May 23, 2006
Morocco The Model! (Or Our Superficial Stereotypes Are Poorly Informed)
I stumbled across a funny (to me) "model" arty in the ideo-rag (I am not a fan of ideological papers) The Weekly Standard after stumbling across this attempt at writing on Islam, Elsewhere in Islam, itself deserving in comment (acerbic but fair comment, as I think the arty needs a whack in the side of the head on some factual and interpretive issues, but it's at least an honest effort): The Moroccan Model: A beacon of hope in the Islamic world.
I am sure regular readers are aware I am a fan of the Maghreb generally and Morocco in particular (although I have a warm spot in my heart for Tunisia as well, and why not Libya and Algeria as well?), so perhaps I should receive a fannish article on Morocco warmly. There is certainly something to be said for noticing that the Islamic or even the Arab or even the Mediterranean Arab world consists of countries besides Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And some of the article I agree with or perhaps better, some of the article did not lead me to think of running the author over with a car to spare the world further ill-informed bad writing.
However, the somewhat stale and rank odour of ideological whanking sadly remains a bit strong around the arty, and the phrase "the Model" coming from quarters such as this rather irritates.
Now then, what to say about the arty. First, in re the reference to the 16 May 03 bombings:
THOUSANDS OF MOROCCANS were expected to join demonstrations today marking the third anniversary of the May 16 terrorist bombings in Casablanca. The explosions, linked to al Qaeda, killed 41 people, injured 100, and sent shock waves through the small North African nation. Americans ought to pause today as well--and learn more about an Arab country that is seeking to become a model of political reform and religious tolerance for the rest of the Islamic world.
While the al-Qaeda link has always struck me as sketchy -of course any Takfiri radical action since 11 Sep 01 has been linked for American audiences with al-Qaeda- the profound impact on Moroccans is real enough, and perhaps under-appreciated.
We can leave aside for the moment the rather regime-pimpish final clause there for the moment, as there will be plenty further signs of Regime Pimping to the Gullible.
Now, let me take a shot at clarifying this next paragraph:
"We should recall that Morocco has also been a victim of terrorism," Ahmed Abaddi, Morocco's director of Islamic affairs, told journalists at a recent Washington-area dinner. "We were attacked by al Qaeda, and a million people went out to protest."
First, the speaker: Ahmed Abaddi, one can learn a bit more from his biography linked here. Director of Islamic Affairs is such a meaningless title that I had a flash of homocidal irritation with the writer (although a search indicates that he is merely pimping the same boilerplate verbiage that other superficially informed ideo-whankers in American Right circles are, as in this painfully stupid superficial piece of puffery from the National Review.)
In fact, Abaddi is Director of Islamic Affaires in the Ministry of the Habbous [Awqaf] & Islamic Affaires (for those of you who speak Arabic, by the way, you may be amused to find that the Ministry normalises its name into Eastern usage in its Arabic website, for all that no Moroccan is going to call it Wizaret l-Awqaf. Habous. Perfectly fine word. Some day Maghariba will learn to shake off their ridiculous inferiority complex).
Roughly speaking, that is, he's a governmental lackey (to be blunt, alhtough he does seem to be a good guy) for the Ministry that is responsible for two things: (i) managing (if we can abuse that word) the religious foundations (for those who don't know Awqaf are various lands and the like donated as "trusts" to support religious endeavours like mosques, schools etc) assets, (ii) being the Government's public arm in suppressing religious dissent, ensuring Royal interests in this area and being all warm and fluffy about religion.
Now, as noted, as far as I know Abaddi seems like an interesting and decent guy with ideas, genuine spirit.
But the writer should have an idea also of what institutional context he's coming from (although let me hasten to add taking an unduly negative view of him due to his being a functionary of the Minister is unfair- although on the third hand let me suggest that chaps yapping on about religious solidarity, etc. etc. in the employ of the Government are not really speaking from the most independent and convincing position vis-a-vis the people that the American Right authors are pissing their pants and moaning on about.).
All this aside, the attacks, as Abbadi rightly noted, quite clearly brought out a real and very sincere reaction against the Takfiri types.
Of course Moroccans had a good long 10-15 years to watch the butchery in Algeria (for all that one should point out that most people will note that they don't believe that it is the Salafistes alone in that, and they're probably right - but then Algerian politics are murky at best).
