Archive for April, 2008

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Moroccans Don’t Read The Coran!

April 27, 2008

According the latest investigation on Moroccans and Religious values, initiated by three famous Moroccan researchers: Mohamed El Aydi, Hassan Rachik, and Mohamed Tozy 60% of the Moroccan population have never read Coran before!
I wanted to share with you the outcomes of this research because I’ve found it very interesting, and I was personally choked to notice how incoherent Moroccans can be towards their religion. In fact only 5.6% of Moroccans read Coran everyday, 28.1% read it from time to time, and 58.9% have never read Coran. Well, I can situate my self with the 28%, but I couldn’t believe that even with our strict Islamic educational manuals which impose on us to learn by heart many Sourat and the traditional religious education in the countryside, 60% of the population still have never read their holy book. Probably the statistics are the same in a county like France regarding the bible-readers. Yet, France is a secular country whereas we are an Islamic county if we believe our constitution. Moreover, religious symbols are everywhere: mosques, clothing, education, Imarat Al Muminin…
In the same investigation, 40% of Moroccans think that even if you don’t fast during Ramadan you are still considered as Muslim. 57% disapprove mixed beaches, so maybe I’d better not go swim with a bikini this summer. 83% of the interviewed Moroccans think that women should wear a veil, so I really shouldn’t go swim with a bikini this summer. However, 84% of the population disapproves Takfiir! I feel released, because even if I swim with a bikini and even if most people wouldn’t like it but I would still be seen as a proper Muslim girl!
In addition, more than 99.9% of Moroccan thinks that Islam is the best religion ever and that there is an answer for everything in the Coran, starting from the social organization to the political, economic, and even technological matters. I just wonder why don’t they read Coran so often if there is an answer to everything in its pages? Well, maybe I should go read Coran right now to find an answer to this issue!
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Find Your Voice

April 17, 2008

Find Your Voice:
A Cross-Cultural Forum on Political Participation and Civic Activism

Rabat, Morocco
April 25-26, 2008
Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), along with the Institut National de la Jeunesse et la Démocratie (INJD), are organizing a conference for youth leaders and youth activists in Morocco under the name of: “Find Your Voice: A Cross-Cultural Forum on Political Participation and Civic Activism.”

This two-day conference will be a multilingual dialogue on the necessity of youth mobilization in the political process and empowering emerging leaders in political parties and civil society. Bringing together Moroccan and American experts on media, political party participation, youth mobilization and citizen journalism, participants will engage the speakers in debate, hold small group discussions, and partake in youth mobilization workshops. The participants will also develop and ratify policy recommendations to be presented to government representatives.

Topics will include:

Space for youth in political parties
The role of civil society
Media and democracy
Youth mobilization through citizen journalism

The conference will take place in Rabat, Morocco from April 25-26, 2008. American and Moroccan students and young professionals are encouraged to apply. We seek an ideologically and geographically diverse group of participants. Space is limited, and up to 50 participants will be chosen by a competitive application process.

Lodging and most meals will be provided to participants. Participants are responsible for arranging their own transportation to and from the conference. A limited number of modest travel scholarships are available for highly qualified applicants.

For more information go to www.pomed.org or contact rabatconference@pomed.org.

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The Communist Minister of the his Majesty

April 8, 2008

The Moroccan Minister of Social Welfare Nezha Squalli is taking off her politically-correct face and unveiling her hardcore communist face. In fact Nezha Squalli shamelessly asked for the banishment of the call for prayer of Al Fajr, because she claims that it is disturbing the wellbeing of the foreign tourists during their exotic staying in Morocco.

Well, I would just remind Madame Squalli, that she belongs to a government of an Islamic country and she is “for the moment” the Minister of Amir Al Mu’minin the Prince of the Faithful. Therefore, asking the Minister of Islamic Affairs Ahmed Ataoufik to find a legal way to ban the call of prayer not to disturb tourists is an insult to the high symbols of this nation. Furthermore, the tourists coming to Morocco are supposed to respect the local customs, as Moroccans would do for the Bell rings in Christian countries.

