure is insurmountable, as the ethnocentric obsession over veiled clothing is bigger than ever. The hysteria that surrounds this topic is one that draws criticism, analysis, debate, and personal opinions from almost everyone, Muslim or not. Why is this a controversial topic? Why is it a topic at all? The manufactured image of a Muslim woman is one idled with suspicion, even though the Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa, Christian nuns, and Hasidic Jewish women cover their hair. There is something about a veiled Muslim woman that gets under people’s skin.

In her essay, “The Motivations Behind Westerners’ Obsession with the Islamic Veil,” Claire K. Alexander describes the distinctiveness of the hijab in comparison to other pious modes of dress for women: “The Jewish sheytls (wigs) and Tikhls (scarves), the Christian veil, and the Islamic haïkchador, and hijab(different forms of headscarves)—serve as forms of resistance, allowing women to challenge sexual objectification as well as gain access to the public sphere.”

It puts a lot of pressure on Muslim women who are forced to look at themselves through different perspectives, negating the initial goal of avoiding the male gaze in all its forms. There’s no denying the profound affect that wearing or not wearing a hijab has on Muslim women (a Muslim woman’s choice to remove her veil causes just as much inner turmoil and angst as deciding to wear one). Identities can form through group affiliation and the veil can even be a divisive garment between Muslim women themselves. Sometimes, the most difficult part is the space in-between—the transition from the private sphere of the home or mosque (where veils are a requirement during prayer) to the public demonstration of their faith.

A woman’s choice to wear any type of veil is an extremely personal, intimate decision she makes with herself and her faith in mind. It isn’t a political statement or an act of defiance. Some women choose to wear it based on their interpretations of certain verses in the Qur’an and/or to align themselves with a set of cultural values and identities, and some wear it to escape the male gaze and freedom from sexualization and objectification. Rather than acting as a barrier between privacy and harassment, the hijab has become a gateway for discrimination, harassment, and even fetishization.

In her book, Battle for God, historian Karen Armstrong writes about the resurgence of the veil in Islam as not just a symbol against colonial practices, but also as a critical moment for postcolonial and feminist ideas in the Muslim world: “Arab writers refused to accept this [colonialist] estimate of their society, and in the course of this heated debate the veil turned into a symbol of resistance to colonialism. And so it has remained…By using feminist arguments for which most [British] had little or no sympathy, as part of their propaganda, the colonialists tainted the cause of feminism in the Muslim world, and helped to distort the faith by introducing an imbalance that had not existed before.” The West doesn’t really care about the oppression of Muslim women; it cares about trying to colonially modify the garment on its own terms.

Western feminists like the Ukrainian activist group Femen, an organization that once told Muslim women that their topless protests would liberate them from patriarchal slavery, are ironically quite confused, oppressed, and sexualized themselves. (The person behind Femen is a man by the name of Victor Svyatski, who started the group by selecting “the prettiest girls” for topless protests against issues like sex trafficking). So what happened to intersectionality? Beset by modern neocolonial discourse, some non-Muslim feminists decide to take pity on these “oppressed” women and even appropriate their veils to walk in their shoes for a day. Lets set the record straight: no non-Muslim feminist is doing any Muslim woman a favor by modeling a hijab or protesting against it.
Consider this: all women are analyzed primarily on their appearances as visual markers and representatives of society’s values; we are burdened with the task of setting moral standards for social behaviors. Women are responsible for controlling the sexual desires of men—that idea knows no cultural or religious bounds. The garments and culture may be different, but the emphasis will always be on women.

Demonizing a piece of fabric so controversial it isolates, condemns, or purifies whoever wears it is ridiculous within any cultural framework. The same can be said for shorts, mini skirts, or bikinis. There is an underlying recognition of how society dictates the way women should present themselves in the Western world, but the criticism is one-sided. We criticize the commodification and sexualization of women’s bodies, but chastise women who wear the hijab.

What is this fascination with the liberation to clothe or unclothe oneself? Women should not exist as aesthetic objects; we do not function to contain the normative and the desirable. Furthermore, not all women necessarily share the same concerns so defining them solely by their gender and religion is more than oppressive. Remember, oppression is often unrecognizable and it takes many forms, succeeding in its divisiveness.

If we were to believe for even a moment that this is opening up a larger discussion about the relationship between physical appearances in terms of piety, then we’re only lying to ourselves. Interesting topic, yes, but let’s be frank: that isn’t what this is about. It’s about controlling an image. People are paranoid over images of observant Muslims, assuming they are a threat—a disturbance; an interruption, really—to their day-to-day lives and to Western civilization. While Muslim men who wear traditional garb are no strangers to discrimination, Muslim women are the manifestation of the West’s sinister perceptions of Islam.

Because of this production of the Muslim world as medieval and backwards—the inhabitants of barren, destitute lands and even more barren, destitute ideals—Muslims have been the international scapegoats of our paranoid, post-9/11 world. This idea is so pervasive, so toxic it has permeated government and political action against Muslim women who choose to wear veils. It has come to the point where we cannot discuss veils outside of a political or academic environment, sometimes forgetting that human beings with agency choose to wear them.

Women’s Islamic dress is considered an emblem of oppression and the threat of radicalization. The niqab or burqa come off as garments used to silence women or make them disappear from public life. But using oppression as a buzzword, a springboard to justify colonial practices or human rights violations, also adds to the oppression of Muslim women from Western figures, which implement legal procedures and practices to shun them out of public life. At this point, it isn’t their religion or culture that is silencing them or taking away their agency, it’s the conversations that take place about their appearances.

In Europe, public safety is used as an excuse to discriminate against and deter Muslims. The emergence of conservatism in Western Europe has led to overall anti-immigrant, Islamophobic climates, but it’s France’s unwavering, staunch ban on the veil that criminalizes Muslim women the most. According to BBC News, only 2,000 women out of the five million Muslim immigrants in France wear veils, but that didn’t stop France’s ban to wear the niqab or burqa in public from going into effect in April 2011. The law was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2014, stating that any woman who refuses to unveil in public when prompted by law enforcement would be forced to pay a fine and take citizenship classes. Nicolas Sarkozy, who was president at the time of the initial implementation in 2011 claimed the veils were an assault on France’s secularism and gender equality, but can you achieve gender equality when you politicize and police a woman’s body?
France’s secularism, or its separation of church and state, is at the basis of the country’s constitution, but considering the way France unapologetically fans its Islamophobic attitudes, it certainly seems like they’re targeting Muslims. We know the last thing France needs is to alienate its Muslim population, but it’s awfully good at doing just that.

