Morocco and its Diaspora Are Prey to Globalization

“Humans migrate but their values do make the journey as well” notes Widad, who recounts in this essay the complex and sometimes conflicting evolution of migrations across the Mediterranean.


Widad Damia is a student of political science and a writer. 4 comments

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

A chauvinist fury is taking hold on countries bordering the Mediterranean. The apparent unanimous bewilderment of the holders of political and social thought in face of the cursed consequences of multiculturalism is totally absurd. These demonstrations of intercultural tensions are all but new. While time and Men passed by the road of history, Our Sea witnessed more wars than peace.

First, empires succeeded to each other: Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans. Law and Philosophy flourished, major cities were born as well as countless Gods. Ensued Rome and Carthage, then Islam that finally marked the arrival of a power in the Eastern territory.

The Arabs who converted to Islam lived through a Golden Age thanks to scientific knowledge and dexterity in martial art. And soon, the powers of the West and East enter an era of hostilities. The Crusades were launched. Meanwhile the fall of Byzantine opened the doors to six centuries of Ottoman rule. Two World Wars later, the Mare Nostrum still knows no respite: an Arab Revolution that has failed, followed conflicts in the Gulf and the Balkans, conflicts for oil, and the confirmation of the American influence.

Then when Man invented powerful means to communicate, to move and to migrate, cultures were forced to interact. The foreigner was ultimately to be considered as equal in rights in one’s own land. But tensions accelerated and spread with a frightening domino effect. Nevertheless, and despite some lurking disputes over territories here and there, the world rejoiced while watching the planet transform into a Global Village. Samuel Huntington warned of a war of civilizations, and the attacks of September 11th confirmed that prediction. This tragedy, the work of extremists, was witnessed live the world over, triggering simultaneous reactions from all sides and marking, by its violence, the end of the truce.

Globalization stimulates intercultural tensions. Our means of travel, discovery and communications are faster and powerful: the South moves to the North in search for work, for an increase in standards of living or looking for knowledge and learning in leading academic institutions; the North moves down to the South for investment in emerging fresh economies or simply looking for a sun bath. And as if these two opposite movements were not complex enough, the South now moves often towards the South. Sub-Saharan Africans now migrate towards North-Africa, a territory that is slowly but surely transforming from a land of transit into a territory for residence and education. This has forced a country like Morocco, already beset with a deep identity crisis, to consider the new sub-Saharan element in an already complex equation.

Migration flows and directions are manifold. Morocco, long famous for its hospitality, seems it wants to keep that stranger away; most likely a reaction that is reminiscent of ingrained anti-colonial sentiments, a chauvinistic reflex or even a protective reaction that wants to preserve Muslim morals.

Shaken by the Western Sahara conflict and affected by claims from ethnic minority Berbers, national unity is threatened. The arrival or foreigners therefore only exacerbates these tensions.

Morocco’s opening of its economy and the launch of major projects has made the country more attractive: “The kingdom has become the preferred destination for job seekers in Europe. With the economic and financial crisis looming, European managers are seeking new opportunities.” (Excerpt from TelQuel weekly magazine, published in Morocco from June 26 to July 2nd, 2010.)

The integration of European employees in Morocco is not occurring easily. Those Europeans are often French, and Morocco, formerly a French protectorate, maintains a strong French tradition. The language of communication and even certain customs are already there to make the French resident’s stay comfortable. But the constraint comes from elsewhere. Westerners are increasingly idealized but if they fail to respect certain rules they risk heavy consequences. However, Western transgressors are only dealt with by parliamentarians, or populist journalists like Nini* who propagates the voice of the average bitter, anti-colonial Moroccan citizen, but in the same token, assumes that the European residents are de facto gifted by virtue of their origins, implying some kind of human superiority.

The African student is the new foreigner. Sociologists and journalists are looking very little into the subject given that it is a rather recent phenomenon. From my point of view, I noticed that many of them choose to live within their own community. I also noticed, unsurprisingly, that the few who had Moroccan friends were mostly Muslim girls, often veiled, forming a circle of Akhawates (Sisters).

Then came the worst of all: proselytizers, hiding in NGOs. Busted then expelled for proselytizing, which is illegal in Morocco, these foreigners were teaching Christianity in a country very attached to its own religious values. The U.S. Secretary of State who said that Morocco should respect freedom of worship is completely missing the point. For the eviction did not sanction a religious practice, but religious acts of propaganda, which are improper regardless of the territory and the dominant religion.

Despite the fact that politicians reiterated the importance of making clear the legal obligations of residents and also those regarding their employers, Morocco does not make the reform a priority, since it still perceives itself more a land of transit than a land that offers residence, education and investment. Moroccans roar their anger each time traditional values are touched and this anger manifests itself when the non-Muslim West attempts to export its morals and dogmas into the country. Among citizens, as in the legislature, the rule is the same: secular globalization from the North will not pass. Neither will it pass from the South.

In neighboring Europe, the problem is quite similar, but a bit more violent: the killing of a “blasphemous” filmmaker; extreme reactions to a caricature of a man considered perfect, prophet Muhammad; the banning of the full face veil in the countries of freedom of worship.
Then there is Al Qaeda, the crowded suburbs of immigrants in the outskirts of major cities and the burden of a heavy past that pressures and produces the social exclusion of a whole generation of young European Muslims. Foreign workforce was extensively exploited in the 70s and while workers were supposed to help local industries flourish, hopes were that they would leave their religious and cultural values at the borders; a grotesque miscalculation given the current social outcome. Humans migrate but their values do make the journey as well. Thinking that both can be dissociated, led to irreparable damage.