Moving on, well, let me say in advance that Abaddi is playing his role. That the author laps it up is not his fault:
They did indeed, joined by over 1,000 Moroccan Jews, who've long enjoyed good relations with their Muslim neighbors. And--thanks in part to Abaddi, a senior advisor to King Mohammed VI--Moroccans have done more than protest. Imams have repeatedly denounced Osama bin Laden and extremist Muslims as enemies of the Koran. "In all our mosques," Mr. Abaddi said, "al Qaeda was condemned." A documentary film, Deconstructing the Terrorist Discourse, produced in several regional dialects, has been shown in prime time on Moroccan television. Earlier this year, a class of 210 imams graduated from a year-long seminar on moderate Islam and the religious roots of Western democracy. They're all being sent back to their local mosques to carry the message. Says Abaddi: "To be mute when all of this is happening would be a sin."
Of course in official Khutbas (sermons if you will) that's long been the case. And hardly unique to Morocco.
And as usual these sorts of denunciations emanating from the governments.... well they're rather like those pointlessly naive and idiotic anti-drug commercials the Americans insist on broadcasting. Convincing to the audience that is convinced, laughable to the audience the commercials ostensibly want to reach.
The film .. eh. I have not seen it, but as a general matter to be impressed by this sort of thing really means to me that you began with the dumb-ass ignoramus assumption that the governments have been promoting the fire and brimestone neo-Salafi to Takfiri line (largely utterly false), that superficial "We are the World" media is convincing, and generally speaking these kinds of efforts are actually innovations.
Let me suggest that while probably correctly characterising the assumptions of 90 percent of the American audience, they have fuck all to do with reality.
Now, the documentary may be a fine effort (I presume the ref to regional dialects is to the Berber langauges btw), but I doubt it's particularly useful. The Imam training... well it sounds good, but of course again its all in the context of Ministry control of Imams, which is in my opinion something of a losing proposition. The frustrated people who are sliding towards radicalism are not going to Imams that the Govenrment is putting their stamp on. But let me not be too negative, the training sounds interesting (although the 'Moderate Islam' TM thing grates on the nerves a bit) and in conjunction with other things may well be more useful than I think.
And re the painfully naive writing, it still it is nice the author is informing the hysteric hordes of pants wetting "Muslims are Coming" readership
However, in re this:
It's too early to tell whether these efforts will stir the conscience of Muslim leaders outside of Morocco.
No it's not.
It's Morocco. No one besides Moroccans care about what Morocco may be doing in Islamic affaires. I say this as a fan of the country.
Well, I will grant some utility in respect Maghrebine origin population in Europe.
But largely, Model Whanking, rather silly in re Morocco, regardless of the underlying merit or not.
Strategically located with both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, Morocco is the most western of the North African countries. Its constitutional monarchy shares authority with a parliament; parliamentary elections in 2002 were judged to be the most representative in the nation's history. King Mohammed is widely seen as a political and religious reformer. President Bush calls him a strong ally in the war on terrorism.
M6, religious reformer?
Mate, you're smoking way too much Regime Hashish.
Mind you, I like M6 and even am moderately supportive of the government, but religious reformer?
That's just a plain stupid thing to write.
Nice the Chief American Incompetent Bumbler knows who he his, but ... well think of the audience, okay, the Holy Leader of the Right Bolshy Loons has stamped his approval.
Rather more interesting, however is the context:
Abaddi's visit to the United States underscores this point: It was part of an ongoing campaign to reach out to religious groups in the United States. One aim is to raise the profile of what he calls the "Moroccan model" of moderate Islam. Evangelical leaders, for example, have been invited to Casablanca for high-level meetings and inter-faith dialogues. In March of this year, the Moroccan government helped sponsor a conference of "Rabbis and Imams for Peace" in Seville.
Let me translate this: Ongoing campaign to reach out to religious groups in the United States = Ongoing campaign by the regime to find new levers with the interest groups perceived to be influential with a notoriously unpopular American president, as the Moroccan government looks to diversify its cash flow and get support in its unending campaign against the Evil Algerians.
So they are inviting irritating American Xian religious whackos (sorry, Evangelicals).