Maybe the Minister, who was a militant of the Moroccan Communist Party, still believes deep-inside that “Religion is the Opium of the People”. Yet, the outrageous thing about this story is that the PPS, the Party of Progress and Socialism is defending their Minister and calling the Press to stop judging Nezha Squalli. For their pat the Islamist movements inside Morocco as well as the more traditionalist streams of the Moroccan Civil Society are calling the Minister to submit her resignation as soon as possible, because she don’t represent the Moroccan population.

From My side I would kindly advice our dear Minister to look to her face in the mirror and ask herself who is she? Since, if a Minister in the government of his Majesty still struggles with her religious identity how can she be an example for the rising generations?

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The Real Faces Of Life

April 8, 2008

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Diaries Of A Young Pen: I Do Not Tolerate, I Care

April 6, 2008

When I was packing my bags to go to the Catalonia, Spain to the Euro- Med training on Gender and Religion, I was wondering if it’s not just some other futile training full of theory and which never come up with any practical projects or achievements. Well I was wrong!

During the training course Jews, Christians, Muslims, and non-believers had to live, travel, work and party together for 10 days in the Comarruga Youth Hostel. We all came with our education, our religious backgrounds, our stereotypes, and methods of work. Yet, the 23 participants from all over the Meditareenian Sea were all ready to learn and to tolerate people from other confessional roots.

The fourth day we went in a field trip to Tarragona to visit the various religious communities there. Guess what, there was no Jewish community in this old Roman marvellous city because of the 15th century hatred, whereas the strong Muslim community is still struggling to build a mosque for its believers. Spain is a secular country according to its constitution. Yet, the state still supports the Church by giving 8% of the taxes’ incomes to the Catholic Christian Church. In addition, Spain still seems much occupied by its bloody past full of Judaic & Islamic phobia of the early Catholic Kings of Spain.

Michael, Paulo and I weren’t affected by this Spanish mood. A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim succeeded in becoming friends very easily during this training course. Micha is a Russian Jew who left his family in Moscow at the age of 16 to go to Israel living in a Kibbutz and serving 3 years in the Israeli Army. He is now a traditional and modern Judaic jewellery designer in Jerusalem waiting for the Devine call to become a committed Religious Jew. Paulo was born in Roma in Italy, with a balcony on the Vatican and the sounds of thousands of bells ringing all over the place. Paulo even shacked-hands with the formal Pope John Paul II when he was a child, but since he is a social sciences graduates Erasmus student, he just decided to question his given dogma and travel around the world looking for Secular answers instead of Religious ones. As regards me, I was born in a conservative Moroccan Muslim family. I discovered other religions very early, and have chosen to remain a very spiritual Muslim out of conviction. My studies of journalism, diplomacy and communication thought me how to be very politically correct with people different than me without really caring about them.

In this training we were just three human beings willing to learn and go forward. Micha was sharing with us his stories in the army when he caught a 9 years old Palestinian kamikaze. Paulo was telling us that he sees the bible as a literature book and questions the nature of the Christ. When, I was telling them how important for me to stay Virgin until marriage because of my belonging to the Prophet Mohammed’s genealogical tree. We were so different in education, faith and hopes, yet, we all enjoyed heavy metal songs, the smell of tobacco or extra olive oil on our meals.

In one of the simulations of the course, each of us has to play a role other than his real life’s role. I had to be the representative of a very conservative party. I’ve had to stand against the building of a Muslim mosque in Spain. After the simulation was over; I felt very bad because for few hours I had to be the persecutor of my own community especially that many Moroccan immigrants in Europe suffer from the same right wing discourse everyday. I discovered how hatred is easy and how tolerance and acceptance is hard to reach as far as religious issues are concerned.