Similar implementations of niqab and burqa bans have found their way across Europe, including in Turkey where, up until October 2013, the veil was banned in civil spaces and office buildings. Turkey’s secular establishment stated the difficulties in shutting out young women from academic and career opportunities, why can’t France follow a similar approach? When you criminalize a woman’s appearance, you are expelling her from civic and public life. Studies show that veiled Muslim women expect to make less money, less job offers, and are considered less friendly and intelligent by both Muslim and non-Muslim men in their communities. Public perceptions of the veil do more than alienate Muslim women; they release a set of implications that can severely threaten their lives. Muslim women are the some of the biggest victims of radicalism and xenophobic hate acts worldwide, when will the U.S. and Europe get over its veil obsession to ensure cultural integration?
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/218148/unveiling-bigotry/
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Why Are the Muslims Angry with the Western World?

By Mohamed Chtatou -May 25, 2017 , Rabat

In the last year or so, many countries, either within coalitions, or on a solitary basis have been striking at ISIS where it is supposed to be based. An American strike, even, blasted their money hideout and apparently starved them of the much-needed cash for their world operations. But, the truth of the matter is that the more you hit ISIS, the stronger it becomes and the more lethal and dangerous it gets. So, what is the secret of its strength that world security forces and world intelligence community are unable to understand, up to now?

First and foremost, it must be said that ISIS is a religious school of thought that preaches the return to the glorious past of Islam: the unified religious “commandership of the faithful” imarat al mu’minin that is itself the foundation of the concept of ummah “nation of Islam,” stretching around the globe among all Muslims irrespective of their color, culture or creed. The dismemberment of the ummah into countries is, according to the traditionalists, a ploy used by the enemies of Islam to weaken its resolve. A proof of that is that when Islam was represented by the Caliphate system of government, it ruled the world from Spain to China, between the 8th and the 16th century: the Golden Age.

For ISIS, the West is responsible for the demise of Islam, since the fall of Grenada in 1492. After the Reconquista, the European nations became more aggressive vis-à-vis Muslim countries: Spain and Portugal attacked the Maghreb to deter any future design on its part to re-conquer the Iberian Peninsula and reestablish the lost al-andalus.

However, the question that comes to mind right away is: what is the difference between ISIS and al-Qaeda, both nebulous violent organizations bearing in mind that ISIS has a fixed address, the proto-state of ISIL whereas al-Qaeda is to be found everywhere and nowhere?

Al-Qaeda, from the word go wanted to rid the Muslim world from the corrupting influence of the “Crusaders” salibiyun i.e. the Christian West, and, then, set up the unifying system of governance: Caliphate khilafa that will bring the whole Muslim world under the banner of Islam or rather al-Qaeda. As for ISIS, it founded the Caliphate from the start, called all Muslims to show allegiance to the self-declared Caliph al-Baghdadi and set about to fight the West afterwards, with the ultimate goal to unify Muslims. This is argued quite clearly by Bruce Hoffman:
“Their dispute, however, seems to be predicated mostly on timing and process. In a nutshell, Zawahiri still argues that the far enemy has to be eliminated and Muslim lands completely cleansed of Western and other corrupt local influences before the caliphate can be established. Baghdadi, as the events of June 2014 showed, saw no reason to wait and instead took the offensive by attacking near enemies both in Syria and Iraq and declaring himself caliph.”

The West continuous drive to emasculate Islam
Islam, since its inception, was always seen in a bad light by the Christian world that aimed incessantly to annihilate its faith and civilization through seemingly different blows of great intensity and dire consequences and multiple plots.

The West’s emasculation of the Muslim world has manifested itself through history in the following aspects, according to traditionalists:
1: the Crusades
The Muslims consider that the Christian world rather than been thankful to the Muslim world for bringing civilization to Europe through the conquest of Spain in 711. A Andalusian civilization that gave birth to such great thinkers as Averroes (1126-1198) and Maimonides (1135-1204), etc. and was the precursor of the European Renaissance (14th-17th) which is the bridge between the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age, the Christian Europe launched humiliating crusades from 1096 to 1487, sanctioned by various Popes. For some thinkers like the two brothers, former Muslims converted to Christianity, Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, the Crusades are a form of “Christian Jihad”.

On the other hand, many historians today see the Crusades as the Christian religious sanctification of Western mercantilism and dispossession by the means of violence:
“Historians have viewed the Crusades as a mixture of benefits and horrors. Onone hand, there was a new knowledge of the East and the possibilities of trade to be found there, not to mention the spread of Christianity. On the other hand, Christianity was spread in a violent, militaristic manner, and the result was that new areas of possible trade turned into new areas of conquest and bloodshed. A number of non-Christians lost their lives to Christian armies in this era, and this trend would continue in the inquisitions of the coming centuries.”

Saladin, the great Muslim leader (1138-1193) turned against the Crusaders, decisively defeating them at the battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The victory at Hattin was followed by the easy re-conquest of various Crusader’s lands and towns, above all the holy city of Jerusalem, which had been in Christian hands for 88 years. Saladin waited to take possession of the city until October 2, 1187, because the date corresponded with the anniversary of the Prophet’s miraculous ascension to heaven, according to the Muslim calendar.

In contrast to the Crusaders’ bloodbath when they had taken Jerusalem, Saladin acted with great magnanimity towards the Christian and Jewish residents. He forced the Franks to retreat to the coast of Syria and Palestine. In 1192 he signed a truce with Richard the Lionhearted. A recent Western movie entitled the “Kingdom of Heaven,” recognized his magnanimity and paid tribute to his qualities of tolerance and acceptance of the other.

2: Colonialism
For the Muslims, the West has, since the end of the Islamic Golden Age (8th-16th), been at work trying to diminish the Islamic civilization, to lead the world. Probably, the best illustration of that is the Scramble for Africa (1880-1914) known also as New Imperialism, which was the invasion, occupation, division, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers. Muslim Sub-Saharan Africa was literally emasculated: missionaries converted the population to Christianity by financial persuasion or sheer force, colonial powers destroyed Koranic schools, outlawed Arabic language and the use of Ajami script and tried to curtail the Islamic faith by putting constraints on the religious Sufi lodges of the Tidjanes.

3: Dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate
The second manifestation of the enmity of the West towards Islam was during WWI (1914-1918), when the Allied Forces, after winning the war against the Central Powers of which the Ottoman Empire was part, decided to liquidate this Islamic empire which was, indeed, the last Caliphate. For The Muslims, the fall of this empire is attributed to the greed of the West to control the world, but in reality the problems of this empire began back in the 19th century.

Indeed, the period of defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908-1922) began with the Second Constitutional Era (1908-1920) with the Young Turk Revolution. The Allies dictated the terms of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire with the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920), which was supposed to be the treaty of peace between the Allied Powers and the Ottoman Empire, but in reality it was the “surrender” of the Ottomans. Soon after, in October 29, 1922 Kamal Attaturk, a Turkish officer proclaimed The Turkish Republic, modern and Secular putting an end, with the blessing of the West, to the Caliphate.

