Saturday, July 21, 2012

Moroccan Olympic Soccer Team Keep the Ramadan Fast

Here is a piece from BBC Sports about how the Moroccan Olympic soccer (football) team is  keeping the fast of the Muslim Sacred month of Ramadan  and how their coach is trying to manage the challenges this presents.  Ramadan Mubarak to everyone, عواشر مبروكة

Morocco's Olympic coach worried by effects of Ramadan

Morocco's Olympic coach Pim Verbeek admits he has no idea how his team will react to playing London 2012 matches during the holy month of Ramadan. 

The month of fasting for Muslims, which began in most countries on Friday, will end well after the Olympics' Closing Ceremony has taken place on 12 August.

"This is a new world for me so I have no idea how [Ramadan] is going to influence my players," said Verbeek.
"Maybe half of them will be fantastic and maybe half will be disastrous."

"That makes it a little unpredictable to be honest."
The Dutchman, who led Australia at the 2010 World Cup before opting to work with Morocco's reserves, is preparing his side to play Honduras, Japan and Spain in Group C.
The Moroccans, who will be based in the Scottish city Glasgow from Saturday, open their campaign against Central Americans Honduras in Glasgow on 26 July before meeting the Japanese in Newcastle on 29 July and Spain in Manchester on 1 August.

To enable the Moroccans to deal with Ramadan, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) has granted the North Africans permission to train at specifically-late hours.
"Our players are very strict in their religious behaviour so all of them shall do a normal Ramadan," Verbeek told BBC Sport.
"Which means that from 0330 to 2130 Glasgow time they will neither eat nor drink.
"They are used to it of course but are not used to play such an important tournament with such big opponents in this situation.

"We knew about the timing before, so it's not a surprise - the only surprise is how my players will react when they cannot train and prepare to their maximum."
The North Africans - who will be led by Atlas Lions captain Houssine Kharja - will be appearing at their seventh Olympic football tournament, and bidding to reach the knock-out stages for only the second time.
They reached the second round in Munich in 1972 but have failed to make any impact at their four subsequent appearances in 1984, 1992, 2000 and 2004.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Morocco Expels Syrian Ambassador

Here is a piece from Reuters on Morocco's decision to expel the Syrian envoy while calling for a democratic transition in Syria saying that Syria cannot remain "as-is."  Our prayers are with the people of Syria. 

Morocco expels Syrian envoy, Damascus retaliates

RABAT | Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:38am EDT
(Reuters) - Morocco ordered the Syrian ambassador on Monday to leave the North African kingdom and called for a transition to democracy in Syria, and Damascus retaliated by declaring the Moroccan ambassador there persona non grata.
Rabat's move followed the defection last week of Syria's ambassador to Iraq and the flight the week before of a prominent general once close to Assad - developments that Western officials said showed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was losing his grip on power as the rebellion against him drags on.

Earlier on Monday rumors circulated that the ambassador to Rabat, Nabih Ismail, had also defected to the rebel side. A Syrian embassy official denied this but had no further comment.
Morocco's Foreign Ministry did not immediately explain the timing or the reason for its decision to expel Ismail, but said in a statement the situation in Syria "cannot remain as it is".

It added that Morocco wished for "an efficient and resolute action to ensure a political transition towards a democratic setup that guarantees Syria's unity, stability and regional safety to achieve the brotherly Syrian people's aspirations for dignity, freedom and development."

Ambassador Ismail and his deputy Anwar Mohamed were not immediately available for comment, but the Syrian government struck back quickly by declaring Morocco's ambassador Mohamed Ikhssasi persona non grata as well.
Morocco had already recalled Ikhssasi in November 2011, and Monday's decision to kick out Ismail was the latest in a series of diplomatic expulsions that have increased Assad's international isolation as Syrian rebels gain strength.

Ali Anouzla, editor of independent online newspaper, said Rabat may have sought to avoid diplomatic embarrassment by ejecting the Syrian envoy ahead of the next meeting of Friends of Syria - Assad's opponents in the West, the Arab world plus Turkey - that it is scheduled to host soon.

"It (expulsion) feels very belated," he said.
In May, the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Bulgaria and Switzerland all turfed out Syrian diplomats in response to a massacre of 108 people in the town of Houla in May. Japan followed suit.
Morocco's North African neighbors Tunisia and Libya, which saw their own dictators swept away in last year's Arab Spring uprisings, expelled Syrian diplomats as far back as February.

Morocco itself was rocked by pro-democracy demonstrations, inspired by Arab Spring uprisings, last year to demand a constitutional monarchy, less corruption and poverty.