By Tomorrow I’ll be back in my country, where I am surrounded of Muslims everywhere and where the Media and the different ideological discourses are the only resource to discover people from other religions. Nevertheless, this time I’ll be taking with me in my bags the souvenir of three friends from different backgrounds who learned to tolerate each other, to accept each other as we are, to coexist for 10 days in peace, and above all to care about one another. This caring is the main achievement one can get as a human being.

* This article is a MEYI property (http://www.shababinclusion.org)

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The Moroccan Monkey

April 6, 2008

Everybody knows the story of the three Japanese Wise Monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). Well let me tell you the story of a young journalist, who feels like that monkeys. Yet, this Monkey seeks no wisdom. She just feels that her senses are being paralyzed by too much frustration in a Middle Eastern country called Morocco.

I CAN’T SEE. In my country we have only two TV channel, and both are controlled by the state. There are people I don’t like to see, like the characters they show on TV who look like living on another planet. There are people I would like to see, like the political leaders or my municipality civil servants. Unfortunately, these people sit on desks situated in very high towers which my sight can’t reach. And there are things I’m forced to see, like the thousands of doctorate holders protesting in front of the parliament, the poor youth being brain-washed trying to bomb them selves, or many others who venture on the Mediterranean Sea risking their lives to make a living.

I CAN’T HEAR. I’ve grown up in the middle of the Economic crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. We had no music of our own then. We used to listen to music made by other people to other people. I live in a place where we hear rumours all the time, because we are somehow afraid of the truth. Sometimes I hear machines and constructions around. However, even deaf; I can still understand that these houses and infrastructures are not for me, but for wealthy people who can pay for it.

I CAN’T SPEAK. My tongue is chained by three chains called: Religion, Patria, Monarchy. I can shout on strikes, on football games, or on public markets, but what can I have to say if I can’t speak about the main components of my identity, as noted in our constitution: Islam, Morocco, and the King.

The Moroccan Monkey is handicapped in his senses. Still, he has a heart full of hope, honour and ambition. With his heart he can see him self in the mirror of reality, hear the hymn of change and shout loud for glory!

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Who is the Elephant and who is the Donkey?

April 6, 2008

The Moroccan people are a bit different than the rest of the Middle East in terms of International relations. For example, International news has a very small place in our Press and TV. People don’t really care about what is happening. They are becoming more like Western people who are busy making a living. Yet, Moroccans still react sometimes when there is a psychological geography feeling with some countries like Palestine or Iraq. However, the 24 hours channels hammered a lot these subjects to the point that everyone sees these conflicts now as daily routine. Even in universities, we still don’t have strong International Relations’ departments or analysts, like the Egyptians or the Palestinians. In this mix, Moroccan young public opinion is still very reactive instead of well informed.

Even if the US Elections are very crucial for Morocco, Young Moroccans don’t seem really to distinguish between Democrats and Republicans or Donkeys and Elephants, apart from some rare elite or International Studies’ students. Morocco needs the US support not only in its big battle for the Sahara issue but in all development and military affairs now on. Therefore, the modern Moroccan kingdom is still more concerned about what’s going on in France more than what’s going on in the US. I have even experienced a fever of enthusiasm among the supporters of Sarkozy and Royal during the French 2007 elections. I may suggest that the Transformational Diplomacy of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hasn’t been well implemented in Morocco. One can just visit the US Embassy’s web site http://www.usembassy.ma/ to notice that nothing have been done to inform the average Moroccan about the US elections! The truth is, the revolutionary diplomacy of Rice about going to the normal people and explaining to them what is happening, and making diplomats like field people, is nothing but wonderful dreams.