I suppose one should be in favour of inter-faith dialogue and the odd chace some of the in-bred parochial twits might actually learn something, but frankly I own real property in Morocco and I'd like to see my land value protected.
However, at least Abaddi is showing a good sense of what kind of product he can sell to the ignoramus Americans.
That's positive. Normally the North Africans only try to sell to Europe, and especially France. Nice to see thembranching out and learning new sales pitches.
As to the wrinkles:
THAT MODEL is not without its problems. A 2005 U.S. State Department report notes that Moroccan law does not prohibit arbitrary arrest or detention, either in theory or in practice. Non-Muslim groups may openly practice their religion, though Islamic law criminalizes the act of conversion from Islam to any other faith. Human rights groups conclude that the status of women is improving under the Mudawana (the recently approved family law), but that domestic violence is still common.
Oh what's a little a arbitrary arrest and detention?
After all, the Americans are getting up to speed with it for furriners.
Makes life more sporting.
I really don't get what the "domestic violence" angle is.... Well, I may perhaps be a chauvinist of the worst kind, but I tend to think that domestic violence is a social issue that does not work or belong as an international issue. The conversion thing ... whatever.
However, moving along, the writer's queer little commentary on the US' image and Moroccan official efforts to try to save the US from its own incompetence:
Another objective of the Moroccan government is to challenge the scornful images of America and the West that pervade many Islamic cultures.
Scornful images? (Ironic considering what is published about the Islamic world in the source paper)
Well, more America now. The phrasing 'Islamic cultures' is rather stupid.
All in all, just a stupid statement. Well, more bad writing than stupid statement.
What the author meant to write was something like:
Another [fruitless] challenge the Moroccan government faces is changing the [piss-] poor image America has in the region [largely by its own incompetent execution of poorly thought-through policies], as well as the somewhat less severe problem of the image of Europe and Morocco's allies there.
That would convey actual issues, instead of engaging in hand-waving superficial generalities.
However, the Author seems to have run out of steam at the end, generating further idiocies, inanities and just plain wrong points:
Ninety-nine percent of Morocco's 31 million people are Sunni Muslim and the population is overwhelmingly Arab--a formula for violent anti-Americanism in much of the Muslim world. But in the course of a three-hour dinner conversation, Abaddi ignored the usual Arab bugaboos: the Palestinian problem, U.S. support for Israel, the war in Iraq. "The West ain't no angel," he admitted, "but the West ain't no demon."
Well, from the start:
(i) 29 odd million. Census 2004. Sure it would not have been so hard to look up.
(ii) Population is not overwhelmingly Arab, around 40 odd percent primarily id as Berber.
(iii) The "formula".... well what can I say but the author is a git, a lazy git of a lazy writer.
(iv) Ignoring the "usual Arab bugaboos" - we can translate that into US policies that the Arab world may reasonably dislike- well good for Abaddi for knowing how to play his audience and sell his product. Means fuck all as a generalisation or lesson. Although come to think of its, undoubtedly played well with the audience.
However, the fine hack who wrote this piece of ideo-glurge continued on with his painfully pedestrain hack-ideo-glurge to wrap up as follows:
The apologists for Islamic terror--those who tout victimization theories or liken the United States to Nazi Germany or Imperial Rome--will not get much help from this gracious, soft-spoken Muslim leader. Instead, Abaddi explains how religion is being manipulated by radicals and corrupted by political leaders throughout the Islamic world. He describes a "wide gate" that draws many young people into terrorism--from poverty to propaganda--but puts the burden squarely on Islam's religious leadership. "The imams will be playing the role of closing those gates in future," he promises.
Apologists? Well, again, Abaddi sure knew how to play his audience. As predictable and suckerable as they were.
One has to suspect the hack who wrote this would lump anyone who has a proper sense of causality into the "tout victimisation theories" category, but I will take that as a compliment from someone capable of writing this pedestrain piece of hackery.
I am rather less than pleased with Abaddi giving him the "It's all the Priests [sic] Fault" argument line, but what the hell.
If administration officials hope to close more of those gates in the struggle against radical Islam, they should invite Ahmed Abaddi over for lunch--and the sooner the better.
What the Bush Administration needs of course is to resign en masse out of shame for their own incompetence, but barring that, more PR efforts with this type of author might be useful to reduce the amount of abysmally misinformed fear-mongering.