4: The Loss of Palestine
On November 2, 1917, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, promising to set up a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, it became known as the Balfour Declaration:“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” 

Since then, Britain and the Western countries have been nurturing, supporting and arming the Jewish state in its continuous aggression against the Palestinian rights and the Arab World. In 1948, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into Palestinian and Jewish states. The same year Israel declared its “independence” and has been, since, denying the Palestinians an independent state of their own on the grounds that such a state will represent a threat to the former’s existence.

However, since, Israel emboldened by American and European support has waged, on a regular basis, wars on many Middle Eastern countries and in the last two decades on Hamas in Gaza.
For several decades, the Palestinians have been suffering either in the strip of Gaza or the West Bank, that are no more than open sky prisons, or in the various countries where they live as expatriates, and the Western world has been unable or unwilling to solve, once for all, their predicament.

For many Muslims, the US and Europe are hypocritical when it comes to solving the Palestinian conflict, they continue to bolster Israel’s aggressive military potential while making empty promises to the Palestinians, who continue to suffer under inhuman conditions. So, Palestinians not only do not have the right for self-determination, but are not allowed, either, to acquire the means to combat for their independence. The only thing they are allowed is to wait and suffer interminably in open sky territorial prisons. For Muslims, this negative attitude towards the conflict is meant to keep the Muslim world weak and on its knees. Israel is an implant or rather an aircraft carrier meant to serve the purpose of the West in the region: control the source of oil and its flow routes.

5: The Gulf wars
Many Muslims believe that the United States and the West provoked the First Gulf War to topple Saddam and destroy Iraq, which was a permanent threat to Israel’s existence and, also, a threat to America and its friends and interests in the region. Apparently, the American Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, ensnared megalomaniac Saddam to invade Kuwait, by making the following statement, reported by The New York Times:“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi (Chedli Klibi, Secretary General of the Arab League) or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”

Such a statement was taken on its face value by the Iraqi leadership as an “invitation” to deal with Kuwait as they see it fit. Having always considered Kuwait as part of Iraq and lured by its wealth and riches, Saddam gave the order to his army for the ill-fated invasion that will herald the beginning of his end. Though most Muslims do not agree with his secular drive, yet they consider him as a “hero” of the Islamic cause on the grounds that his overall aim was to unite the Arab world and sow the seed for the much-desired “ummah” that will later be extended to the rest of the Muslim world. However, the “planned” downfall of Saddam led to the disintegration of the Arab world into ethnic entities, a dream nurtured, for a long time, by the arch enemy of Islam, Israel.

6: Support to pro-American undemocratic and patriarchal regimes
For Muslims, America has always been a major player, since independence, in the politics of the region, a true kingmaker. America nurtured many lackey governments that defended its economic interests and political stakes in the region at the expense of the under-privileged in the area. As such, the poor in non-oil-rich countries got poorer and the rich richer.
Most of these regimes being tribal and patriarchal encouraged corruption, nepotism and embezzlement to stay in power and also co-opted their critics and opposers and created a political system made of parties and politicians in their pay. So, people either had to stoop and play the game or face death and imprisonment.

Reactive behavior of Muslims
Islamic revival (saHwa islamiyya)
The Iranian revolution of 1979 brought a new potent player in the MENA region: Islam, the very same player that was marginalized after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.
To fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, during their ill-fated campaign of 1979-1989, the Americans not willing to commit their own troops, especially after their defeat in Vietnam, resorted to making use of the potent concept of Jihad. As such, they encouraged thousands of Muslim youth to come fight the atheist Soviets. The Pakistanis coached them and trained them and the Americans armed them and provided the necessary logistics. The Soviets were defeated and their defeat was to be the beginning of the end of the USSR and consequently the Cold War (1947 – 1991).
At the end of the war, the Pakistanis and the Americans, feeling encumbered by the presence of the Jihadists decided to round them up and send them home, not realizing the danger they would pose to their governments given their ideological conditioning and their military expertise. Indeed, once home many started creating security problems to their governments and nurturing local terrorism.
Those who evaded repatriation from Pakistan gathered around Ben Laden, a Saudi billionaire, and founded al-Qaeda, which was adopted and supported by the Taliban, the new radical rulers of Afghanistan.

The Islamic revival movement, saHwa islamiyya, that started in the 1980s and which believed that the answer to all the ailments of the Muslim ummah is re-Islamization, splintered in two concomitant movements:

This movement was spearheaded by oil-rich Saudi-Arabia in the early 1980s. It aimed exclusively to allow this country to lead the Muslim world especially at a time when the Shia revolutionary Islamic Republic Iran was rising to power. To achieve leadership, the Saudi establishment financed generously predication associations and organizations located both home and in Muslim countries with one sole objective: to spread wahabism and counter Shia influence. This movement progressively led to the “orientalization” shrqanat of swaths of Muslim communities and the resurrection of radical Islam, either in the form of verbally-violent salafism or physically-violent jihadim. Both movements made use of modern technologies of information and communication to put pressure on society and convert people to their cause. As such, hundreds of predication television channels mushroomed in the Gulf States, broadcasting Koran chanting sessions, as well as, endless hours of predication by star predicators like the Egyptian Amr Khaled, who has hundred of videos on YouTube and his own websiteEncyclopædia Britannica introduced this Muslim televangelist in the following terms:
“Khaled’s attire was far from that of a typical Muslim preacher. Whereas his counterparts wore flowing robes and long beards, he was garbed in tailored suits and sported a moustache. His flamboyant presentations, in person and on television, were peppered with humour or occasional outbursts of tears. Nevertheless, he was first and foremost a traditionalist, telling young Muslim women that removing their headscarves was “the biggest sin.””
The New York Times Magazine, in reference to Khaled’s popularity in the Arab countries, described him in its April 30, 2006 issue as “the world’s most famous and influential Muslim television preacher.” Amr Khaled has, also, recently been chosen as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine.