I really think, it would be good if I can make a small opinion poll among Moroccan youth on the US elections battle. From what I know and have been discussing with my friends, Moroccans favour the Clinton family. Hilary Clinton has good ties with Morocco. She even created in my University a Centre for Women Empowerment which operates in the Atlas region http://www.aui.ma/VPAA/hrcwec/index.htm. Hilary Clinton also received an honorific Master degree for her work. Moreover, Bill Clinton has a reputation of a man of peace in the Moroccan mind after what he did in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ex-president visited Morocco and was the architect of the free trade agreement between the two countries, whereas, President Bush just sent a letter of apology to the Moroccan king for not being able to come to Morocco in his Middle East tour.

Yet, the US has impregnated for the last years an image of a “Macho” & a “Racist” state. Therefore, I often hear my peers saying that “even if Americans look very democratic, but they are still a patriarchal conservative state, which won’t allow a woman to rule them”. Furthermore, young Moroccans also may tend to think that Americans won’t accept an afro-American president like Obama, even with Operah’s support.

From another perspective, young Moroccans are big consumers of the American film industry. Thus, American serials like “24 Hours” or “Commander in Chief” have contributed to make the idea of having a female or an afro-American president of the World’s greatest power more acceptable for the world’s mass.

Waiting for the Transformational Diplomacy’s revolution http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/59306.htm to gain more concern about the American political matters, the young Moroccan is still in general lost between the Elephant and the Donkey. But to be fairer with the Moroccan public opinion, let’s wait and see how the mass will react on the elections’ eve once they have more information.

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Daries of a Young Pen: Show Me How?

April 6, 2008

“Morocco is one of the most badly-scored MENA countries as far as education is concerned in terms of access, equity, efficiency, and quality” according to the World Bank’s recent MENA Development Report. The newly published report was a real earthquake for the whole country and especially for every person who is a pure fruit of this educational system, including me. I’m neither a formal institution nor a specialist on the issue, yet my 19 years spent in Moroccan schools enabled me to do an autopsy of the Moroccan educational system by asking the five classical WH questions.

What? The Moroccan Educational System is not one system but a mixture of many models. For centuries, only privileged elite could get educated. This traditional first form of education was mostly religious and the holders of this Power/Knowledge were considered a very influential class in the society and called Al Fukaha — the knowledgeable. When the French colonizing machine came to Morocco, it brought with it a whole new model of teaching based on an orientalist dichotomy. Both traditionalist and imperialist systems have one thing in common: they show you what is good and what is evil, but never dare to tell you how to make the evil become good.

Who? Many actors shaped the face of the Moroccan educational system. Hassan II is incontestably one of the characters who has left the biggest impact on the schooling system. Under the pressure of the right wing Istiqlal party, Hassan II led a huge Arabization movement in a society which speaks Darija, Amazigh, and French but not Classical Arabic, which resulted in the rise of frustrated militant minority groups from one hand and hardcore fundamentalists from the other. And during the 1970s, all the philosophy colleges were closed down — except the Rabat Philosophy College — as to counter the communist rise in the country. Therefore, additional actors were all the teachers who lacked both in resources and pedagogy to educate their pupils. In the middle of this turmoil, the actors forgot to teach the future generations how to critically think.

Where? Centralization is one of the characteristics of this weak Moroccan educational system. It is true that primary education became a priority during the last few years. However, secondary and higher education is still concentrated in the major cities when the majority of the population live in the rural areas. This issue along with the tribal patriarchal mentality pushes many conservative families to deprive their daughters from schooling. So far, no one is thinking how to find practical solutions to solve these problems.

When? Four years ago an ambitious educational reform started in Morocco when the Ministry of National Education and the Royal Committee on Education published a Charter on Education and Training. Since then, access and equity became the strategic priority. Illiteracy campaigns were led among the elders and the Amazigh language finally gained academic recognition. The research and national will is there, yet , nobody knows how to translate it to reality.

