By Morocco World News - October 22, 2016
By Adam Brown Rabat
Moroccan students and university professors gather for discussion on the U.S. election and the effects that potential outcomes may have on Morocco.
Students and faculty professors from Moroccan universities gathered with experts and political analysts at the Tour Hassan Hotel to discuss the U.S. Presidential elections on Friday. Topics included the recent debates and how each candidate’s policies could possibly affect Morocco. The discussion took the form of an open debate where general questions were posed to a panel of experts. Students and other participants were then given the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the expert opinions expressed or to ask further, targeted questions.
The conference was organized by Radio Plus in collaboration with Al Akhawayn Alumni Association, The Forum of Moroccan Youth for the Third Millennium. The panel of experts consisted of Dr. Nizar Messari from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Al Akhawayn University, Dr Sammy Badran from Kansas University, and Mrs. Meriem Bacha from the American University of leadership.
The evening’s discussions focused primarily on the relationship between Morocco and the United States and which presidential candidate would further relationships between the two countries best. The opinions of several audience members seemed to reinforce the idea that Secretary Clinton would likely maintain the status quo, owing to her experience as part of the establishment as well as her lengthy political career. At one point in the evening, a student postulated that a Clinton presidency could open the door for, “… More trade agreements.”
Participants and panel members alike seemed to agree that this election’s debates had been allowed to stray too far from the issues and had, instead, become bogged down in mutual character assassination. Meriem Bacha stated that they were, “… Too personal” and “… Pictured the other opponent as a monster.” Audience members were quick to agree, citing consistent references to “Old Stories,” such as the Clinton email scandal and Trump’s derogatory and flagrant comments towards minority groups and women.
Inevitably the evening’s discussion turned to the anxiety surrounding Trump’s stance on immigration and his inflammatory statements about Muslims. Audience members highlighted “Hate from conservatives.” Many attendees expressed feeling genuine fear because of this rhetoric, including the panelist member Dr. Sammy Badren, who voiced his personal concerns about returning to America after the election. Dr. Nizar Messari eased these concerns by reminding the audience of the role that Congress plays in providing critical checks and balances in the American democratic system, stating “… How significantly things will change will depend on Congress.”
Hailed afterward as a success, the event proved to be an excellent opportunity for students and other members of the community to engage in an educated discussion about American policy and the U.S. electoral process. This event will be followed by another forum concerning the first 100 days of the next U.S. presidential term.
STUDENTS at Coventry University will help preserve a thousand years of history as part of a project to protect one of Morocco’s oldest towns.
Projects including turning trash into art, supporting traditional artisan trades and creating the community’s first history museum will all take place in the forgotten town of Sefrou.
The Changing Lives programme returns to the once bustling trade hub this week – which was once home to ruler Moulay Idris II.
However the town has been left to fall to poverty and ruin as young people leave for nearby cities.
In response to the downfall, 11 students from Coventry University have been chosen to continue a partnership between the town and the university with the aim of supporting some of the poorest families adapt to the changing world. During ten days of regeneration work, the group will meet traditional craftsmen and artisans to help explore how they can benefit from tourism and a global online market. They will also learn about the mixed and unique religious heritage of the town where Berber, Arab and Jewish families have lived side by side for more than 1,000 years.
Students will also promote sustainability where litter and waste is a major problem. Working with Moroccan non-profit arts organisation Culture Vultures, they will use recycled waste cleared from the streets to make artwork for the town’s hospital and create Sefrou’s first museum to document its important history.
Brendan St John, manager of the Changing Lives Programme, said: “We have worked in Sefrou for the past 12 months and the impact our students have made is visible in so many ways. “Sefrou is a unique place – it pre-dates the imperial Moroccan cities that we know today, yet so many of its historical monuments have already disappeared due to neglect and its rich heritage is crumbling into dust.
“One of the greatest challenges we face is to preserve the town while adapting to new realities.
“Young people don’t want to live in the old city, they want to live in modern apartments with running water and space to park their cars.
“Many of those left are there because they have no choice, they are the poorest and most marginalized in the community.