As stated earlier in this work, the violent and uncompromising Jihadi movement started in Afghanistan after the ill-fated invasion of this country in 1979 by the Soviets, with the inception of al-Qaeda by the rich Saudi Ben Laden. The first violent action of this infamous Jihadi organization was the assassination of Commander Ahmed Shah Massud On September 9, 2001, two days before the cataclysmic attacks on New York (the World Trade Center) and Washington DC (Pentagon), known in the Jihadi literatue as ghazwat New York “the conquest battle of New York.” He was the commander of the United Front guerrilla opposition to Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and was assassinated in the Afghan town of Khvajeh Baha Od Din by two Arab men posing as journalists. Following the horrible and murderous events of 9/11 of the US, al-Qaeda, in spite of the worldwide coalition to eradicate it, conducted violent actions around the globe through dormant cells or just local sympathizers, proving that the West was scoring low in the Muslim world. However, following the Arab Spring events, another more violent and uncompromising Jihadi movement rose to infamy in the Levant, ISIS by taking control of swaths of territories in Iraq and Syria and promoting and promising the re-establishment of the Caliphate as sine qua non condition for the regaining of past Muslim glory and might. Unlike, al-Qaeda, ISIS used the whole repertoire of horrible violent acts to terrorize enemies whether Muslim or other: rape, sexual assault, sexual slavery, beheading, public slaughtering, dismembering, and burning of captives. For ISIS, all people that did not espouse its ideals were enemies to be annihilated. Christians were even more loathsome and despicable enemies because they are behind the downfall of the Islamic civilization and the emasculation of its people since the end of the 15th century.
Rejection of patriarchy and tribalism: Arab Spring
After the independence of most Muslim countries during the 20th century, hopes run high among the population that democracy will settle in and bring prosperity, but with time this proved to be but a wishful thinking. The reigning oligarchies, whether of monarchial or military origin, resorted to time-old tribal practices to rule and stay in power, such as:

To stay in power and gain some sort of legitimacy, the “tribal” leaders cultivated, through their parties and the state-run propaganda machinery, as well, a cult personality that gave them fake legitimacy to eliminate the opposition and continue to dilapidate public funds. They bestowed upon themselves the powerful title of za’im, which has no equivalent in the English language in terms of its strength “benevolent and powerful leader.” Thus, Gamal Abdenasser, Saddam, Assad, Ali Saleh, Gaddafi, etc. who were indomitable tyrants ruled for ages and inflicted much pain on their “beloved” people whom they supposedly “strived to serve.”
These political systems created four political classes:

Those who were not happy with the regimes were eliminated physically, put in prison or marginalized according to the degree of their “crime” or lèse-majesté.

The strength of these regimes and the secret of their longevity can be attributed to two important factors: the control of the security forces and the control of the media to use as a propaganda machine. However, with the advent of the digital revolution at the beginning of this millennium, the Muslim tyrants lost, forever, the control of this important and trenchant weapon.
This ultimately led to the Arab Spring which swept the dictators to the dustbin of history, but brought, alas, instead, failed regimes or theocratic rule and prepared the ground for the appearance of such oddities as ISIS, which is but the reflection of an Islamic world that refuses modernity, democracy, respect of human rights and rule of law. This proves, in many ways, that the tug of tribal tradition and patriarchal dominance are stronger in the psyche of the Muslim man than freedom of choice and expression and the ideals of democracy.

Islamism: the return to the past
The majority of fundamentalist Muslims seem to live more in the past than they do in the present time or even the future, for that matter. Indeed, there is always a glorification of the people of the past: salaf saliH (the venerable ancestors) and their actions, writings and beliefs are reported faithfully. This encourages the pious, good and docile Muslims to look at the past and discard the future because the future is about taking risks to change the past and that can only be a bad omen.

This unreasonable veneration of the past aims to create a Muslim citizen obedient to the ruler wali al-amr and to the religious institutions that benefit greatly, of course, from this unquestionable allegiance. The much-esteemed tradition and the worship of the past have contributed duly to the making of a Muslim individual totally regimented and obedient, carrying, for life, three weights chained to his feet: religion, tradition and the glory of the past. These weights are meant to keep him looking back rather than ahead, docile and obedient, rather critical and entrepreneur.

But, as said earlier, this time-old form of domination was obliterated in many circles as the result of the advent of the Muslim cyber citizen that evolved, as a result, from the Muslim subject. The Muslim millennials are, currently, at work changing society slowly but surely,cen because, though, they respect the past want to live badly in the future. However, those who have not been able to get rid of their shackles have been brainwashed by religious zealots and radicals to be used as cannon fodder to advance their cause and ideology in the world by using them as human bombs to sow terror worldwide ad create havoc.

Way out
For the Muslim world to get rid of the curse of the past and advance into the future, must undertake the following painful but paying steps:

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217557/muslims-angry-with-western-world/
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‘The Well of Hope’: Calming a Troubled World with Storytelling.

By Amira El Masaiti -May 23, 2017 , Rabat

On Sunday at the ALIF Riad in Fez, Moroccan actress Amal Ayouch performed “The Well of Hope”, a metaphorical tale of two princesses and a spirit written by British playwright Kay d’Astorg, accompanied by Hamza El Fasiki on oud. Mystical, exceptional, full of heart and hope, Ayouch found no reason not to narrate the story of “The Well of Hope.” Like all fairytales, the narrative is abundant with poetic devices and magical creatures, but it is also rich in valuable lessons on cultural openness and the necessity of water.

The tale delves, literally, into a well of hope to unravel the power of cultural exchange in today’s troubled world. Ayouch recounted the story line of “The Well of Hope” to Morocco World News.
The garden of the story’s protagonist is home to a well, a spirit and two princesses, one of whom rules the East and the other the West. The two hold grudges against each other, as well as big dreams, which can only come true if they drink the water of the magical well.

The spirit of the well seizes the chance to open a dialogue between the two princesses when they come to drink from the reservoir of the magical water. Through speaking to the rulers of the West and East, she learns the ways of the two kingdoms and attempts to bring them together with her wisdom and magic. Behind the poetry and the enchantment of the tale and its well lie strong implications to today’s reality. Ayouch explained that the conflict between the two princesses reflects the troubled circumstances of today’s reality.

The world is now continually assaulted by extreme political waves. “The Well of Hope” suggests that if humanity joined forces on issues critical to its continuation, such as water, the world would be a better place, the actress concluded. Ayouch explained that “The Well of Hope” is just one of many projects undertaken in the Kingdom to sow peace through art, including the Fes Sacred World Music Festival. “Morocco is one of the countries in the Arab world that is investing in this initiative. [..] The participation of artists and musicians from around the world prove that Morocco is a welcoming, open country.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217412/well-hope-calming-troubled-world-storytelling/
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Fez: King Mohammed VI to Inaugurate Morocco’s Oldest Bazaar After Historic Renovation.

By Morocco World News -May 23, 2017 Rabat

Kissariat Al Kifah, Fez’s famous hanidcrafts shopping district, is finally re-opening after nearly a year of renovation. The King Mohammed VI is due to inaugurate the restored bazaar by the end of May, to relief of shopkeepers who have been worried the project would not be completed by Ramadan, the most prosperous crafts season. Shop owners are upbeat and hopeful that the new face of the Kissariat will help revive their business activities. In the past decade, business in the shopping district have plummeted to a worrying level. Many blame the situation on former Fez mayor Hamid Chabat’s to transfer the parking lot adjacent to area from the Rcif quarter to Babjdid.

