Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Nuances of Women and Religion in Morocco

Here is an interesting article on women and religion ( i.e. Islam) in Morocco from Open Democracy.


Partners in prayer: women's rights and religion in Morocco

Meriem El Haitami, Shannon Golden, and James Ron
7 July 2015

Human rights ideas are often seen as highly secularized. For many, they are in direct conflict with religion, while for others they are, at best, “awkward bedfellows”. Over the past year, openGlobalRights has run a series of articles on religion and human rights, highlighting these points of convergence and divergence.

Some critics point to alleged Islamic positions on women as particularly problematic, and they portray women as victims of oppressive religious structures or as indoctrinated political subjects. Others point to Islam’s grounding in sacred texts, rather than universal secular humanism, as the problem.

At first glance, the women’s rights movement in Morocco, a highly devout and observant country, seems to highlight this tension. Both Moroccan women’s rights activists and their opponents have framed their debate in “secular versus religious” terms, and both have successfully mobilized widespread public action.

However, our Moroccan Human Rights Perception Polls, based on a 2012 survey of 1,100 adults residing in Rabat, Casablanca and their rural surroundings, suggest that this secular-religious polarization may be an elite-level artifact. Among ordinary people, the issue is more nuanced.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Morocco Says Goodbye to Author and Historian Abdelhadi Tazi 1921-2015

Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un.
On April 2nd, Si Abdelhadi Tazi (almarhum) returned to his Lord.
He was a prolific Moroccan author and historian. There are few articles about him in English, but  here is a link to his English language wiki.  We still hope to get a copy of his three volume set on the history of the Qarawiyyin mosque-university one day.

The ISESCO website writes:
Dr Abdelhadi Tazi  was described was one of the Muslim world’s eminent historians and academics who maintained a close interest in Morocco’s diplomatic history, publishing a master reference book on this matter. He was also particularly interested in Ibn Battuta’s journey and produced a critical edition offering new and corrected readings in this explorer’s extensive travels. “With the death of Dr Abdelhadi Tazi, the academic community lost one of its prominent figures and a historian who greatly contributed through his scholarly works to the sphere of knowledge,” added Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Reconquest of the Mosque of Cordoba - a part of Moroccan Cultural History

 Here is a well written piece on the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba and the tension around Muslims and Islamic history in Spain.  We generally put the opening paragraphs of an article below, but due to the sensitivities of the parent publication, you will have to follow the links for the article. Its well worth it.
credit: Peter Millett

The Reconquista of the Mosque of Córdoba

By Eric Calderwood

Spain’s most famous mosque is at the center of a dispute between activists seeking to preserve its Muslim heritage, and the Catholic Church, which has claimed it as its own. The result could determine the future of Islam in Europe.

Friday, March 20, 2015

WeloveBuzz - The Moroccan Verion of Buzzfeed

Here is an article from Wamda, about a unique website providing content geared towards Moroccan youth called welovebuzz.

A Moroccan answer to BuzzFeed is expanding into the Arab world

by Aline Mayard
March 5, 2015

Young Arabs never cease to amaze us. After Ouedkniss in Algeria, EMC in Morocco and Saily in Lebanon, it’s now Welovebuzz, a Moroccan version of Buzzfeed created by teenagers that shows the early signs of a success story.

Welovebuzz began in August 2010 as simple blog in which Driss Slaoui and his friends shared videos they would have otherwise posted on Facebook. Now, they have 30,000 fans on Facebook, a freshly launched Arabic version and a monetization strategy unique in North Africa.

We met with Welovebuzz’s two cofounders Driss Slaoui and Youcef Es-skouri.

The secrets to buzz
“WLB has been existing since 2010,” explains Youcef Es-skouri, “but it really started to become a well-known brand--with real potential--this year. We became the reference media for trendy and connected 18-25 years-old.” Numbers don’t lie; Les 10 endroits à absolument visiter au Maroc article (the top 10 places to visit in Morocco in English) has been shared over 40,000 times and the website gets between 30,000 and 200,000 shares every month, without doing any advertising. This success is due to four pilars, according to Slaoui and Es-skouri:

Unique positioning: “We’re the only ones who target the 18-25 year-olds, we offer content that’s different, articles that buzz, far from classical news, with a good dose of humor,” Slaoui said.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Woman's Back, Donkey's Back by Hicham Houdaifa - A Book Review from The Arabist

There is a lot of good content already on the Internet. Today, we want to draw your attention to a Morocco-related book review done by our friends at The Arabist on Dos De Femmes, Dos de Mulet by Hicham Houdaifa. 