Unlike in Syria, where initial unrest was met with a military crackdown, the Moroccan protests abated after King Mohammed floated a charter of democratic reforms and let moderate Islamists take over the government for the first time.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed, editing by Mark Heinrich)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Prime Minister of Mali asks Morocco for Help with Unrest

Following up on the last post, the Prime Minister of Mali visited Morocco to ask for assistance with the current political and cultural violence going on in the country.  Here is an  article  about the situation from al-Magharebia.

Mali calls on Morocco for help

Morocco needs to use its international clout to help bring stability to Mali, the Malian prime minister said in Rabat.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 09/07/12 

Malian Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra on Friday (July 6th) concluded a two-day visit to Rabat to discuss the Mali crisis, Sahel security and bilateral co-operation.

"I came here to ask Morocco, the king, the government and the people, to use of the faith that the international community has in it to help Mali regain its integrity and sovereignty by all possible means, especially diplomatic channels," Diarra told reporters after meeting with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdelilah Benkirane.

The aim of the visit was to highlight the current situation in Mali to Moroccan officials, he stressed.
"What is happening in Mali affects not only my country, but also the whole of Africa and the sub-region in particular," Diarra said.
Malian Minister of Communication Hamdoun Toure told Magharebia that both countries shared similar views. He welcomed Morocco's willingness to help Mali combat terrorism.

Meanwhile, Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani said that his country was still playing an active role in handling the instability in Mali. All countries in the region must shoulder responsibility for seeking solutions to the serious problems faced by the country, especially the invasion of its northern region by terrorists, he said. Morocco, which takes a great interest in the Sahel region, is talking to different countries in order to find a solution to the crisis, El Othmani added.

Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah, the speaker of the Chamber of Councillors, commented that the talks with Malian officials focused on security threats in the Sahel region. The situation requires all parties to come together to restore security and tackle crime, he added.

All security matters in the Sahel and the Maghreb are of interest to Morocco, Chamber of Representatives Speaker Karim Ghellab agreed.
The country officially welcomed the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution on Mali on July 5th. Morocco has urged Sahel and Maghreb countries to co-operate more closely in combating al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated groups.

Regional security and humanitarian challenges should be tackled by "thwarting the secessionist desires of certain armed movements in the region and the activities of terrorist groups and armed movements in this region, as well as organised crime networks", Morocco's UN Ambassador Mohamed Loulichki said on July 5th.

For his part, Toure called for bilateral co-operation not only in security but social and economic domains. "Morocco has decided to double the assistance it gives Mali for education purposes. The number of students who come to Morocco each year will rise from the current level of fifty to one hundred," he said.
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Friday, July 6, 2012

The Destruction of TImbuktu's World Heritage Sites

If you have been to Southern Morocco, you may have seen the sign that  says Timbuktu, Mali  is 52 days away (by camel through the desert).  Morocco has been a cultural, educational and religious  partner  with Mali.  Here is a piece from The Atlantic (with great photos) about the emergency situation being caused by the systematic destruction of shrines and manuscripts in the country by people being described as extremist Islamists.

These 600-Year Old World Heritage Sites Might Be Rubble by August

By Max Fisher
Jul 3 2012, 4:30 PM ET
 An extremist group has seized the African city of Timbuktu, systematically destroying its monuments.

The West African city of Timbuktu used to be one of Africa's richest and most important, a nexus of trade across the Sahara and a center of religious and scientific learning as far back as the 1400s. The relics of that history still stand in the form of such world heritage sites as the University of Sankore. More recently, this city in the sprawling West African country of Mali has been a tourism draw. But, on April 2, it came under new ownership: rebels from an ethnic minority known as Tuareg, who'd sought independence for years. Five days later they got it, declaring northern Mali as the independent country of Azawad. Then, on June 1, breakaway rebels with the extremist Islamist group Ansar Dine (translation: "Defenders of Faith") took control of Timbuktu.

In their first month of rule, Ansar Dine has shut down the tourism industry ("We are against tourism. They foster debauchery," a representative said), sent locals fleeing, and, over the past four days, destroyed half of the shrines that mark Timbuktu's ancient and remarkable history. The United Nations condemned the destruction and the International Criminal Court suggested it could be a war crime, but Ansar Dine insisted they won't slow down, later pulling a beautiful Gothic door off the Sidi Yahya mosque that became one of the world's great centers of learning during the 1400s. They follow an extreme form of Islam (though a relatively modern one; it emerged in late-1700s Saudi Arabia) that sees Timbuktu's shrines and mosque-universities as sacrilegious; a form of idol-worship. Their campaign is still going -- it's been compared to the Taliban's early-2001 destruction of ancient Buddha statues -- and some observers worry that many of Timbuktu's historical treasures, which have survived countless invasions and empires, won't live out the month.