Eternal Prejudices

Mahdi goes through misconceptions about Moroccans he encounters during his stay as a student in Europe.

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Young Moroccan engineer and activist 14 comments

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


– I like the food from your country, especially Falafel and Kebab. Said my German colleague
– I like the food from your country too, especially Goulash*. I answered with irony

– When are you going to apply for french nationality ? Asked my school mate
– What’s wrong with mine ?

* Goulash is a Hungarian meal. It is as not German as Falafel isn’t Moroccan at all.

For my German colleague, as for many other Europeans I have met since I started living abroad, Morocco is seen as part of a uniform Arab World, speaking a unique language called Arabic, sharing the same desert land-nature, and eating the same Shawarma!

Fortunately for me, I was used to prejudices before going to Europe, as I moved during my college years from a small city to Casablanca, and there I discovered how narrow and “Casablanco-centric” people’s view about the rest of Morocco were. Some of my schoolmates even explained my academic success by “the absence of internet, TV, videogames and other distractions where I came from”. Then meeting west-centrist people in Europe was not that a shock for me.

Let’s try to jump back to this month’s topic, “What does it mean to be a Moroccan Abroad” I personally live it as a daily slalom with preconceived ideas. Other part of the meaning of to be moroccan abroad, can be described by the simplist confrontation West-Islam, as said in the topic “The Moroccan diaspora is a part of debates of recent years, often taking the side of Islam or the West, and sometimes feeling forced to choose sides. How does the choice affect both the host nation and Morocco?”. I feel like this is the question a westerner thinks I would be asking myself rather than a question I am really wondering about. Maybe I am not representative of “the average Joe” from the Moroccan Diaspora as I am living abroad just for my studies and have short-term projects of going back to morocco. Therefore, this piece cannot be considered as a serious essay, and will just talk about some preconceived ideas westerners can have about morocco, some can seem funny and are a subject for some really good jokes, but others can be source of less funny misunderstandings. In a nutshell, here are five of them:

1) In morocco, we don’t lapidate our women, neither excise our girls, so please you superficial women right advocats, when talking about such subject to me, do not feel embarrassed or start your sentence by “I know this may not shock you” or “I understand that this can be a taboo for you”.

2) Desert is an important part of Moroccan land, but most Moroccans live in the non-desert areas, for example, I came from a city where it can snow in the coldest days of winter. Sorry for you, I do not remember where my camel is hiding.

3) In your country, second and third generations of migrant children are very far from their parents’ original culture. They hold your nationality, went to your schools and watch your TV. Their origins may have some little influence on their culture, but their problems are due to the socio-economic context they are living in. Do not think I understand them more than you do just because “I look the same”.

4) Moroccans do not speak French with each other. Do not judge from some minority who graduated from French high schools in Morocco or some TV programs that represent just their makers.

5) When I wear trousers, I do not “behave like a westerner”, neither do I when I wash my hands with soap (a washing material the West discovered in Palestine during the crusades by the way).

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Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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14 comments on “Eternal Prejudices”

  1. I think you should write more about your experience as a migrant in Casablanca :) . It’s abroad, isn’t it ?


  2. What you said about cultural differences within arab world, and arab countries is true. The prejudice muslim diaspora is facing is common, and for once similarity takes it’s full meaning.


  3. I have lived in Casablanca for three years and experience the same treatment from YOUR fellow Moroccans that you receive from Europeans. I think everyone could use a bit of education. There is not a day that goes by that a Moroccan doesn’t ask me (a black American) my origins. Moroccans know nothing about American history and surely absolutely NOTHING about African Americans.

    To all Moroccans, every person with dark skin is not from AFRICA.


    • Amerika,

      Though I can’t empathize firsthand, the experiences of my non-white American friends in Morocco seem very similar to yours. One thing I noticed that particularly got to me was the young Moroccan hip hop crowd’s use of the N word, which they would use with him to try to look cool. It didn’t really work, as you can imagine.

      -Jillian


    • Your statement is not necessarily always accurate. Moroccan people’s supposition is not particularly malicious nor emanate from ignorance as you put it. Believe me Hollywood has made sure that no facets of Black American culture are left unturned. From Sidney Poitier & Roy Steiger in the heat of the night, Dezel Whashintons’s Malcom X, Ali, or the suffering of Kunta Kinte and in god knows how many cinematographic scripts of every Blackman’s tragedy in Vietnam. , we could not escape Black American past or history. Nor we could be spared from the heroics of neither Shaft’s Afro Hair nor his prominent bulge. However, Moroccans are very conservative and ones root is very important and sacred. That is why they are unable to envisage a world where the umbilical cord is totally ablated from the motherland. I have extensively travelled the American continent, all of it (including southof the US border), and black men are not exclusively the “Afro-Americans” you are talking about. They are Cubans, Porto-Rican, and Brazilians and yes many of them are African. Somalis, Nigerians and many more from Africa made of the US their home.


  4. No need to say that this article does not give Europeans the monopole of prejudices.

    I agree with what you said, and preconceived ideas are present wherever you go and only education and general culture prevent us from thinking that Chinese eat dogs :)

    in fact this short text should have ‘Universal prejudices’ as a title with more development, but no time for that :/


  5. Well said Mahdi. Education is the only way and I think this is our role; to educate those that are thirsty for the knowledge even if they do approach us with such ridiculous ideas/myths.

    By the way, I love Morocco and the falafels. LOL No really, the tagines are fantastic. Especially the prunes and lamb and the pastillas. I can really go on and on about the food here. You should invite your colleague to Morocco just to eat if nothing else.


  6. While debating with one of my fellows at my French grad school about ethics, civic duty (right after some current affairs, some “migrants misbehavior” as they said), he told me : “but you know, you, you’re somehow Westernized…”.

    It shocked me how people think nowadays that all what is’nt from stoneage is purely westerner, but the worst, is that so many of my fellow citizens begin to think that way. These people, because of a gangrenous complex of inferiority toward Western, tend to denigrate their own culture with the same arguments the others use.

    We do need to educate both moroccans and foreigners about our culture, not that simple a task but still possible ! Thanks Mahdi for your thread.


  7. In morocco, we don’t lapidate our women, neither excise our girls, so please you superficial women right advocats

    Yeah…we just give them half the inheritance and we sure like calling gender-equality militants “superficial”. We also view women as an inferior gender and baby-making machines doomed to serve their male overlords. It’s the culture, stupid! And there’s nothing prejudicial about assuming a Moroccan is influenced by the societal norms he grew up with.

    You know…like we lynch or jail people for drinking water in Ramadan and then call secularists all kinds of names.


    • dear Samira, please read again the text to see that I am not calling gender-equality “superficial”, what I am calling superficial is the kind of western advocates knowing anything about a subject and speaking about it,

      an example of westerner superficial approach is the way some Spanish NGOs defend Polisario as “the Zoro for the Sahrawi people” while Polisario is a horrible single-party regime…

      You know, I am a secular human rights advocate -I mean, in real life, not with comments and facebook…- I can permit to myself judging gender-equality “superficial”

      I can’t let you say that I do so.


  8. I also heard such prejudices when I decided to marry a Moroccan. But I also suffered from (or experienced) prejudices when I migrated from a European country to another one.

    I appreciate your article does not claim people having these prejudices are automatically racists. Because this is not the case.


  9. Just great piece of work resuming the most common cliches so nicely.


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