Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Last Storytellers: An Anthology of Moroccan Stories

Here is an book review from the National on The Last Storytellers: An Anthology of Moroccan Stories. This book hopes to capture Moroccan oral folktales before they are forgotten.

The Last Storytellers: An anthology of Moroccan stories

Noori Passela
Sep 23, 2011

As with some other literary traditions, the decline of oral storytelling can be traced to the rise of social media.

While the BBC correspondent Richard Hamilton laments this trend in his introduction to this compilation of Moroccan tales, his woe is thankfully temporary. Instead, The Last Storytellers is a celebration of literature, an anthology of 36 stories rescued from the dwindling numbers of Morocco's hlaykia or paid storytellers.

Considering that many readers are only likely to be acquainted with One Thousand and One Nights, these lesser-known stories offer a new, refreshing insight into the Oriental literary tradition.

They range from expeditions featuring a bold hero and an elusive princess to be won over (The Gazelle with the Golden Horns) to the more symbolic and moral (The Birth of the Sahara). Interestingly, there are also many that border on scandal, using a repertoire of love, lust and betrayal to shock (The Eyes of Ben'Adi). Dramatic fare all around, but with entertainment being the sole purpose, this is hardly a let-down. Instead, this is addictive material.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moroccan Youths Lack Religious Knowledge?

Here is an article from that argues that there is a knowledge gap in Moroccan youth's understanding of religion (i.e., Islam). Yet, the article really only gives examples of a lack of knowledge about Moroccan religious institutions. I don't know if the two can be equated.
Moroccan youths lack religious knowledge, survey finds


Moroccan young people struggle to find a balance between their religious convictions and modern practices.

By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat - 07/09/11

Moroccan authorities need to re-visit the way religious knowledge is presented to young people to nurture a better understanding of faith, a recent study concluded.

Moroccan youths lack religious knowledge and have limited confidence in state religious institutions, according to the survey carried out by the Moroccan Centre for Contemporary Studies and Research (CMERC).

To reach the conclusion, the centre conducted two surveys among young people aged 15 to 35 in twelve regions.

The problem lies in the way religious knowledge is passed on to young people to enable them to live out their faith in total harmony with their beliefs and behaviour, said CMERC chief Mustapha El Khalfi. He added that violence was not apparent in young people's conduct.

Few of the people interviewed were able to identify the rites adopted by the kingdom or remembered the name of the Minister of Habous and Islamic Affairs. Young people do not join religious movements and associations, which shows a lack of communication with youths, according to the study.

The mosque and the family constitute the main sources of religious education for young people, with television and the internet used as a last resort. Over 40% of the respondents said that they derived their knowledge from imams, while 23% learn from families.

A broad national dialogue is required to discuss the nature of public youth policy, Khalfi said.

The state and religious scholars need to re-think what they say and adapt to the needs of the current age, argued Mohamed Chantoufi, a teacher of Islamic education.

"We need to ban the traditional methods and be innovative in our communication," he added.

Among the new methods are appealing television programmes with new faces to lure people instead of satellite channels, which often send fundamentalist messages, the scholar added.

According to the survey, Moroccan youths have a particular interest in Middle Eastern preachers.

Egyptian Mohamed Hassan tops the list, followed by Amr Khalid and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Given the conservative nature of Moroccan society, religion still has a social role to play, and a great many young people live a life of contradiction between their concept of religion and their daily behaviour, explained sociologist Samira Kassimi.

"I know a lot of young people who don't pray, but who are convinced that it's their duty and they hope that one day they'll have the faith to do it regularly," young teacher Saad Moutaraji told Magharebia. "Many others do it, but at the same time they remain completely open and tolerant."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Saudi Women Fear Entrance of Moroccan Maids in Their Country

Here is an article from Arab News, It is a follow up of the last piece we posted. It seems that recent moves to facilitate the recruitment of Moroccan women to work in Saudi Arabia is causing alarm amongst some women in Saudi because of stereotypes of Moroccan women being "magicians, man-stealers and pliant." It is both an amusing and sad commentary on the state of things.

Moroccan maids may ‘spell’ trouble, warn some women

Published: Sep 14, 2011 23:04 Updated: Sep 14, 2011 23:04

RIYADH: Saudi women have voiced reservations against recruiting domestic helpers from Morocco as suggested by the chairman of the Saudi recruitment committee.