As the majority of its customers would come to the district by car, this decision dealt a fatal blow to the business center. Shop owners say number of buyers coming from long distances to buy Fez’s handicrafts has dropped dramatically.“The former mayor has done a lot of harm to our activities, and we are hopeful the renovation of the Kissariat under the auspices of His Majesty will bring things to normal and breathe new life into our activities,” a shop owner who has been working in the Kissariat for 39 years told Morocco World News.

The initial period of rehabilitation and renovation kicked off in September 2016 intended to last five months, but was extended till the end of May. The renovation period itself was not without hiccups. One retailer complained to MWN of a lack of proper funds. “We received only MAD 3,500 from the authorities to renovate our shops.” In recent months, many former craftsmen complained as well about not receiving indemnities from local authorities promised to compensate for temporarily losing their jobs. The mall is considered the cornerstone of Moroccan handicrafts, and thousands of workers depend on its 500 shops.

Kissariat workers have been worried by the delay, which has negatively impacted their livelihood, especially if they miss the holy month of Ramadan where their businesses flourish. Their fears grew even more as their expenditures are due to increase following Ramadan, during the summer holidays, which will in turn be followed by the new school season.

In addition to its economic importance for the old city of Fez, the district is a historical monument. It was named Al Kifah (“The resistance”) after its residents who resisted French colonization. In 1954 French authorities set fire in district from where calls for strikes and resistance used to spread all over Morocco.

With the re-opening of the “Kissariat Al Kifah”, the past will once again meet the present, as the crafts shopping market never lost its importance for the city’s residents.
Its renovation is part of a larger rehabilitation program of the city of Fez launched by the King Mohammed VI. Despite criticism of the delay, its completion will hopefully give the legendary city a needed makeover.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217440/fez-king-mohammed-vi-inaugurate-moroccos-oldest-bazaar-historic-renovation/
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Moroccan Reporter Souad Mekhennet Writes of Her Life Pursuing Extremists

By Morocco World News -May 26, 2017 , By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat 

Moroccan-German journalist Souad Mekhennet explores her investigations into Islamic extremism in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in a memoir entitled “I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad.” The 368-page memoir discusses the reporter’s personal experience as a Muslim reporter with a bicultural identity. Mekhennet was born and raised in Germany by a Moroccan father and a Turkish mother.

Her personal background helped her to describe in vivid detail some of the most breathtaking events and incidents which she has covered and witnessed. As a Muslim, Mekhennet has had access to some of the most wanted members of jihadist groups, including Al Qaida and ISIS, who have refused to talk to Western reporters. Throwing aside any fears, she has frequently been told to ”come alone, not to carry any identification,” and to “leave her cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at the hotel.”

In her memoir, the journalist gives detailed information about her assignments across the Middle Eastern, Europe and North Africa, to terrorism and extremist groups, including in Syria and Iraq. The journalist says she was committed in her memoir ”not to take any side, but to speak about all sides and challenge them equally.” The Moroccan journalist has worked for internationally renowned media outlets, including The New York TimesFrankfurter Allgemeine ZeitungThe Daily Beast and German television ZDF. She currently works at The Washington Post.“I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad” will be released June 13.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217737/moroccan-reporter-souad-mekhennet-writes-life-pursuing-extremists/
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‘The Little Prince’ Translated into Hassaniya, to Be Distributed in Southern Provinces.

By Morocco World News -June 2, 2017 Rabat

The National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) has announced the launch of a campaign to distribute free copies of “The Little Prince” translated in Hassaniya, the dialect spoken in the Southern part of Morocco and Mauritania. The translation project is the result of a partnership between the CNDH and Fondation Phosboucraâ. The books will be distributed to educational institutions in the three regions of the south of Morocco, Guelmim-Oued Noun, Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra, and Dakhla-Oued Eddahab.

The Hassaniya edition is the 300th translation of “The Little Prince”, one of the world’s most famous literary works. The initiative marks the 90 year anniversary of the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s stay in Tarfaya, formerly known as “Cap Juby” during the French occupation of Morocco. Tarfaya had been a source of inspiration for Saint-Exupéry, who was stationed there as an airmail pilot. As the French daily Le Figaro wrote, it was the contact with the city’s sand dunes and the local people that inspired his novel “Courrier Sud”.

The desert coastal city is home to an airmail service museum bearing his name.“The Little Prince” has been inspiring children and adults for many generations. According to Le Figaro, it is the second most translated book after the bible and the most famous French book around the world. Since its publication in 1943, the book has sold 200 million copies
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/218519/the-little-prince-translated-hassaniya-distributed-southern-provinces/
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Fez to Host 13th International Festival of Amazigh Culture.

By Morocco World News -May 31, 2017 , By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat 

The city of Fez invites Moroccans and the international public to the 13th Annual Festival of Amazigh Culture, scheduled to take place July 14 to 16. The event, held under the theme “Amazigh and Cultural Diversity Confronting Extremism”, aims to illuminate the importance of Amazigh culture and the role of multiculturalism in national development. This event has been called one of the major artistic events in the Fez-Bouleman region. More than 30 international speakers gather together every year in Fez to celebrate Amazigh culture as well as the diversity of the Moroccan identity.

The festival will feature a variety of Moroccan music styles, including Chaabi, Rai, Amazigh, flamenco dance, Mediterranean and Italian music. Abdelhafid Douzi, Aicha Tachinwite, Hadda Ouakki, Said Senhaji, Ibtissam Tisket and Hassan El Berkani will all take part in the three-day event. The festival is a gathering place whose mission is to establish coherent strategies to consolidate intercultural and inter-faith dialogue, social cohesion and democratic culture throughout the region.

The event will be organized by the Fez-Saiss Association and the South North Center organization, in partnership with the Spirit of Fèz Foundation for the Fèz-Meknès Region, the Moroccan Foreign Trade Bank (BMCE) and the The Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT). “The expected impact of this festival is to foster dialogue and exchanges between artists, intellectuals, and associations in order to develop joint projects at regional and international levels,” said the organizers in a press release.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/218339/fez-host-13th-international-festival-amazigh-culture/
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Young Moroccan Walid Ijassi Encourages Young Moroccan Entrepreneurs.

By Erin Dunne -June 1, 2017 Rabat

In 2016, the 19-year old Walid Ijassi of Rabat, Morocco won a global entrepreneurship competition. Now 20-year old Ijassi is encouraging the next generation of Moroccan entrepreneurs. The competition, the #AdamStart Entreprenurship Challange, is run by Adam Bradford, a 24-year-old businessman from the United Kingdom and supports young people looking to get their start-ups off the ground. The annual initiative is backed by the UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy Greg Clark, MP who explained in a press release, “this government believes that wherever you live and whatever your age, everyone deserves the chance to turn a great business idea in to a reality.”