Why? Many reasons can be given for the unfortunate state of Moroccan education. The first may be the failure of the French-like bipolar system based on weak public universities (14 universities) in addition to an important number of specialized and selective institutions (139 schools). Another reason is the political manipulation of the educational system for many decades to keep the public opinion under control. Thousands of zealous explanations can be proclaimed, but if you want the opinion of someone who lived the experience from the inside let me share with you only one example, and you’ll understand why this educational system is so ineffective: In my Family Education class, instead of learning how to take care of a child, how to sew, and how to cook, I’ve had to learn the manual by heart and recite it in front of my teacher!

How? Sorry, I can’t answer this question, because in the system where I was educated they only taught me what the problem is, and not how to solve it.

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Diaries of a Young Pen: How I Became a Journalist

April 6, 2008

The Warm Mediterranean weather turned cold inside the varnished stones of the Moroccan Journalism Institute’s German style building. About 90 pale faces were sitting in the hall waiting for their turn to take the interview for studying in this prestigious college. They all know that if they succeeded out of 1500 students in the written exam, only 30 lucky people will remain by the end of the day.

The Moroccan educational system is the inheritor of the French colonizer’s educational model. Therefore, higher education is divided into two main streams. On the one hand, we have the universities, which are opened to everyone after high school, but which are very weak and mostly theoretical. On the other hand, there are the prestigious specialized institutes, which require high grades and entrance exams, and which guarantee very good education with field practice. The Journalism Institute was built in 1969 by a German institution and is considered one of the best journalism schools in Africa. (See http://www.isic.ac.ma/)

A tall man wearing a formal suit came out of the room and asked if someone could make a list of the candidates according to the cities where they live, so that people living far from Rabat could have the interview first and catch their trains. A little voice stepped out of the crowd, and I said: I’ll do it!

When my turn finally came, I opened the door and found three men, who seemed a bit astonished to see a 155 cm creature looking at them with all the self-confidence of the world:

  • The first man: Why did you volunteer to make that list?
  • Me: I think what’s missing in most young people is the sense of taking initiatives, and I wanted to help.
  • The second man: Why do you want to become a journalist?
  • Me: Because it’s a noble job, from which I can contribute to the change of my country. It’s also been my goal since I was 4 years old.
  • The second man: 4 years girls don’t usually have goals, they have dreams.
  • Me: I only believe in concrete and feasible dreams, and becoming a journalist is possible if I work hard, so it’s a goal.
  • The third man: What kinds of journalism are you interested in, Miss Sarah Zaaimi?
  • Me: I would like to become a political and social journalist in the printed press.
  • The first man (while staring at me): Don’t you know that the print press in Morocco is a field for men, not for women, and that most women who write in Moroccan news papers only write in cultural and family pages?
  • Me: I think being a journalist should be gender blind.  In addition, I think this institute is a laboratory for creating new forms of journalism. So what is in the Moroccan media field today is not a model to consider. If I get the chance to study here, I think I’ll do my best to contribute positively to the process of change in Moroccan journalism.

I think my audacious words during that interview, were enough to give me the winning ticket to journalism school, and to this huge jungle called Media. The Moroccan audio-visual media outlets were monopolized by the state until the late 1980s, whereas the printed press was the field of battle for different political parties. Since the early 1990s, which corresponds to the last decade of King Hassan the second’s reign, the Moroccan print press has witnessed the rise and the flourishing of a new generation of independent newspapers. These newspapers have an important amount of free expression, and in the absence of a real opposition in the Moroccan political field, this independent press is called: The New Opposition.

Today I’m a 23 year-old young journalist, a master’s student concerned with identity issues, a youth activist involved in many projects with the League of Arab States, The Euro-Med, The Soliya Program, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Above all, I am a young woman in a Middle Eastern country trying to express my generation’s frustrations and contribute to change my society with my modest work. If you want to learn more about the adventures of a young pen, read my diaries on www.shababinclusion.org/.

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300

April 6, 2008

300 is the name of one of the best films that was launched this year in Hollywood. For me, when 300 is mentioned, it reminds me of the union of 300 outstanding Arab youth in Al Ein Asoukhna in Egypt between the 19th and the 23ed November 2007 in the League of the Arab States First Youth Forum.