This is due to an old belief that Moroccan women use black magic to lure men to marry them. Some Saudi women urged the Shoura Council to intervene, while others threatened to quit their jobs to look after their homes if housemaids from the country were brought in.

Najla, a 32-year-old teacher at a private school, said she felt threatened by the news, pointing out that Moroccan women are known for being pliant and willing to adjust to varying situations, and this posed a threat to a working wife who is not at home most of the day.

Raja is a housewife who hopes the move falls through. She said Moroccan women are known for their black magic and could use it in Saudi homes. “It is better to be safe than sorry,” Raja said.

“It all depends on the upbringing of the man,” said Nuha, a physician and mother of three young children. She expressed support for the initiative to bring in Moroccan workers and pointed out that any threat can come from workers of any nationality and not only one.

Sawsan, a 40-year-old housewife, sees no harm in the initiative as she believes Saudi women should have confidence in themselves. “If a woman knows how to keep her husband satisfied, nothing can threaten her home.”

Sameer, a divorced businessman, believes that “black magic” is the key phrase frightening people. “However, other nationalities, as we have experienced in the Kingdom, use black magic to control families.”

“I am against having a live-in domestic helper in general,” said Majed, a single lawyer, adding that having a stranger live in anyone’s home is not healthy and can cause many problems, especially in marriages. “It is like bringing in an alien seed and planting it in your garden. No one can predict the outcome.”

Umm Fahad, a 27-year-old mother of three, has worked with a Moroccan maid for seven years, and she thought it was the best experience.

“She was so clean, quiet and kind, and since she left I have been suffering with workers of other nationalities,” she said, adding that at least the maid spoke the same language and understood Saudi traditions.

On the other hand, PR manager Abdullah saw no harm in recruiting from Morocco provided that a minimum age for workers is set and that watchdogs control visa allocations closely to prevent any foul play.

Moneera, a single journalist, saw no point to the fuss surrounding this issue. “Many families have recruited Moroccan domestic workers for many years now and there might have been minor complaints about them, like any other nationality.”

“It is a ridiculous fear that is without base,” said marriage counselor and psychoanalyst Hany Al-Ghamdi, pointing out that if a man has no respect for his family, nothing will stop him from having an affair and that any concerns about nationality are invalid. It is a misconception, Al-Ghamdi points out, to stereotype in this way based on nationality.

“If there is to be a reasonable analysis, we should ask why Moroccan women know how to attract and keep their men,” said Al-Ghamdi, suggesting that Saudi women who feel threatened should take a closer look at themselves.

“There is no black magic in a relationship between a man and woman. But there is the magic of love, caring and tolerance,” said Al-Ghamdi, adding that some women do not know how to understand their men and show tolerance toward them.

Tolerance, according to Al-Ghamdi, means being able to overcome problems and disputes and show love and femininity.

Moroccan women, in his opinion, are feminine by default. “They feel and express their femininity and surrender to their husbands, which is in their nature, while other women might look at it as degrading,” said Al-Ghamdi, adding that marriages involving Moroccan women in the Kingdom are not a trend that could threaten Saudi women.

Teaching love, Al-Ghamdi believes, is one way to reduce Saudi women’s fear of being threatened by other women.

“Aisha, the wife of Prophet (peace be upon him), was the first to open a ‘school for women.’ She was teaching women about even the most intimate details of their lives with their husbands.

We need more of this teaching, instead of the rigid curriculum we are teaching girls in schools,” said Al-Ghamdi, stressing that even Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “there is no alternative for love but to marry.”

In his opinion this is a clear sign that there is love before marriage or at least strong admiration and desire, on which homes should be built to dispel any such threats.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Moroccan Women on Their Way to Work as Maids in Saudi Arabia

Here is a piece from Arab News about the establishment of new recruitment companies to facilitate the importation of Moroccan women to work as maids in Saudi Arabia.

Anyone familiar with the general treatment maids receive in Saudi and the way Saudis view Moroccan women will find little to feel encouraged about with this new development. Let us pray that the women will actually be treated humanely and not forced into other less honorable professions.

Moroccan maids on their way

Published: Sep 9, 2011 22:22 Updated: Sep 9, 2011 22:22

RIYADH: The recruitment companies that are to be established soon will be licensed to bring in housemaids from Morocco, East Asia and South Africa, Al-Watan Arabic newspaper reported Friday quoting Saad Al-Baddah, chairman of the recruitment committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Al-Baddah added a caveat to the recruitment process of housemaids from Morocco saying that immediate employment of Moroccan maids could prove an issue as there were no official recruitment offices in Morocco to process the papers of prospective domestic helps.