“This programme is about sharing cultures and ideas to bring people together to try and change that, and what that then ends up giving back to our students is incredible.”
By Abdallah Zbir - October 25, 2016 Chicago
It was a warm and windy morning in the middle of September, 1982. I can’t recall that much of the details except how my mom was holding my hands in full celebration of the moment and how my heart was melting from a mix of fear and excitement. I had Heard of all the beautiful things in classrooms from my older brothers and sisters and the kids in my neighborhood.
Letters, words, pics, colors… I expected my teacher to be a great man like my father; one who gives love and wisdom, or a great woman like my lovely mom. I was also scared. Teachers sometimes are rough. Not to mention that the day at school is usually long and boring for a child like me; someone who spent most of his childhood walking around in the streets of the Old City. I let go everything without necessarily knowing how and when. Our destination was Riyad Elementary School in Kenitra- one of the most beautifully remains of my years and the place I still admire most. Finally, “I am a student!” Everything begins and ends at that very exact moment. It is the moment that matters most; Love to learning, wisdom, charm and candor.
It’s been 33 years since I proclaimed my first day at school a turning point in life! To mark the occasion, I hold to the memory so strongly. Of course, I am fully aware that my life witnessed new beginnings later in life. Of course, the journey was long enough to trace different paths, ups and downs and a lot of memories. If there is one that I attach to more emotionally is the day I became a teacher. On september 16, 1996, my footsteps on Zerkan -a tiny village in the region of Azilal-, marked the beginning of my teaching career. I felt proud and ready to open a new chapter though I was worried about the hardships of life in the mountains.
Anyway, the news coming from the teachers about teaching in those areas were not promising at all. Zerkan was something totally different! Now that I am matured enough to realize reality, Zerkan seems more than an isolated place nestling in the arms of the Middle Atlas mountains. It is more of a glimpse into time, a view from my living memories, an escape to the warmth of people and a moment of return. Return to faces, gestures, dances, vagaries, and most importantly to the haunting portraits of marginalization; to what was bitter to swallow. It was a mix of contradictions; love and hatred, hope and despair, courage and fear, etc. Today, I can see myself locked within a jar and lost in a deadly routine and submitting to sadness.
By time, my mood began to dramatically submerges in a stagnant reality. Time has passed. Nothing has changed except the modest dresses we used to wear, the little pens and the few books are more now of a bunch of things. What I have experienced throughout the years now worsen. The love I felt once in my childhood gradually has turned into an icon of shame. All those beautiful things are certainly collapsing. The current reality of the Moroccan schools is rife with malicious politics, disastrous and hollow choices, fragile infrastructure, cultural negativity and, of course, the plague of profitability in private schooling sector. With all this mess, one can’t help dreaming of a painless death, of a deliberate ending of all this suffering. Yes, all we need is an euthanasia!
Corruption tears down my insides so that no matter what I say or how I euphemistically fool my self with words; with vague or mild substitutes for what is truly offensive and harsh, only in few occasions we can see hope on the horizon. Corruption is so widespread in the sector of education that every Moroccan can hear it or see it at the flip of a switch. People know well of their debased schools, of their depravity and moral perversion. People know well that we are moving more confidently this time towards a tragedy. In the absence of what are solid, true and reasonable ideas, fragility, immaturity and irrationality prevail. This is severe enough to raise more than a single warning. No doubt that The Moroccan school system is closer to being a real disaster; a disaster that cannot be beautified by any of our official’s speeches or false promises, or by any ‘decorative’ education boards or councils.
At the level of academic debate, education still remains a delusional subject since it does not address the main challenges this vital sector faces, fails to offer a reasonable glimpse into its real problems and neglects to investigate the many issues plaguing that permeate throughout the country. Periodically, We hear of the many councils, committees, decrees, memos, manifestos, slogans and of suggestions made by state officials and politicians to change the whole schooling system, but no one yet, be it at the level of politics or education tells us how and when. No true expert yet speaks out of a reality. On the contrary, this debate still favors hesitation, lagging and evasion, and relies most on a pragmatic ideology serving no benefit or goal to education. What we hear most in those talks is simply a trickery language; a deceptive discourse.
