What Makes me Moroccan Really?

Kacem recalls memories from his childhood and tries to probe the past and the present, hoping to find what really contributed to his values and identity.


Blogger , performer, author and activist. 11 comments

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Writing from within The Most Beautiful Country in the World (Morocco), is always a difficult and hard exercise. No matter what ideas you try to convey, and how simple you struggle to describe the reality, you inexorably find yourself lying, resorting to hypocrisy or at least some sort of exaggeration. It does not matter here what level of education or intellectual background you have. Whether you are a master or a servant, a graduate of a Moroccan university, a French school or an American college, you will invariably find it hard to transmit the real picture of Morocco as it is. The reason for that is simple: your identity as a Moroccan is unlike any other in the world!

Moroccan identity forces you to live between the walls of a very complex maze. You usually start by boasting about your country’s culinary delights, and refined traditional clothing. You often end up evoking the resistance that kicked the French colonists out of the country. You may also go beyond that and pride yourself of the Berber civilization, the Islamic conquests, the construction of the first mosque and the killing the first infidel; things that imply your belonging to a specific part of the world, whether you like them or not.

This affiliation or belonging was made for you, despite of you, without you. Despite all this, despite this identity’s strengths and deficiencies, you do not miss an opportunity, wherever you are, to proudly tell the world, loud and clear: I am Moroccan!

I, too, am a Moroccan and am extremely proud to belong to Morocco. Many factors have shaped my Moroccan identity of which I will only mention those left in the recent memory of my latest personal history:


My grandfather was one of the first who took up arms and defended the freedom and independence of this land. But during his last years as an old man, suffering from a long illness he found no support from his country and encountered only marginalization and exclusion from the list of the honorable members of this society, while previous beneficiaries of the colonial rule benefited from preposterous privileges and were granted thousands of hectares of the very land that was once watered by the blood of the resistance and that eventually yielded thorns and weeds!


My father, unlike his own father who committed himself to the freedom of this country, he left school at the age of ten, and chose to work as an itinerant seller of drinking water. He watered the thirsty passers-by and the men of the village in their way to the souq (weekly local market), wandering in the sun and shouting “Cold water! Cold water!” Some of them drank and paid one or half a Dirham and most of them added “May God bless both of your parents!”


I still have vivid memories of the mornings when, before I left for school, I used to keep whatever leftovers of the breakfast’s bread I could find. I satisfied my self with a cup of cold mint tea. I needed the bread to buy off the wild dogs waiting for me in my way to school, so I can avoid their bites and their scary barking. I remember the dogs in the village were reproducing at an alarming rate, to the point that they eventually overpowered the police and the security forces.


I remember when the rain started falling or when it was snowing we (I and the five other members of my family) used to spend weeks and months together, sleeping in the same room, entwining our bodies to warm each other up and protect each other from the cold weather. And when finally the first warm sun rays appeared in the morning, I would realize I couldn’t find woolen gloves, not even an old shoe to protect my feet from blisters. I was denied access to the right to play and have fun with my peers! We would catch cold, grandma would cough, my six months old brother would die, and we would feel he was lucky because he died before he gets to the point when he would have hated life or wished to die, or even worse, fallen into the arms of a terrorist organization that would have loaded his body with explosives and convinced him to blow himself up within the Ministry of Health, for it being guilty for not having provided the much needed treatment nor built the much awaited clinic.


Now that I have become one of the few in the village who have successfully completed their primary education, enrolled in High School, and went to live in the city, to inhale car fumes and smoke from concrete factories, and also to enjoy the sight of the bodies of underage girls and the manifestations of pseudo-modernity, I discovered… I can not be a Moroccan! Why? Because I am not allowed to have enlightened or free thinking; I am not granted the right to just be myself; I have no right to express my faith; I have no right to break the fast during the day in Ramadan; I do not even own a single square meter in this broad land of mine! I am only Moroccan because of my national identity card and my Passport. To put it bluntly, I have no right to life, because of an Islamic constitution that encourages the extremists to kill whomever contradicts their religion.
I’m only allowed to keep saying yes a million times a day, to pray with the Muslim masses, to hold up the picture of His Majesty, Prince of “the Believers,” cheering His name and bowing at his sacred motorcade, wearing the traditional red hat!