The Hollywoodian film 300 and the LAS Youth Forum’s 300 active youth have a lot in common, especially the spirit of battle. In the LAS Youth Forum’s case it was a great battle to harmonize between different and diverse young people, and to build a common discourse and a common vision about the future.

The League of Arab States in the person of Mr. Khalid Ouhichi and his exceptional team succeeded in collecting funds from a number of organizations to make the dream of uniting the Arab Youth comes true. Yet, these same sponsors were a hard burden on the Forum’s programme, as they imposed many incoherent sections and some boring speakers that the organizing team couldn’t avoid.

The Arab League was very ambitious, and its ambitions seem to give its fruits. The first step was to hire a hardcore Youth Activist like Mr. Haythem Kamel to coordinate the event, which gave the Forum a spark of originality and Young spirit. Indeed, for the first time the participation was through online applications instead of hosting participants that the local governments choose. The second thing to applaud is the way the Forum was run: A modern open-minded and open to criticism management of the event. I guess the Arab League has learned a lot from its partnership with the Council of Europe in terms of Youth integration. The LAS section of Mr. Ouahichi even insisted in creating a consultative Youth Committee to participate in the preparation of the event. I had the chance to be a part of this team, and I can say with all the objectivity of a researcher, that we were integrated in every single detail of the Forum preparation. Our suggestions were highly taken into consideration, to a point that sometimes all the work was changed to please us, as we were a sample of the coming 300.

Some claim that 300 Arab Youth are hard to control in a beautiful hotel on the Red Sea. I would say that the main objective of a first Forum was Networking, and networking can be realized either in workshops or plenary or even in a football game on the beach. I was even impressed by groups of youth with common interests holding meeting till midnight in a very professional way to debate about their projects.

We always hear the stereotype of “the Arabs agree not to agree”. After living the experience of this forum, I could say with confidence that the age of this proverb is gone. I have seen maturity, creativity as well as methodological working in these 300 soldiers of the Arab future.

Focusing on the weaknesses of the Forum would be a lost of time, especially that the strengths are much more numerous and important. I needed some time and space to judge the forum and write my report, and I can see many outcomes of this 4 days event.

First of all the Forum was very flexible. Workshops that needed more time were organizing follow-up meetings after the end of the work days. The organizers were very open to criticism and even tried during the last day to modify the mistakes of the previous days by giving the microphone and the plenary presidency to the Youth. In addition, all the evaluation forms are taken very seriously and being examined by the LAS team.

Furthermore, the Forum ended –thanks God- without the classical Arab recommendations that we all know very well and hate very much. This event wanted to finish with concrete measurable projects that the LAS and its partners can follow up and support. Regarding the projects them selves, they translate the real needs of the Arab Youth: creation of Quality Commission for youth projects, creation of an Arab Youth Parliament, creation of an Arab Youth Network for training trainers on Democracy issues, creating an NGO for Arab Young Bloggers, Holding a Forum exclusively for Arab Young Artists… If we analyze these projects, we can conclude that our Youth are claiming structures with a stable board and funding to meet and work. Our 300 realized that in this post-modern world there is no place for amateurism and meetings where we simply wine and dine and go home happy. It is time to build structures and umbrella organisations where these capacities can be exploited, and were the Arab Youth work can be fulfilled in a professional methodological way.

At the end, I can’t predict what these projects would become tomorrow. Therefore, what I know for sure is that all the Youth are still motivated and in touch with each other, and new projects and ideas are circulating on the internet everyday like: the Arab Erasmus, the Dahab meeting, the Oriflame Network elaboration. Hence, the end of the 300 Arab Youth is fortunately not similar to the 300 film end, because if the 300 heroes die at the end of the Zack Snyder’s film, our 300 Soldiers of change are still alive holding the torch of change. No one can stop the 300!