Moroccans and the World: What does it mean to be a Moroccan Abroad? What is it like to be Abroad in Morocco?

This month we’re asking our authors to share their perspectives on what it is like to be a Moroccan abroad, and what it means to be abroad in Morocco.



Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Moroccans have long and for various reasons emigrated abroad. Some countries now play host to several generations of Moroccan immigrants, and the Moroccan diaspora today is a large population scattered in almost all corners of the world. 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? What are Morocco’s and the host nation’s efforts to mitigate the negative aspects, moderate related debates, appease tensions and address social stereotypes? How do Moroccans abroad strike the balance between demands to break away from the culture of their parents and appeals from religious fundamentalists to take refuge in religion and conservatism?

Moroccans often boast about their sense of hospitality and the country often presents itself as a tolerant and welcoming land. But to what extent is this true? Morocco receives millions of tourists each year, welcomes a growing number of expats, students, short-term contractors, and increasingly more would-be immigrants, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. Many initially intend only to transit through Morocco, but end up settling in its largest cities for various reasons. Moroccan society is, for the first time, facing the problems of integration of this migrant population, and instances of racism and xenophobia are no longer alien to Morocco. At the same time, foreign migrants cannot become citizens of Morocco, and are often left in limbo, able to stay legally in the country only if they can secure a job. How do Moroccans see foreigners who settle in their country? Are fears about the negative influence of this foreign population on Moroccan culture, economy and religion ever justified? Do instances of racism and exclusion of foreigners in Morocco occurred? Should immigration laws be revisited? And what about emigration from the West? Is it beneficial to the country? Are there any justifications for making it virtually impossible for a foreigner to acquire the Moroccan nationality?

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Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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13 comments on “Moroccans and the World: What does it mean to be a Moroccan Abroad? What is it like to be Abroad in Morocco?”

  1. Manus McManus

    Really Moroccans are seen as an integral part of the Really Moroccans in Europe are seen as an integral part of the Fundamentalist/Regressive Islamic Near-east versus Progressive/Libertarian West construct. Unfortunately in this dialectic there are no shades of grey, especially in the Anglo-Saxon collective consciousness. There is also an unhealthy amalgam between the issue of economic class and cultural differences within the context of multiculturism. The truth of the matter is that Moroccans exhibit the same trait as other similar group in the same social class. Educated, upwardly mobile, and comfortable middle-class Moroccans are well integrated, liberal and busy enjoying life. Economically deprived Moroccans revert to orthodoxy, criminality or just are totally excluded and exclusive exactly like the native populations in their respective countries. The rest is really Immigration politics.

    As far as Moroccan attitudes vis-à-vis others living in their country, are mixed, yet consistent. Moroccans are culturally racist. To sum it up they feel superiors to other Africans, inferior and resentful towards westerners, and utterly hateful of Arabs from the Gulf.

    • I am a Moroccan Immigrant in the US for almost two decades and half my family is spread around Europe.
      I thought your views were a bit strong and depicted only a superficial rash judgment about the entire Moroccan community (both emigrant and local). I do agree on the classifications: educated class more liberal, open minded and adapt well in Europe and US versus poor class tendency to fall back on petty crimes or religious extremism.
      The reason behind a mild resentment towards Arabs from the Gulf and Middle-East area is a reaction to the native of those areas labeling Moroccans as non Arab descent and do not hesitate to describe the entire country to be of Berber origin; another strong point of disagreement is being perceived as “too liberal” and living a westernized lifestyle.
      Being so close to Europe makes the entire country closer- culture wise- to South west European cultures and the desert on the south cuts us from the rest of Africa which explains having no close ties with the neighboring countries.

      • The reason behind a mild resentment towards Arabs from the Gulf and Middle-East area is a reaction to the native of those areas labeling Moroccans as non Arab descent and do not hesitate to describe the entire country to be of Berber origin

        So…there are Moroccans who believe being called a non-Arab is an insult. That’s exactly why Manus spoke of racism.

        The truth is that most Moroccans are of Amazigh descent. Not that it matters either way, but one wonders why the ruling elite declares the country as “Arab”.

        another strong point of disagreement is being perceived as “too liberal” and living a westernized lifestyle.

        Yes…scantly clad women are lynched in the Gulf. How dare we not be barbaric and follow Islam to the letter?