Of course, we are dealing with a cancer now and the symptoms are out there; the non-homogeneous academic climate, the blurred vision, the ambiguity in thought, the prevalence of politics over a domain that should be purely academic, the shameful pragmatism, the immaturity of teachers and the lack of professionalism, poor logistics and violence. I don’t think it is hard enough to straightforwardly and provocatively pose this question: what can be worse?
Obviously, the structure of Moroccan education is shattered and there are only few fragmentary evidences to prove the opposite. Should I have to put things in order, politics comes first. I mean the political will; what we may define as the sustainable commitment of the ruling parties to have the right vision, to provide the necessary resources and to seriously invest in education. Normally, this political will “manifests through public commitments, financial support, and close formal relations between politicians, policymakers and technicians.”
Such a statement of Angela W Little pronounced loud in a 2010 London conference on education in developing countries hosted by the Institute of Education is absent In Morocco. Such things are definitely not yet a priority .From the 1960’s up until the 1980’s, the state’s main objective was to consolidate political stability and authority in post-protectorate Morocco. With his Majesty, King Mohamed VI in power, the state’s policies, driven by socio-economic forces, began to concentrate on social security, with the philosophy behind the “National Initiative for Human Development” serving as a vivid example. Education is absolutely left behind.
In developed countries, schools benefit from the philosophy that “schools are central to the mission of building knowledgeable societies”. That is it! Centrality. Personally, I don’t know where to trace it here in Morocco. I don’t know who is being acknowledged in the sector of education, what are the forces driving reform. Basically, it is hard to know who to blame. That is it ambiguity. That is the poisonous state leading to doubt. Here, Abdallah Laroui, one of the most brilliant and influential Arab contemporary thinkers, says that ” the state failed -pre French protectorate, under France authority and post independence- to seriously address the problematics of teaching and to have a comprehensive and agreed-upon plan of reform. Everyone failed including the political parties, unions, civil society and PTO,s, …et cetera.”
Second, comes culture. In many respects, the absence of a true, solid and comprehensive cultural project serves no benefit to the reform regardless of how beautifully fits into the system. The magic word nestles somewhere in art; theater, cinema, painting, music… Normally, we would expect schools to cultivate social values, ethical norms, humanitarian ideals, discipline, and the love of wisdom through investment in culture. Again, we are nowhere near such an attitude. Albert Einstein once said that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Sadly enough, nothing really remains.
Then we have morality; the substantial ingredient in the recipe of success. Here, I recall Joan Caldarera bringing Socrates’ dictum that “ethics concerns no small matter, but how we ought to live forward. It is what “conditions the way we respond to those needs, to the universal right of living in a good and meaningful way.” Her suggestions are logically chained to the idea that moral growth is as essential as physical and intellectual growth, and is nurtured in everything, from the smallest consciously-formed gesture; watch a kindergarten teacher carefully folding a cloth, to the grandest idea elegantly stated; hear a high school teacher describe the flowerlike pattern formed by tracing the arcs of the orbit of Venus.
Let us gently flip the coin and see if we really appreciate and advocate the presence of morality in schooling or living. The bad news is NO. Unfortunately, we don’t. Otherwise, those smallest acts of living; I mean the way we smile to others, we cross a street, we get on a bus, should be much different than the way they shamefully manifest. The worst news is that this shame moves quietly into the mainstream and reach the highest levels possible. Corruption touches upon almost every thing including politics.
Finally, technicality pops up to the surface of debate. Now it is time to look at what is exactly and purely didactic. What should we expect from a schooling that is based on memorization rather than research, supports memory instead of understanding, submission instead of critique and exercises power and authority instead of encouragement and positive enforcement. How can we teach our kids to be fully human, to be fully educated? How can we prepare them morally, intellectually, physically and spiritually? How can we secure them in a more challenging world of innovators and entrepreneurs? How knowing that we still rely mostly on old fashion dogmatic schemas and we favor ambiguity and blurred visions to an extreme and in a deadly measure.