After winning the competition last year, Ijassi has been able to turn his idea into a successful reality. His business, POMM’it, turns waste from apples into agri-food and cosmetic projects. The business, which in addition to recycling apples, also provides employment opportunities for women is now spreading across the country.

To celebrate Ijassi’s success, Bradford will visit Morocco later this month where he will present Ijassi with a prize during an event for business people. Ijassi, now 20, encourages other young Moroccans to apply and has called his experience with the competition as ‘life changing.’ He explained, “The competition has helped me gain more credibility and international media coverage and a unique opportunity to be mentored.”

For other young Moroccans considering submitting an application, Ijassi shared some advice: “Before applying, make your idea/project well organized and make sure to underline the importance of your business to the world. Also make sure to define your action plan post-winning the competition and potential results following receiving the prize money. And even if only few hours are left for the deadline, APPLY!” The #AdamStart Entrepreneurship Challenge is open to young people aged 18-29. The deadline for submissions is July 31.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/06/218396/young-moroccan-walid-ijassi-encourages-young-moroccan-entrepreneurs/
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Marrakech University Hospital Wins International Quality Award in New York.

By Morocco World News - May 31, 2017 ,  Rabat

The Mohammed VI University Hospital (CHU Marrakech) in Marrakech was awarded the International Quality Star by Business Initiative Directions (BID) in New York on Monday. According to the Moroccan press agency MAP, the hospital was honored for its innovative projects and its high-quality management. “We are proud, but we also feel more responsibility now,” said CHU Marrakech’s general director Dr. Hicham Nejmi.  “This award is the result of long and steady hard work by all the teams in the hospital.”

The hospital’s quality service manager, Isam Khay, was appointed an International Quality Ambassador. For him, the designation has crowned “several years of hard work to promote quality inside health institutions.” Dr. Nejmi pointed to the fact that the hospital is the number one eye, tissue and bone bank in Africa. The hospital has undertaken many innovative projects in Morocco, such as the launch of [a telemedicine, simulated teaching methods and educational technology.

CHU Marrakech has also launched a green strategy to reduce energy costs and increase the use of renewable energy. The hospital has invested MAD 2 million to incorporate solar energy in its electricity system. It has also been part of Morocco’s African cooperation strategy. The hospital helped establishing an emergency training center in Ivory Coast. Other partnership agreements with African medical institutions include countries such as Mali, Senegal, Gabon and Burkina Faso. BID had previously awarded Operation Smile Morocco, which provides medical treatment to children born with cleft lip genetic malformation, with the International Quality Crown.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/218248/marrakech-university-hospital-wins-international-quality-award-in-new-york/
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Zakoura Foundation Calls for Help to Fund Construction of Rural Preschools.

By Morocco World News -May 24, 2017 ,Rabat 

The Zakoura Foundation is launching an initiative under the hashtag #PreschoolHeroes75, with the aim of funding the construction of new preschools in rural areas throughout Morocco. The project is a humanitarian initiative calling on representatives, friends and colleagues of the foundation to collect money in order to fund preschools in rural areas. The initiative aims to collect a total of MAD 300,000 for the project.

Zakoura representatives intend to collect, through the foundation’s official website, the necessary funds for the construction of preschools before the beginning of the next school year. The #PreschoolHeroes75 campaign forms a part of the National Action for Early Childhood Education in Rural Areas plan, which aspires to create 500 preschools by 2018. Founded in 1997, the Zakoura Foundation works for human development through the education of children, the employment of young people.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217488/zakoura-foundation-calls-help-fund-construction-rural-preschools/
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12,000 New Job Opportunities for Unemployed Teachers.

By Morocco World News -May 18, 2017 , Rabat

Twelve-thousand retired middle and high school teachers are set to be replaced, the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research has announced.
Out of the 12,000 teachers, 9,000 are retired and 3,000 received early retirement. Education minister Mohammed Hassad revealed the plan after having been asked by the PJD about his strategy for “managing the files of teachers seeking early retirement,” on Tuesday, May 16 in the House of Representatives.

The recruitment of new professors aims to amend the shortage in educators, particularly of science, recorded in recent years, which has led to class overload, explained Hassad. The minister said that that BA holders will be recruited in middle and high schools, explaining that they will be trained for the next school year, with the possibility of online training. Hassad also brought up the problematic conditions of public education in rural areas, assuring that the ministry of education will give great importance to education in villages by establishing new communal schools along with transport buses for students. He also showed intentions of replacing the over 25,000 multi-level classes, which exist largely in rural areas, with communal schools in a maximum of two years and with an estimated budget of MAD 5 billion.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/216873/12000-new-job-opportunities-unemployed-teachers/
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58 Percent of Moroccan Students Enrolled in Universities Do Not Graduate.

By Morocco World News -May 16, 2017 ,Rabat

Morocco’s Minister of Education, Mohammed Hassad, has revealed statistics related to university dropout rate, showing that more than half of students enrolled do not graduate. Morocco’s Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research presented the statistics pertaining to university dropout, as well as the budget documents for the ministry, to the House of Representatives last week. The figures indicate that no more than 42 percent of the students enrolled in Moroccan universities graduate, whereas the majority, an eye-opening 58 percent, drops out before obtaining their bachelor degree.

The normal period for obtaining the bachelor degree in Morocco is three years and requires the completion of all the units or modules for each year. In case students fail to complete some or all the units, they are obliged to complete them in the next year. The Ministry of Education’s report shows that only 13 percent of university students in Morocco complete the course in first three years. The graduation rate after four years and five years of study is 15 and 7 percent, respectively. The percentage of the students, who obtain their bachelor after 6 years and longer is 7 percent, continues the report.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/216662/moroccan-students-enrolled-universities-graduate/
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Morocco′s Amazigh The long road to recognition

By Matthew Greene

Morocco's Amazigh captured a historic achievement in 2011 when constitutional measures following the countrys February 20th protests officially recognised the Amazigh culture and language. But six years on, many Amazigh are dissatisfied with the reform process and continue to complain of discrimination. The Amazigh cause was a vibrant component of the protests that emerged in Morocco as part of the popular unrest that spread across most of North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. The movement, which is a collection of assorted associations, joined February 20th demonstrators in demands for freedom and an end to corruption. Morocco′s Amazigh population is the largest in North Africa, comprising as many as half of all Moroccans. Their communities are located throughout the country, though dense concentrations are found in the Souss, the Rif and rural Atlas Mountains.