  2. My point was that “being Moroccan” meant an entirely separate identity and a distinctive culture from the ones of the Gulf countries.
    We are a melting pot of Moorish descent and Berber (I am a true product of this mix) and yes we are more liberal and westernized than the rest of Africa, Middle-east and the Gulf.
    My biggest fear (not resentment) is from the influence of the Gulf countries on the country’s new upcoming generation- I do blame the newly found “faith related appropriate lifestyle” on the increased business relations between Morocco and the Gulf nations.
    The country I grew up in was one of tolerance and had (a non-official) a semi separation of faith and state.
    From what I hear its position shifted to reinforce Islamic laws; I fear the impact on the lifestyle we enjoyed in the eighties.

    • Blame the lack of education and the tele-evangelism. Blame also the generations who were contempt with an Islamic state and never fought for secularism.

      And grow up a bit…you have no idea if your ancestors were screwing around or not. You can’t possibly know whom you are descending from.

  3. You have misunderstood my entire message-although you are entitled to have your own opinion I deem your reaction to my comment to be quite rude –
    Yes my ancestors are definitely a result of “mating” with every single ethnic group that came across the country.
    My point was we are “Moroccans” not Arab decent or Berber or any other one defined group which makes of us a very open group to all other cultures.
    Furthermore I was attempting to say that Morocco should never be defined as an Islamic state, for being Moroccan that not means being a Muslim, could be Jewish or simply have no religious affiliation at all.
    I am an extremely liberal person and I thank my family for having raised me to be tolerant and open to all cultures, my biggest fear is that the new generation will not have the same chance with the shift of views about enforcing Islamic laws into legislations.

    • Don’t be too bothered, Laila, rude is what Samira does best.

      • Thank you, I admire how passionate she sounds but I sense some hostility in her tone and I am a bit confused about what message or opinion she is trying to convey.
        I read some of her responses to others and I can not define her position.
        Are you for or against? And for what?
        I am neutral when it comes to ethnic, religious or political stand.
        I have no faith, but I was raised to accept all; thus the reason for having friends with different believes (Christian, Jewish, Muslims, Buddhists and simply other people with no faith).
        I welcome the dialogue, our differences make us more interesting, and I would like to know where she stands and who is she really mad at?
        Samira, I believe women in Morocco are still second class citizens- as long as it is regulated that one man’s share equals the one of two of his female siblings…it says it all

    • Good. We agree then.

  4. @Laila

    There was many genetic studies on this subject and believe me that the majority of Moroccans that think are Arabs are Berbers. There was not enough Immigration from the Arab peninsula to change the genetic make up of North African indigenous populations. This is more of a cultural rather than a genetic influence.

    We have been brain washed to believe that we are Arabs and totally neglected our true cultural heritage.

  5. If you have read the Moroccan history from the perspective of Moroccan scholars, such as Ibn Al Arabi or Ibn Roshd, you will definitely understand that Islam was the only faith that unified Berbers and Arabs since the 8th century B.C. . And under the tolerance of this religion, many Jews and Christians lived in harmony with Moroccan Muslims (Berber and Arab) in Andalus since the 10th till the end of 15th century when both Muslims and Jews, millions of them, suffered the torture of the extremist Catholic Spanish church.
    When the Sharifian Idriss Al Akbar, descendant of Prophet Mohammed and whose mother was interestingly a Berber from Owraba, came to Morocco in 701, his only concern was first to unify the Berber tribes, who were in conflict at that time_ Al Amawi failed in in bringing tribes together. Indeed, the fact that Idriss Al Akbar was a descendant of prophet and that his mother was from a powerful Berber tribe gathered him momentum within the Berber Morocco at that time. Many Berbers saw in him the real leadership, and they all embraced Islam. Tarik Ibn Ziad is an example of how Berbers were rightous Muslims. The glowing civilisation in Andalus saved for two other centries and evolved by Al Moravid (Berber) is another example. Today as he is a descendant from the Sharifian Idriss Al Akbar, our king really represents genetically the unity between Arabs and Berbers. Besides, the Jews have always had a significant emmotional history with Morish then with Moroccans, at least those knowledgable of the devestating fall of Andalus, not because of the” holocaust” but because a forgotton holocaust in the aftermath of the fall of Andalus.
    All the above-mentioned events would eventually shape the real identity of Morocco, but the westernisation was only introduced and has been dominant since 1956_ still young. Therefore, westernised Morocco is still questionable.

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