I Personally wring my hands in joy to know that out of freethinking grows the blossom of knowledge. The idea is whether a first grade student draws a flower in his or her art class, a middle school student solves a math problem or a high school student works on a science fair project, the quality of teaching and learning lies in their abilities to bring forth new ideas, to inspire, to lead and have dreams.
Now, I wring them very well in anger to know that Moroccan schools’ predicament is deepening and to realize that our kids still don’t -still can’t- fulfill their natural thirst to true knowledge. Their cries still haunt me, their sighs still rip my feelings off, their shattered faces still bleed within my insides. I may feel sad to see how everything was falling apart even the idea that I was a teacher. Yet, I have a dream that the hollow political ‘sensationalism vanishes one day and those little kids can breath love and care. I hope so from the bottom of my heart. The heart of a teacher.
By Morocco World News - October 27, 2016 By Beryl Kessio Rabat
From Oct. 26 to 28 in Marrakech, Cisco Maghreb and WCA will participate in the Assises de l’AUSIM 2016 conference, a yearly gathering of information systems professionals and stakeholders. In a statement released by Cisco Maghreb and WCA, the company stressed the importance of “digital transformation” – the theme of the conference – in the Maghreb and WCA region. “We need to start building the skills for the future workforce to be able to operate in a digitally transformed Maghreb & WCA region,” Cisco’s statement said.
The networks that have served businesses for the past 30 years were not made to account for the digital needs of 5.4 billion mobile users by 2020, 30 billion “smart” devices by 2020, big data storage reaching 73 ExaBytes by 2019 and 57 percent of organizations using or planning to use the Cloud. Cisco has harnessed this data to advocate for technological growth opportunities in the region.
“[Networks] connects all things digital and [are] the lifeblood of digital business. If the network foundation crumbles, the business will be crippled,” Cisco said.
This is why the company – in an effort to inspire a digitized workforce – has trained 11,767 Moroccan students at their Networking Academy, 33% of whom are women.
“Our customers are needing more and more of our guidance and thought leadership as industry experts as they adopt to digital transformation,” the statement concluded.
MENAFN - Morocco World News - 26/10/2016 MENAFN - Morocco World News)
The revenue of the domestic consumption tax on cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and gambling is expected to generate over MAD 10 billion. In a new report the 2017 Finance Law Project (PFL 2017) revenue from domestic consumption tax on cigarettes, alcohol and gambling prove that this religiously prohibited industry is, in fact, an important source of revenue for the government.
The government is expected to collect MAD 1,26 billion from the domestic tax imposed on the consumption of all sorts of alcoholic beverages. Added to this, the tax revenue on the sale of cigarettes is estimatedt MAD 9.1 billion, while another MAD 160 million will be collected from the tax on gambling.
Interestingly, the 2017 revenue estimations of alcoholic drinks are higher than those of 2016. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are 400% higher than those of non-alcoholic drinks. Predictably, there has been some push back on the results. The Moroccan daily newspaper, Al Akhbar, took the announcement as an opportunity to slam the Justice and Development Party (PJD), chich has led the government for two consecutive sessions (2011 – 2016 and 2016 – 2021) accusing it of '… contradictory moralistic discourse'.'
In today's issue of the paper, Al Akhbar stated '… the Islamists of the Justice and Development Party are counting on increasing sales of products 'haram' to fill in budget holes.'
Addressing the issue of the 'Islamization of the state,' which came as an accusation of many political rivals of the PJD during the last election campaign, Abdelilah Benkirane, the party's Secretary-General, stated that the religious reference of the party does not determine the policies of the government. He went on to challenge that no one can refer to any government policy that can be considered 'Islamic.'
Edited by Connie Guidon
By Ghita Benslimane - October 29, 2016 Casablanca, Morocco
In a study published this month by the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index, dubbed “the world’s leading study of generosity,” Morocco was named 123rd most generous out of 140 countries, with a low score of 22%. The Charities Aid Foundation, a UK-based charity, is committed to helping the charity and non-profit sector and to motivating society to be more charitable.