The quest for official language status
Leading Amazigh activists and intellectuals continue to argue that any path towards greater democracy in the Kingdom must include an end to their marginalisation. Historically Morocco′s Amazigh have mobilised around issues of culture and language, with a shared interest in earning Tamazight official language status. Many rights advocates trace decades of institutional discrimination back to Arabisation policies developed in Morocco′s post-independence years. They claim that decisions that included naming Arabic the official language of the state have not only neglected their cultural heritage, but has denied Amazigh educational and employment opportunities, as well as having placed them at a disadvantage in handling legal affairs among other state sanctioned prejudices.
Nothing like official language status: ″in a recent report the National Federation of Amazigh Associations in Morocco criticised draft legislation for lacking the means needed to activate Tamazight. Public and state facilities continue to work in Arabic, while Tamazight remains largely absent from state websites and media, advertising and even most of the country′s road signs,″ observes Greene

During the 1970s, the movement began pressuring the state to recognise Tamazight as a constitutional language alongside Arabic, while radical elements still present today push for the language to replace Arabic in all official matters, including its use in schools and media. According to census figures, approximately 30% of Moroccans speak a dialect of Tamazight, but the true number may be higher claim some critics of the data.

Progress tempered by scepticism
Changes to the constitution addressing Amazigh demands signalled a potential shift in the state′s Amazigh policy. Prominent Amazigh voices welcomed revisions recognising Amazigh language and culture as the movement′s greatest accomplishment in decades. However, they tempered their optimism with a deep scepticism mindful of previous efforts from the monarchy to co-opt the movement.

When Moroccan King Mohammed VI inaugurated the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture in 2002, some interpreted the initiative as a move to monopolise the Amazigh agenda and fragment the cause. Royal concessions have repeatedly divided the Amazigh over the years, separating those willing to play state politics from those mistrustful of the palace and its history of playing political opponents off against each other.

Activists also observed that new constitutional measures lacked clear mechanisms for practical application, stirring fears that state elites hostile to Amazigh demands would stifle any legislative process to bring Tamazight into wider public and administrative use. High-ranking figures across Morocco′s political spectrum frequently reproach the Amazigh movement for its attempts to insert their narrative into national political discourse, accusing activists of stoking ethnic tensions between Moroccans and undermining the nation′s bond to the Arab-Islamic community.

Paying lip service to minority rights: royal concessions have repeatedly divided the Amazigh over the years, separating those willing to play state politics from those mistrustful of the palace and its history of playing political opponents off against each other. When Moroccan King Mohammed VI inaugurated the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture in 2002, some saw it as a move to monopolise the Amazigh agenda and fragment the cause. Many Amazigh call for a secular state and advocate for a federal system that would challenge the Makhzen′s grip over Morocco′s political process. The Moroccan Amazigh Democrat Party promoted secularism and federalism before it was banned and then judicially resolved in 2008 for violating the country′s ban on ethnically based parties.

Deepening frustration
Amazigh frustrations have only become more pronounced since expressing their uncertainties in the wake of the constitution′s approval. They have felt neglected by the slow implementation of reforms they had hoped were imminent.

In a report published by the National Federation of Amazigh Associations in Morocco, the group observed that ″in multiple administrative, economic, social, cultural areas, Moroccan legislation still enshrines discrimination against Amazigh people,″ including ″clear discriminatory provisions against Amazigh language and culture.″

The report criticises draft laws for lacking the participatory approach needed to activate Tamazight as an official language. Public and state facilities including hospitals, police stations and courts continue to work in Arabic, while Tamazight remains largely absent from state websites and media, advertising and even most of the country′s road signs.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that only 12% of primary students take Tamazight classes despite the language′s inclusion into the national curriculum in 2003. The state has set goals to introduce Tamazight more widely, especially in majority Amazigh areas, but inadequate teacher training and a debate on how best to standardise the language remain key obstacles.
Yet despite setbacks the movement remains energised. Amazigh are increasingly turning their attention to issues of land rights, addressing natural resources exploitation, state property theft and sovereignty.

Ongoing protests in the Rif after the death of a fishmonger last October show few signs of easing up, while steady militarisation in the region has only emboldened calls to end injustice and repression. In the High Atlas, residents of Imider continue to assemble against a royal mining operation they hold accountable for environmental pollution and health defects caused by the project. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Tinghir, the tragic death of a 3-year-old girl last month owing to a lack of medical care has only served to reinforce demands for a lift on economic and social marginalisation faced by the Amazigh communities in the region.

At the annual Tawada march in Rabat, economic and social injustice formed the core focus, as Amazigh activists rallied to ″stop corruption, the looting of resources and discrimination against the Amazigh.″ As the sixth anniversary of Morocco’s new constitution approaches next month, what was a brief promise for the Amazigh movement to form alliances with other national political groups has now unfolded as a potential source of greater polarisation in the country.
Matthew Greene
https://en.qantara.de/content/moroccos-amazigh-the-long-road-to-recognition
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More Inclusive Growth and Youth Employment Within Reach for Morocco

The FINANCIAL

Morocco has an opportunity in the years ahead to boost economic growth and job creation, especially for young people, and to catch up even faster with developed economies by investing in its human capital, modernizing the economy and improving the performance of public institutions. This is the conclusion of the most recent Morocco Economic Memorandum (CEM) released today, entitled “Morocco 2040 - Emerging by Investing in Intangible Capital”. The new report provides an analysis of past economic performance as well as development opportunities and constraints, and then offers a roadmap for reforms to achieve superior economic and social outcomes over the next generation.

“Today’s launch concludes two years of research and analysis conducted in close collaboration with the government and key Moroccan constituencies. This report is timely as the country engages in a new development phase and we are pleased to contribute to its efforts towards the sustainable development goals” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Maghreb and Malta Country Director. “We are also pleased to present the report’s main recommendations to a set of stakeholders, from government, civil society, academia, to private sector and youth. We hope that this document will trigger a rich debate among all segments of society and mobilize greater support and understanding for the reforms needed to build a future based on shared prosperity”.

The CEM underlines the country’s significant social and economic achievements over the past fifteen years. Morocco engaged in a set of economic and social reforms to boost productivity, improve living standards, create jobs and enhance institutions. This process was further enriched by the 2011 Constitution which called for greater rights and opportunities for Moroccan citizens and enhanced the Kingdom’s governance framework. Bringing Morocco’s improved development outcomes to the next level and achieving economic convergence with Southern European countries will require to further deepen and integrate   sector and governance reforms, according to the CEM.

The report proposes a set of critical pathways to reach that goal. It recognizes that while youth employment continues to be a major challenge, the country has the potential to unleash job creation and bring about the needed reforms to improve productivity and people’s living conditions. Specifically, the report invites the authorities to rethink the country’s business model in order to spur competitiveness, boost productivity and promote fair market conditions for investors, be they small or large. This will in turn create a more level-playing field for the private sector to grow and will generate more jobs for youth and women in particular.