Today, as I am writing these words, I feel I’m belonging more to the “barbaric” past. I also feel nostalgic about the day before reason was assassinated, books of philosophy and logic were burned on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. I try strongly to picture the morning when Galileo was hanged and the priests and monks celebrated the victory of ignorance over knowledge. Then I wake up and realize with sheer horror that I’m running away from myself. And then I find the cure and it reads: don’t be so surprised, you are Moroccan… Arab… Full stop.

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Translated by Hisham from أشياء تجعلني افتخر بهويتي المغربية!

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

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11 comments on “What Makes me Moroccan Really?”

  1. And day by day growing up we also remain chosing to belong to this country that I also have the vanity to call mine. For the better and its worse, of course.

    Thks for posting this Kacem!

  2. Ms. Joan SittingBull

    The article is so well written and delivers the truth with heart. Why cannot a person be who they are and who their parents, parents were? If the creator wanted them to be different, then they would have been born different. No man, woman or child on this Earth, is God.

    What gives anyone the right to demand people to believe in them, when they do not feel it in their heart?

    Choose all actions wisely:

    Believe it or not, there is a creator, all are held accountable for their thoughts, actions and words they have spoken. Ask yourself these questions: Has someone been harmed by your words, actions or thoughts?

  3. “I try strongly to picture the morning when Galileo was hanged and the priests and monks celebrated the victory of ignorance over knowledge.”

    Ironic that you speak of “the victory of ignorance over knowledge” given that Galileo was not hanged. It’s just a myth.

  4. i love you article ,but i see you giving a very dark side of morocco at the end of your article .i dont think someone is forcing us to go cheer the king name ,no one is forcing us to pray or to do ramadan . as a proud moroccan ,i see that we are a nation working to establish a new moroccan identity ,we are learning from our past and the sacrifice of your grandfather ,but to go forward ,we need to know how to respect each other .

    • “but to go forward ,we need to know how to respect each other”

      Then respect the freedom of Moroccans to eat in public in Ramadan or draw cartoons of the king. As is the case in any descent country.

      Or does “respect” only go one way for you?

  5. Excellent article. It’s really worth reading.
    Thanks for sharing

  6. The definition of moroccan is simple,
    wherever you & whoever your with,
    when asked who are you, the answer without hesistation is I AM A MOROCCAN!

    decency, respect & the whole 9yards come afterwards!

  7. Thanks for revealing this dark side of our ‘beloved’ country.But why do you associate Islam in morocco with extremism only…well Islam is one and it is up to you to look for this very islam and not the false one.
    I think that not all of us do deserve freedom,otherwise we may live in chaos.In Morocco people are not mature enough to hold freedom, but we need to take it in small doses.
    Good luck

  8. Manus McManus

    This is a great illustration of the identity crisis experienced by many Moroccans. This is an issue that has been tearing me apart during all my existence. The curse of not belonging or capitulating ring to the status-quo is very heavy hard and painful.

    However, it is absurd to me that one can be proud of something they had no control over to begin with. To be Moroccan is simply an accident. I am proud of my achievements and success in life, but definitely not of being a Moroccan.
    Kacem is right. One becomes an exiled pariah because they do not unquestionably embrace the prevailing ideology. And if one rebels, asks pertinent question the punishment is severe and the price is very high. I know.

  9. Acts of percieved treachery, rebellion and opposing the masses / majority are rejected in every traditional society.

    Im English and our country was like this too in the past, as we have become less Christian and less nationalistic due to immigration and mixing with others more we allow ‘dissent’. But this has come after hundreds of years.

    But let me tell you something as an English person, there is NO such thing as complete freedom, even here. You still have to abide by the law of the land, whether you like it or not!

    Im sure England is much better in Morocco in terms of individual freedoms, but the main thing is that as long as you have security and safety in your country, just be patient and put up with it. Things change naturally with time, nothing happens overnight – nothing stable anyway.

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