The study gathered data from 2011 to 2015 and based its findings on three key questions: 1) Have you helped a stranger who needed help? 2) Have you donated money to a charity? 3) Have you volunteered your time to an organization?
In the first category, Morocco placed 61st out of all countries. In the second, Morocco placed last. In the third, Morocco placed 125th out of all countries. For the third year in the row, it is Asian country Myanmar that places first with a score of 70%, followed by the United States (61%) and then Australia (60%). Though Morocco didn’t score well, the report stated that Africa saw a positive shift as a continent, having “the most improved overall World Giving Index score this year,” says the report.
The CAF recommends governments from around the world struggling to improve their generosity score to “make sure not-for-profit organizations are regulated in a fair, consistent and open way, make it easy for people to give and offer incentives for giving where possible [and to] promote civil society as an independent voice in public life and respect the right of not-for-profit organizations to campaign.”
By Morocco World News - October 25, 2016 , Casablanca
Around 88 per cent of Moroccan children are using internet every day, according to a survey conducted by the opinion research firm “Averty” in partnership with “Kaspersky Lab”. This survey shows that children’s use of Internet exceeds the average internet users in Morocco set at 60 percent, Rachid Dahbi, Executive Manager of Averty agency, said Tuesday in Casablanca, presenting the results of this study conducted last July among 1,444 people in 42 cities.
Internet has become an essential element in the life of children, but parents are not always aware of the good behavior to adopt or the reality of security solutions available on the market, he added.
According to the study, about 60 percent of children have been affected by computer security threats during the past 12 months. The most cited threats are viruses and malware (18.5 percent), privacy violation (8.6 percent), data loss (5.8 percent) and spyware (4.8 percent), sows the same study which provides valuable information on the perception of parents to information security and their familiarity with solutions available on the market.
With having no previous experience of being to Marrakesh before or volunteering, this was going to open my eyes to the hidden gems of a city that is characterized by the fresh orange juice of medinas and morning prayer calls from the central Jemma El Fina.
Arriving at our riad (a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard), the initial sight was all the loosely matching patterned tiles that were decorating the entrance of the riad. It was from this colourful and printed entrance that I first felt authentically Moroccan in my time here.
We visited a baby orphanage in the morning and played with bubbles to entertain them or choosing to nurse them to sleep. Although it was upsetting knowing that the newborn children had no family, the happiness and excellent conditions that they were living in compounded by the fact that each child had a guaranteed adoption ameliorated the situation massively.
From this, we went to a completely different project held at a school. It was here that we were able to make a long-lasting hands-on contribution to the children at the school as we decorated and painted the entirety of the playground and exterior walls. We started with a blank wall, then as the days went by, we turned it into an exciting and educational piece for the children. The self-fulfillment from doing this, and the assurance that this would be a permanent feature in the school to benefit the children for years to come, really encapsulates the exact reason why I went to this Morocco in the first place.
Aside from volunteering, we were able to explore the enigmatic medinas. Going out at night into the labyrinth of the unusual markets and family owned food stalls, it was visible to me that this city never sleeps. At one point you may be walking past a snake charmer, then straight after you could be looking at an old lady’s painted pots. This crazy dynamic of people, food and entertainment was unlike anything I have experienced before.
It would be without question that almost every night we would eat at the markets. Many said to be careful about what meat you consume to avoid becoming ill, however knowing that the majority of meat or fish was bought fresh from the markets, and has spent hours cooking in tagines. The ample selection on menus which included cous cous, tagine and skewers enabled me to choose differently each night for such a cheap price of approximately 30 dirhams (£3.00) for a main meal.
Once the end of the two weeks volunteering here came about, the last thing I wanted to do was go home. Experiencing a culture that is so different from our own, and meeting people who had such interesting and different lives has inexplicably changed my view on what I take for granted and is definitely an experience I hope to repeat.
October 24, 2016 By Sean Yom
Can the Moroccan regime indefinitely maintain the vast distance between its democratic promises versus the authoritarian status quo?