In order to achieve this strategic goal, greater investments in the country’s precious human capital will be needed. This long term agenda touches upon two key sectors: education and health. In order to achieve an “education miracle” and give Moroccan students the needed skills to integrate into a more competitive job market, the CEM calls for a comprehensive education reform geared toward enhanced education sector performance, governance and outcomes. The health sector will also require sustained and significant efforts to bridge the access gap between rich and poor and to ensure efficient and accountable public health care. Yet, based on international experience, no successful social inclusion can be attained without achieving gender equality. According to the CEM, Morocco’s ability to empower and mobilize greater economic opportunities for women will be instrumental to significantly enhance economic growth.

Finally, the CEM views the strengthening of institutions and the country’s governance model as a key precondition to reinforce the rule of law and place the Moroccan citizen at the heart of its development model. This ranges from more accountable and efficient public services to giving voice to citizens and enhancing respect, interpersonal trust and civic duty.

“This roadmap humbly presents the economic policy and political economy conditions capable of boosting Morocco’s growth potential. But the most important role is that of each and every citizen to feel entitled and responsible to act on the country’s development, to strive for inclusive institutions and equal economic opportunities, to promote gender equality and interpersonal trust, and to contribute with confidence to building Morocco’s future” said Jean-Pierre Chauffour, World Bank Lead Economist and CEM author. “It takes a consultative and inclusive process for the country’s constituencies to discuss and agree on how they would like to see their country by 2040. We hope that we have at least contributed to triggering this debate through the analysis and projections contained in the present report”.
http://www.finchannel.com/business/64870-more-inclusive-growth-and-youth-employment-within-reach-for-morocco
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Unemployed Moroccans Need to Lower Their Standards, Says World Bank

By Amira El Masaiti - May 15, 2017 Rabat

While Morocco has made significant economic progress over the past 15 years, the country still struggles to bring youth into the job market, according to a recent World Bank report. According to the report entitled “Morocco 2040 – Emerging by Investing in Intangible Capital”, about one in two young people aged 25 to 35 are employed in informal and insecure jobs. The World Bank asserts that Moroccan youth in search of employment must be open to accepting the lesser-paying jobs available in the market instead of aiming for higher-paying jobs, which are  unavailable in the market.
The problem, according to the report, is that Moroccans in search of employment wish to secure high-paying jobs to meet the standards of living that are similar to those in developed countries.
“Even where their material circumstances have improved, young people at times experience feelings of deprivation and injustice whenever they compare themselves with other reference groups or whenever public policies, Executive Summary 9 Morocco 2040 particularly with respect to employment, are not in line with their expectations.”

Morocco’s youth are “overcome by a feeling of hopelessness that primarily manifests itself in the desire of many young people to try their luck abroad and join the roughly 4.5 million Moroccans officially residing in other countries.”

The report brought up the 2012–14 Arab Barometer, which said that more than 28 percent of the Moroccans surveyed want to immigrate, mainly for economic reasons. The World Bank pointed out that a lack of adequate employment conditions greatly impedes progress in other critical economic and social issues like poverty and income inequality. The provision of job conditions would also improve individual well-being, increase the size of the middle class, promote gender equality, provide sustainable financing of community support mechanisms, and strengthen social peace.
Advancing a social contract aimed at promoting an open society, strengthening inclusive institutions, putting more focus on government action and its core functions and developing human and social capital needed for Morocco’s economy to flourish in the 21th century would improve the situation of the employment market in Morocco, suggested the World Bank.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/216623/unemployed-moroccans-need-lower-standards-says-world-bank/
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Youth Employment Slows Morocco’s Economic Growth: World Bank

By Chaima Lahsini - May 16, 2017 Rabat

The World Bank presented a memorandum on Morocco in Rabat, proposing an analysis of the kingdom’s growth prospects for the next twenty years.  Ten years after its last Economic Memorandum, the World Bank has devoted a new Memorandum on Morocco entitled “Morocco to 2040, Investing in Intangible Capital to Accelerate Economic Emergence.” The report provides an exhaustive analysis of the country’s recent economic performance and growth prospects for the next twenty years, outlining economic governance reforms that can facilitate the implementation of an ambitious but realistic scenario that can accelerate economic growth in a sustainable manner and achieve more inclusive social and human development, the World Bank explains.

While Morocco’s progress over the past 15 years is undeniable, the rate of economic integration in the Kingdom is still very low. In the two past decades, Morocco’s economy saw accelerated growth, seen in the improvement of the average standard of living of the population and the expansion of access to public infrastructure development. While many economic indicators have painted a positive outlook on the country’s overall growth, this is not the case for the economic and social integration of young people. The Bank’s report notes that unemployment among the 25-35 age group represents a major challenge for Morocco; only one in two young people in this age group has a job, which is often informal or precarious.

Reward on Investment
Recent years has seen Morocco prove itself as a world champion in investment, but the Kingdom remains unproductive compared to countries that invest much less. According to the Bank, this stagnation has an impact on the rate of growth of the country, which is still below the level needed to initiate real development. “Investment in itself is not enough, it must be profitable,” said Jean-Pierre Chauffour, economist and senior author at the World Bank. “Growth must be driven more by foreign trade. The challenge is above all to maintain a higher average level than the current rate over a period of 20 years.”

To achieve an inclusive growth by 2040, the World Bank advocates the improvement of institutions to support the functioning of markets by establishing the same level of playing field for all economic actors allowing for free and fair competition and by promoting a cultural shift towards business and innovation. The Bank also recommended reducing labor regulations and improving the effectiveness of active labor market policies, given that the revision of the Labor Code would significantly increase formal employment, especially among young people and women. According to the Bank, Morocco should deploy more efforts into integrating the global economy, which will help increase its attractiveness for investors and boost its exports. A full and thorough free trade agreement with the European Union would also amplify the country’s potential for economic transformation.

“Shock Therapy”
Economic integration is not the only factor that is pulling down Morocco’s economy. The World Bank stressed the need of the Kingdom to put education at the heart of its reforms if it wishes to accelerate its economic development. The Bank is advising the country to take a “shock therapy” approach designed to address the major constraints of the Moroccan education system.
The gloomy reality of the Kingdom’s education system has pushed the World Bank to talk about an “educational miracle,” stressing the need of immediate action to improve the level of Moroccan pupils as measured by international tests. This will require investment in health to strengthen human capital, expanding health coverage, improving the efficiency of public health services, and strengthening the overall governance of the health system.

The report also highlights the importance of the development of care and early childhood education to ensure equal opportunities from an early age, and the improvement of long-term economic performance as part of the sustainable solutions Morocco can adopt. “It is imperative to ensure that all children have access to pre-school education and other conditions necessary for their development,” the World Bank emphasizes.
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/216660/youth-employment-moroccos-economic-growth-world-bank/
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