Also if you have a second,  check out another review of  the graphic novel Amazigh, itineraire d'hommes libres, by  Moroccan artist Mohamed Arejdal and Cedric Liano on the  The Arabist site.

Arabist Book Review: Women's Burdens in Morocco

by Ursula Lindsey

“Dos De Femmes, Dos de Mulet” (“Woman's Back, Donkey’s Back”) is a proverb in the mountain villages of Morocco. The Moroccan journalist Hicham Houdaifa chose it as a title for his first book of reportage, which focuses on the most vulnerable of Moroccan women — women who are illiterate, legally non-existent (because their births were never registered), single mothers (with no rights because their marriages were never registered) or vulnerable seasonal workers. 

With the help of some of Morocco’s impressive NGOs, Houdaifa criss-crossed the country last Fall interviewing underage brides; waitresses in Casablanca bars; some of the tens of thousands of women who pick the fruit that is exported to Europe (and are sexually exploited by their male superiors and the wealthy families that own farms)'; and others.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A (Syrian) Shaykh in Exile in Morocco

Here is a piece that originally appeared in the French language magazine Tel Quel.  A translated English version appeared on the Sacred Knowledge website.  Its about Shaykh Mohamed Al-Yaqoubi a Syrian religious scholar who has sought refuge in Morocco during these tumultuous times.

Mohamed Al Yaqoubi, un cheikh en exil

Umayyad mosque in pre-war Damascus, Syria
Original French article by Jules Crétois

Rabat has become home to a scholar from Syria who was forced to flee his country in 2011, following his opposition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And whilst he remains active and influential on the Syrian scene, this public personality from the Prophetic line, is a more discreet figure these days.

As soon as the door of the small villa opened, fashioned in a classic Rabatie style, the strong fragrance of Oud could be smelt. It emanated from Shaykh Muhammad Abu’l Huda Al-Yaqoubi, a major figure in the Sunni world. A spiritual guide and jurist, he heads the Syrian Shadhili Sufi Order - an order which is one of the largest and most influential in the world, both in terms of its size and with respect to its history. The Shaykh, with his smart turban, pale complexion, red-white beard, and blue eyes, alternates between “I” and “we” with majesty. Befitting for an order tracing its lineage directly to the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] through his grandson Hassan Ibn Ali. With absolutely exquisite politeness, he apologises for the thousands of religious books stacked from floor to ceiling: “I just had them delivered; I did not have time to put them in order.”

"I feel good here"

"I feel very good here, the country where I have roots. I am a descendant of Moulay Idris, founder of Fez”, clarifies this scholar, now in his early fifties, whose ancestors migrated some 150 years ago from Morocco to Algeria, eventually settling in Syria. He himself was forced to make a journey in the opposite direction in 2011, escaping the regime of Bashar al-Assad. With his newfound life in Morocco, he continues to devote his energies towards the religion. When we meet he had just returned from Taounate, where he had led an evening Mawlid gathering. His eyes light up at the mention of that night. As they do when he remembers some of the meetings he had with Ahmed Toufiq, Minister of Endowments; who is himself a Sufi; Shaykh Hamza, the Spiritual Master of the Boutchichi Order; but also King Mohammed VI, to whom he addressed on one Ramadan evening in 2012, the subject of differences between fatwa [legal opinion] and qada [law].

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Islamic Geometric Design Heritage - Part of the Beauty of Morocco

Here is a piece from the Guardian on the geometric designs developed by Muslim artists/mathematicians and common in various forms throughout North Africa and the Middle East. These designs are part of  the beauty of Morocco. 
There is a step by step tutorial in the article if you're interested.

credit: Fabos, wikimedia commons

Muslim rule and compass: the magic of Islamic geometric design

To paraphrase Monty Python, what has Islam ever done for us? You know, apart from the algebra, the trigonometry, the optics, the astronomy and the many other scientific advances and inventions of the Islamic Golden Age.

Well, if you like art and interiors, there’s always the stunning patterns that grace mosques, madrasas and palaces around the world.

Islamic craftsmen and artists – who were prohibited from making representations of people in holy sites – developed an instantly recognizable aesthetic based on repeated geometrical shapes.

The mathematical elegance of these designs is that no matter how elaborate they are, they are always based on grids constructed using only a ruler and a pair of compasses.

Islamic design is based on Greek geometry, which teaches us that starting with very basic assumptions, we can build up a remarkable number of proofs about shapes. Islamic patterns provide a visual confirmation of the complexity that can be achieved with such simple tools.
Dust off your old geometry set, and let’s see how.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Wonderful Moroccan Literature

We didn't notice this piece when it first appeared a few months ago in the Independent. But its not too late to appreciate now.