For those stricken with thirst in a desert, even brackish water will taste sweet. Herein lays the strategy of Morocco’s monarchical regime—“regime” here meaning the palace, its security organs, and major players from the sprawling elite network known as the makhzen. Nearly six years after the Arab Spring, this autocracy has made the ultimate gamble: can it indefinitely maintain the vast distance between its democratic promises versus the authoritarian status quo? So long as it contrasts Moroccan stability against collapsing states like Libya and Syria, broadcasts new pledges for future reform, and conducts exercises like this October’s parliamentary elections, so its thinking goes, then the world will applaud Morocco.
To be sure, this ploy is working wonders with foreigners. Western journalists frequently praise the kingdom as a “model” of democratic reform. American think tankers see its monarchy as the region’s most progressive, not least because it cooperates with Washington’s security and economic interests. Yet the problem is the primary threat to any nondemocratic regime is hardly the outside world. It is its own society. Revolutions occur when a popular mass no longer finds its government credible, and would rather accept the uncertainty of a new political order than suffer from the constraints of the old one. And today, there exist two reasons to worry that Moroccans themselves are not buying their regime’s insistence that all is well.
First, the core structure of Moroccan politics has not changed since the Arab Spring, which instigated the historic 20 February Movement, several thousand street protests, and, ultimately constitutional amendments. Yet though now the official government is formed by parliament, all resemblances to constitutional monarchies stop here. This is still a near-absolutist kingship, but for a unique reason. In most other Arab monarchies, autocratic royals either lack religious authority or attempt to claim Islamic credentials based upon their political leadership. In Morocco, by contrast,the head of the Alaouite Dynasty is seen as Commander of the Faithful, embodying the will of the Muslim community—and from that fount of legitimacy flows incontestable political power.
Thus the palace still makes all major domestic and foreign policy decisions, treats the legislative branch as an afterthought, runs a parallel media sector masquerading as the mainstream press, and controls the levers of state repression (which today still smothers critics). This flies in the face of what parliamentary democracy, even in constitutional monarchies, requires—the absence of any unelected tutelary authority, whether they be kings, generals, or priests, who can singlehandedly dictate the political system and veto all elected officials without institutional accountability to society. The 2011 constitutional amendments did not result in this because they never intended to in the first place. Most of all, the public is growing tired of this charade. Less than half of all voters bothered to turn out for the first parliamentary elections after the 2011 amendments, and that number appears to have declined further to 43 percent in October’s contest. Notably, these participation rates are based on the number of officially registered voters. Around eight million voting-age Moroccans have not bothered registering to vote, underscoring a harsh reality: the promise of gradual reform is giving way to open ire that the Arab Spring brought little except more flowery language to the constitution.
The second reason to worry is that the underlying economic problem—a huge youth demographic, and too few jobs—has also not changed since 2011. About 30 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 29, and they suffer massive unemployment. Today, four out of five unemployed people fall in this age group. One reason is that the educational system does not meet the demands of the job market. In rural areas especially, education is still inadequate; one-third of the populace remains illiterate, which seeds economic informality and poverty. For the large urban middle class, schools and universities are more attuned to producing paper credentials rather than viable skills, such as training in competitive sectors like technology or else vocational expertise for new industries like automobile manufacturing. In essence, too many students are still encouraged to pursue theoretical degrees in university settings in hopes of landing in a cushy managerial or government office.
Public opinion polls reveal that these issues are not disappearing from the mentality of many young Moroccans. For them, material wellbeing and economic dignity remain foremost concerns. Indeed, a recent Gallup study showed one out of three youths wish to leave the kingdom altogether due to unfulfilled aspirations and lack of opportunities (which, perversely, may help the government since it removes a key protest demographic). Moroccan youths also evoke intense frustration with endemic corruption, including the palace’s own economic ties to the business elite, and bemoan that personal and familial connections still matter more than merit when climbing the ladder of bureaucracy.