The complex history of the Netherlands for example, is interesting given the migratory movements that the country has witnessed: the Golden Age and the VOC, then Spinoza, Marrano philosophers, Calvinism, the advent of free painting expression and the arrival of Protestants and Jews who took refuge there. And since the 20th century, everything that was considered sinful started to embrace legality in the Netherlands: the consumption of cannabis is tolerated to a certain limit, prostitution has his temple in the Red Light District, the prostitutes pay for retirement, pass interviews and benefit from social security.

When the Netherlands started experiencing its first modern waves of immigration – mainly Turkish and Moroccan- no foreign resident had the obligation to speak the Dutch language. The model of integration was Communautarism and was not at its beginnings. Verzuiling, a system that encourages the segregation of different communities, was still an institution. Each community was defined by its religious, political or ethical thinking. There were Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, secularists, socialists, conservatives… Individuals from different communities had the right to attend Arab, conservative, Jewish or secular schools according to their affiliation. It went even further: public broadcasters split their air time between different communities. Whether on TV or on the radio, each frequency was divided into time slots whereby each group gets air time according to the size of its population.

So everyone lived in its own cultural mold, without really being encouraged to meet the Jewish or atheist neighbors.

With the massive influx of Muslim immigrants, many facilities were put in place to accommodate them. In 1967 the first mosque was built in the Netherlands. Today there are 500. The call to prayer is allowed once a day and more frequently on Fridays and holidays. The veil is not banned in public institutions such as schools, unlike in France.

Tolerance was therefore real. But the frail Dutch model collapsed like a crumbling dam.

The Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, known for his insulting stance against Islam and the Jewish community, was murdered with incredible violence by a young Moroccan extremist. (Pim Fortuyn, leader of the far-right party suffered the same fate at the hands of a “green militant”.)

Children and small children of the first Moroccan workers who were so far accustomed to live within their community with no requirement to merge into the Dutch society, are finding themselves more and more excluded from the labor market. Crime is becoming more prevalent among immigrants compared to natives.

The Netherlands, who preferred to continue on their double standard tradition of Verzuiling are now facing a deadlock. They subsequently decided that tests should be passed by every would-be immigrant before becoming a resident. Elections had to be canceled recently following a sweeping victory of the far right, certainly the result of social frustration. While in France, the land of secularism, a similar model to that implemented in Holland is to be followed: no religion will prevail in the public sphere where Republican values of equal rights and therefore responsibilities, are to be shared.

The impasse was however the same for these two distinctive models of integration.

Language and individual freedoms are as essential to social harmony as common history. The identity of a people seems to be defined by its past, and unfortunately, not only by the present or the future that is being built.

For Europe, the identity is built around Christian morals, cultural revolutions and, for more recent generations, the trauma of World War II. In France it’s all about the French Revolution, Marianne, Gastronomy, local folklore, and regional specificities. In the Netherlands it is about the history of West Indian docks, the polders, the impressive artistic heritage, national mastery of agricultural, commercial exports etc.

This identity is structured around traditions, but especially around a common history.

The foreigner, in this case the Moroccan, is the holder of a different set of values and a different past. Born in a family of Arab Muslims, he or she is free to attend an Islamic school**, had little opportunity to embrace contrasting values when adulthood requires him or her to live and interact with the natives. The exclusion is then fast.

With this torn identity, some young people fall into the hands of Islamist networks. Islam being open to all and especially in perpetual quest for new followers, becomes the last refuge. For, apart from faith, Islam does not require a specific language or folklore from its followers. This openness is therefore very attractive to people who feel doubly rejected both by their country of birth and their country of origin, leaving their personality in shatters.

In Morocco, the story is almost similar. Nobody, not the students from Sub-Saharan Africa, nor the investors nor the proselytizers disguised as NGOs, nobody is welcome unless they silence their own values, even if they are living in a country where identity is multiple and rich.

Finally, it is paradoxical how the origins of all these conflicts of civilizations constitute also an asset on which to build. The Global Village wouldn’t exist without globalization. Insisting on complete integration is counter-productive, even suicidal because it leads to conformism and goes against diversity which is the essence of survival. Unfortunately, the problem of migration is much more complex and is in need for a consensus. The question that needs an answer is: when will that happen?

* Rachid Nini is a controversial figure in journalism in Morocco. He is the founder of al-Massa’ newspaper where he writes a column prized by his readers. Critics accuse Nini of populism. He managed however to make his publication the “first title of the Moroccan press.”
** In the Netherlands public non-secular schools are also subsidized by the state.

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Translated by Hisham Khribchi from Des flux migratoires en Méditerranée : le Maroc et ses ressortissants, proies des remous mondialistes

Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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4 comments on “Morocco and its Diaspora Are Prey to Globalization”

  1. Rachid Nini used to be columnist in Assabah. After leaving it, he cofounded Al Massae which is became one of big hits in Moroccan Arabic newspaper.

    Just for correction.

  2. Thank you for your accurate observation Emomo. Changes made: al-Massa’ instead of As’sabah.

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