He, however, said there could be a way around the problem with the citizens being given work visas to bring housemaids from Morocco on their own.

The chairman warned Saudi citizens against contacting any offices claiming to be able to send housemaids from Morocco to the Kingdom.

“They are all fake. You should not heed the false claims of these fake offices,” Al-Baddah warned prospective employers.

The spokesman of the Labor Ministry, Hattab Al-Anzi, said the recruitment offices would grant citizens work visas for housemaids from Morocco.

“It is now the responsibility of the citizen to look for authorized private recruitment offices to bring workers from Morocco,” he said.

The spokesman said the new recruitment companies to be established soon would be licensed to import housemaids from Morocco.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nothing Has Changed: Morocco & the "Arab Spring"

Here is a piece from the Levantine Culture Center website about what, if anything, has changed in Morocco during the past few months of hoopla.

Morocco and the Arab Spring
posted September 2, 2011 - 5:51pm by Editor
An inside look at the mood west of Libya and Tunisia
By Youssef Ait Benasser

The other day, a big wig in the Moroccan blogosphere asked in one of his articles: what has changed in our lives? This question reflects the preoccupation of Moroccan society as a whole with the adoption of the new constitution, which passed on July 2nd, 2011 with a 98% approval rate. The referendum woke up the whole country from an era of political quietism, thus raising people's hopes and expectations for a better tomorrow. Two months have passed since then, and for many, it is now time for assessment, following the popular saying "a good dinner frees its scent as of the early afternoon."

An analysis of the current situation in the "Most Beautiful Country in the World" (according to an advertisement for tourism in Morocco) shows that the Kingdom is evolving at two distinct speeds: the pace of official discourse displaying promises of a new era on the one hand, and on the other, another pace that completely contradicts that speech. Since the 2nd of July, repression has not rested; public media outlets remain just as biased and closed to opponents as they were previously; corrupt and abusive officials haven't been ejected from the ruling circles (and some have even gained new prestigious titles); political prisoners have not been freed; and Rachid Nini—the nation's most popular columnist—has been sentenced to jail. Local and international newspapers are still seized and censored each time the King is concerned (most recently, the French weekly Courrier International has been censored because of a caricature of the King ). To partisans of the February 20 Movement, nothing seems to have changed. Some even argue things have worsened as the July referendum's legitimacy untied the Palace's hands.

What change do we want?
The change Moroccans expect consists of putting an end to the system's cronyism and corruption, thus creating an opening for equal opportunities. Tensions in Morocco are indeed mainly due to social, economic, and political "elevators" all being out of service. Parties have become hermetic corporatist groups, the economy is languishing under royalties-owned monopolies and domination, and the education system is no longer a ladder that leads to ascending social status. Getting out of this gridlock is necessary if the system wants to avoid an escalation of tension. Promises of democracy have obviously failed in cleansing the streets of protest. What Moroccans are yearning for are actions that can be felt, and up to now, there has been no political will to implement any.

What change are we getting?
The general elections date has been set for late November. The legislative election is expected to be the first under the rule of the new constitution. It is officially featured as a turning point in Moroccan politics and the start of a new democratic, free phase. However, the handling of the legal and logistical preparation of the event has not changed in comparison with the way things were done in our 2007 legislative elections. Back then, the participation rate was as low as 37%. The parliament that emerged from the results was the least representative of the people's will. As a result of regrouping and shifting alliances, the biggest party in the House is one that didn't even exist at election time. Many legitimately fear that things will not differ in November. The almighty Minister of Interior Affairs, appointed by the King himself, is using redistricting as a tool for imposing a pre-conceived political map. His ministry is indeed the only institution in charge of elections and it undergoes no real accountibility as it is completely dependent on the Royal Palace.Moroccans might not see much change in their lives as political beings, but they will witness changes on the socio-economic level. Government's generous social policy has more than exceeded the country's financial budget. Decrees related to integration of unemployed degree-holders into public service, or automatic and general raises in salaries, have been able to keep the middle class out of the streets for now. But it will not be long before it generates the opposite effects as sovereign debt drastically raises leading to a double-dip recession.

Either there is a change or there is not.

Aware of this complex situation that Morocco is facing today, the February 20th Movement has raised the cogent questions, and is therefore a legitimate counter movement. It is now up to the system to provide the appropriate answers. And with a social time bomb ready to explode, the system may not have that much time.