These two political and economic realities make a mockery of the promises made in 2011, when the monarchy began formulating its “model” of change. To be sure, as many researchers note, the regime defeated the 20 February Movement and other protest groups during the Arab Spring using a mix of repression, co-optation, and reform promises. Today, though, a more troubling future beckons. Social unrest continues to simmer despite pressure upon the few remaining independent media outlets to avoid these stories. Protests regularly break out whenever hot-button issues trigger communal anger—from rising utility prices to fiscal austerity—and reports of police brutality, arbitrary detention, and torture against critics still leak out, despite the kingdom’s constant ban against human rights monitors.
The economic and political reality of Morocco has become untenably divorced from the rosy picture invoked for Western audiences. Moroccans are thirsty for change, and many are no longer drinking the brackish water from the palace. There is little reason why they should: After nearly six years of “democratization,” things are still the dreary same.
Sean Yom is an associate professor of political science at Temple University.
by Jessica Marglin Oct. 27, 2016
It is hard for anyone paying attention to relationships between Jews and Muslims to be optimistic these days. Hope for a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict seems to recede further and further, and mutual suspicion and prejudice among Israeli Jews and Palestinians has risen accordingly. Many Jews in France feel uncomfortable being identified as Jewish in their homeland, citing rising anti-Semitism among Muslims in particular. Since the attacks on a kosher supermarket in January 2015, record numbers of French Jews have made aliyah. And in the United States, the rise of pro- and anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movements has often pitted Jews against Arabs and by extension Muslims, perhaps especially on college campuses.
There are many things we must do to combat rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. But as a Jew, I believe that this work must start at home, in our own communities. We cannot convincingly educate others about the dangers of anti-Semitism — which have been on upsetting display this election season here in the United States — without seriously addressing prejudice in our community. To be blunt: Jews must do everything we can to educate ourselves about Islam, and about Jews’ historic relationship with Muslims.
Fortunately, there is a long history of Jews and Muslims living together that can help change the way many in the U.S. — including many Jews — think about Muslims and the Islamic world. Unfortunately, this history is too little known. The vast majority of students who learn Jewish history are still taught an Ashkenazi-centric narrative, from Hebrew schools to day schools to universities. Even a cursory lesson in the way Jews and Muslims lived together in the Middle East before the creation of the State of Israel can challenge many of the negative stereotypes about the history of Jewish-Muslim relations.
My research focuses on Jews and Muslims in modern Morocco. Morocco’s Jewish community was and remains the largest in the Arab world: In 1950, about 250,000 Jews lived in Morocco (today, there are only about 3,000 Jews left). Before their gradual exodus, Jews lived in every single major Moroccan city, as well as in many remote towns and villages. Jews were a small but highly visible minority; even in rural areas where few Jews lived, Muslims expected visits from Jews who worked as traveling salesmen.
Jews and Muslims in pre-colonial Morocco lived largely separate lives; they rarely intermarried, they lived in segregated quarters, they celebrated different holidays and lived according to distinct sacred calendars. And the distinctions between Jews and Muslims were not those between equals: Muslims occupied a higher rung on the social and legal hierarchy, and various aspects of Jews’ daily lives reminded them of their inferior status.
Nonetheless, if one were transported back in time to Fez in, say, 1900, it probably would be difficult to tell Muslims and Jews apart. They spoke very similar dialects of Arabic; they dressed in the same style; they ate the same kinds of food; and they hired the same musical ensembles for their celebrations. But Jews and Muslims were by no means indistinguishable to one another, even if they participated in a culture that was largely shared.
Despite their differences, Jews’ and Muslims’ lives intersected frequently — often in ways we might find surprising. One of the places that brought Jews and Muslims together on a regular basis was nothing other than the Shariah courthouse. Given the demonization of “Shariah law” by so many in the United States, this might seem shocking to some. Yet in Morocco, Jews made frequent use of Shariah courts as part of their business dealings, both with Muslims and with other Jews. Indeed, in some instances Jews sought out the jurisdiction of a Shariah court, believing that they would get a more just decision from a Muslim judge than from a Jewish one.