The wonders
of Moroccan literature

Boyd Tonkin
Thursday 02 October 2014

Most visitors to Marrakesh know the name of the lovely 12th-century mosque whose minaret towers over the old city: Koutoubia.

Those with a smattering of Arabic, or the curiosity to ask, will be aware that – in honour of the dozens of stalls that once crowded around it – this is the Mosque of the Booksellers. And this most literary of minarets looks out over the glorious gardens of La Mamounia – the hotel where Winston Churchill, a regular guest, found his own kind of paradise.

In addition to its fame as a celebrity retreat, La Mamounia now sponsors a literary prize: not a ceremonial bauble, but a scrupulously judged award for Moroccan fiction in the French language that gives almost £15,000 to the winner. This year’s jury, headed by the Casablanca-born writer Christine Orban, included both the bestselling American in Paris (and Independent contributor) Douglas Kennedy, and that genial dynamo of the francophone literary scene in Africa: Alain Mabanckou, the French Congolese novelist whose Broken Glass was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

I thought of Mabanckou’s tragi-comic heroes – aspiring, educated Africans who still find doors slammed in their faces both at home and abroad – when I read the winner of the fifth La Mamounia prize. To readers who imagine that contemporary fiction from the Arab world must always dwell on the region’s intersecting crises of war, power and faith, Le Job by Réda Dalil might come as a jolt. Thrown out of work by the sub-prime meltdown of 2008, 30-year-old financial whizz-kid Ghali finds himself on the slide and on the skids in Casablanca – the sprawling metropolis whose stories fuel so much Moroccan fiction. In this teeming city of both “filth” and “brilliance”, Ghali the ejected ex-yuppie plunges fast into the abyss. Pretty soon he finds that “500 dirhams [£36] separated me from social euthanasia”.

We’re close here to the hectic mood, and style, of a Jay McInerney or a Bret Easton Ellis. British readers might catch a whiff of younger Martin Amis. In a series of comic but mortifying misadventures, downwardly-mobile Ghali faces “the extinction of dignity”. Meanwhile, the escape sought by best friend Ali – also out of work, but with a wife and daughter – highlights another aspect of the choices that ambitious but precarious young people face across the Arab lands. Despite his lack of any conspicuous piety, he opts to travel to Saudi Arabia to train as an imam: generous stipend guaranteed.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Art Exhibits on Medieval and Contemporary Morocco in Paris

Here is a piece from  Al-Ahram on two exhibits, one on medieval Morocco at the Louvre and the other on contemporary Moroccan art and culture taking place at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris.

Morocco comes to Paris

by David Tresilian

PARIS - The late king Hassan II of Morocco is reported to have said that his country was something like a tree “with its roots in Africa and its branches in Europe.” Visitors to the French capital will find that it is Morocco’s European branches that are in the spotlight this autumn, with a major show on the kingdom’s mediaeval history taking over the temporary exhibition spaces at the Louvre and an intriguing exhibition of contemporary Moroccan art and culture occupying most of the Institut du monde arabe a short distance away in the seventh arrondissement.

Both exhibitions are jointly sponsored by the French and Moroccan authorities, with king Mohammed VI of Morocco giving his patronage to both. While the Louvre show is an ideal opportunity for visitors to remind themselves of Morocco’s sometimes complicated mediaeval history, presented with the museum’s customary curatorial scholarship and savoir-faire, the exhibition at the Institut du monde arabe is more surprising, perhaps even edgy in its choice of works on show. Both have been drawing large and appreciative audiences, raising Morocco’s European profile and contributing to knowledge of the country abroad.

The Louvre show, opening on 17 October, presents visitors with artifacts illustrating Morocco’s early history from the conversion of the country to Islam in the 8th century CE to the fall of the ruling Marinid Dynasty some seven centuries later. It is the first major exhibition on the Muslim world to have been held at the Louvre since the opening of the museum’s department of Islamic art two years ago (reviewed in the Weekly in September 2012), and according to curators Yannick Lintz, Claire Delery and Bulle Tuil-Leonetti it is intended to serve as a manifesto piece for other exhibitions to follow.

The idea behind the show, the curators comment, is to allow visitors to “find out more about the art and culture that a particular area was producing during a specific period of time, in this case the area between Africa and Europe over a period of five centuries from the 10th to the 15th centuries CE. This period corresponds to the Middle Ages in western Europe, and the centre of this area was Morocco and the great cities of Fes, Marrakech and Rabat that were founded at this time along with the Spanish cities of Cordoba and Seville that were embellished by the Moroccan ruling dynasties.”