The Assarrafs, a wealthy Jewish family from Fez, offer an excellent case study of how Moroccan Jews used Shariah courts. The Assarraf family patriarch, Shalom (1830-1910), was extremely familiar with Islamic legal institutions; at the height of his career, he visited them on average once a week. And his regular appearances in court made him an expert in Islamic law. In fact, Shalom was so knowledgeable that some Muslims appointed him as their lawyer in a Shariah court.
The past is not meant to provide a template for concrete policy proposals. But the past is instructive in its ability to change the way we think about the present, and therefore imagine different possibilities for the future. If we believe that Jews and Muslims have always been enemies and have lived in strife since the dawn of Islam, then there is little hope for improving the dynamics among Jews and Muslims today. But if we as Jews fight ignorance about the ways in which Jews lived with Muslims for hundreds of years, we can stop projecting the current dire state of Jewish-Muslim relations onto the past and the future.
We as Jews have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others about the nuanced, complex history of Jews living among Muslims. Jews and Muslims — indeed all Americans — should know that families like the Assarrafs existed; that Jews were regular customers in Shariah courts; that Muslims hired Jewish lawyers to navigate Islamic law. With narratives like these, we have a shot at changing the conversation about Jewish-Muslim relations — past, present, and future.
Jessica Marglin is an assistant professor of religion at USC and author of “Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco” (Yale University Press, 2016).
June 1, 2016 By Lisa Jane Fallon Rabat
I have lived in the United Kingdom of Great Britain all my life of 32 years and will always be proud of my homeland but a new adventure was on the horizons. After many visits to Morocco and all its wonders, I decided to take a big leap of faith and quit my homeland in favour of something incredibly different. After leaving high school I studied hard and went on the journey of becoming a teacher and a teacher is what I became. Being a teacher was such an amazing pleasure until the English governmental pressures of getting excellent grades became increasingly worse and I could see myself becoming trapped in this ‘robotic’ lifestyle of ‘work, eat, sleep, repeat’. I bravely decided on quitting this ‘rat race’ as we call it in the UK, and grab hold of life with both hands.
I wanted to start living a more real and rural life-I wanted to live somewhere with a special connection to nature, somewhere with astonishing sunsets, somewhere with a rich beautiful culture and what better place than Morocco. So I left one Kingdom for another and have settled in the lovely coastal city of Asfi. My cultural roots are very different to the culture of Morocco and at first, my family were very inquisitive about my move to Morocco and had concerns over the fact that it was a Muslim country. I told them that the only way for them to truly understand the Moroccan religion and culture was for them to visit the country. And so they did.
Their misconceptions of the religion disappeared and they fell in love with Morocco just as much as I did. They came to stay with me in Asfi for a while, which really gave them a true insight and fell in love with the people, food and the diversity of the land. I then felt piece with the happiness of my family and was then free to start enjoying my new adventure in life.
Morocco is such a rich beauty and I could write forever about the delights of the country. I wish to share some of my adventures of living in a rural countryside with not many tourists. It can be difficult at times, but it is impossible to find faults when you have a view of the Atlantic Ocean every day. I eat fresh food each day and eat with my new Moroccan family who take such pride in cooking fresh wholesome food. Eating in Morocco is an experience in itself, sharing a dish and ripping up pieces of bread for each other almost feels like a ritual that is so comforting.
I love to see the animals in Morocco that are free to roam and hunt food for themselves and you often see dogs running by with chicken legs in their mouths. This used to upset me, but I have learnt to understand that this is nature and is much better than keeping dogs on leashes and in the house all day as many English families do.
I have started to go to school each day-catching the bus with the locals, to study the Moroccan Arabic which is an amazing tool to have. Moroccans are delighted when you can speak Arabic with them and also feels amazing on my part too.
Morocco has so many charming places to visit and each weekend, I explore new places-my favourites being the more rural places such as Imsouane to see the old fisher men selling the fresh fish that they work so hard to catch, Essaouira and the enchanting medina with their artistic creations which are getting more and more unbelievable, the famous Sahara and driving deep into the Atlas Mountains, eating goat tagines next to waterfalls.
I made the right choice in life to live in this beautiful country and I would not swap it for the world. Sometimes you have to wake up and just live.
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