Now that I am on a role, let me take the Dean's World regurgitating of the same talking points that The National Review regurgitated. (Pity, I like Esmay, but, well, play the stupid pimp means I have to whack you upside the head)
Ahmed Abaddi and Muslim Rennaisance Leaders: frankly an astoundingly inane title, but glad to see Abaddi did not waste the Moroccan tax payer's money
* They embarked upon a campaign of interviews, speeches, and sermons that condemn al Qaeda’s teachings and violence. This accelerated after 9/11 and a series of suicide bombings that ripped through Morocco’s Muslim- and Jewish-owned restaurants, as well as a bombing at a Jewish community center on May 16, 2003, that left some 45 dead and more than 100 wounded.
Okay, true enough.
* They helped mobilize more than one million Moroccans to take to the streets of Casablanca in May 2003 to denounce radical Islamic terrorism—a march in which 1,000 Moroccan Jews openly participated and were warmly embraced by the Muslim community.
Hopefully some of the Shrieking Fearful Phobics will manage to integrate this - one can even add that the demos
* They launched a theological training program for Imams to teach them how to promote moderation within Islam, to teach them more about Western history and the importance of Christianity and Judaism to Western social and political development, and to help them identify and oppose extremist forces and trends within Islam. Participants take 32 hours of instruction per week for a full year. The first class of 210 just graduated, and included 55 women.
Well, I already covered this supra, I suppose this isn't bad although the manner in which the author supra pimped it was stupid.
* They helped organize the “World Congress of Rabbis and Imams for Peace” in Brussels (January 2005) and Seville (March 2006) where some 150 Muslim and Jewish leaders “sit beard to beard” to explore common ground, denounce extremists, and “write declarations of peace.”
I don't have much respect for such things as a general matter, but again, I suppose it's a good thing the Hysterics know about such things, as they seem to collectively think MEMRI's spin is actually a good view of the region.
* They launched an initiative to build a “bridge of friendship” to evangelical Christians in the U.S., including on-going dialogues with Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council, and Josh McDowell of Campus Crusade for Christ, among others. Abaddi and his colleagues have also invited pastors and evangelical business leaders to Morocco for conferences and high-level inter-faith talks, and have even helped organize a series of concerts in Marrakesh where Christian and Muslim rock bands perform together for thousands of Moroccan young people.
As I said supra, this "Bridge" rubbish is about the Moroccan regime selling itself to what it sees as routes to influence to the Bush Administration.
The Rock Band thing, by the way, was PR disaster
A truly stupid idea that irritated a great deal of people. Above all the Evangelicals who gave a good number of people the impression of 'fishing for conversions.' Something that goes over poorly as it comes in the context of people feeling exploited and pressued by the Great Power.
Of course, having met some American Evangelicals banging about in the region, I found them loathsome hypocrites with zero real respect for other Xians, let alone other religions entirely.
* They published a book about the importance of encouraging religious freedom within Islam and even suggested that “Muslims have the right to change their religion” if they so desire.
Well, the concept of Muslims changing religion is not a popular one at all, and I rather would prefer that neithe those promoting moderation nor outsiders make this a talking point.
All it was going to do
* Abaddi also confirmed rumors swirling about in the Arab press that his government is quietly laying the groundwork with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to hold a new round of high-level peace talks in the Kingdom in the near future. He noted that King Hassan II—the late-father of the current monarch—opened secret talks with the Israelis as far back as the early 1970s and that Morocco was the first Arab government after Egypt to welcome an Israeli Prime Minister for a public visit (Shimon Peres in July 1986).
Eh, pissing in the sand unless the Americans put pressure on the Israelis in re West Bank settlements and their ongoing use of the Wall to annex further lands.
But whatever, I suppose it's helpful again to inform the Hysterical Shriekers that contra their outdated stereotype, not all Arab governments and not all Arabs are Howling Red Indian Savages out for kind and gentle Jewish blood.
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Good post. At Dean's World, I especially enjoyed this comment:
Oh, I don't know. The camels? The dates?
No, must be some other export.
Posted by: alle at May 23, 2006 10:05 PM
The US doesn't do much of anything to "help" the Saudis.
The US buys petrol.
Of course if you substitute Egypt for Saudis, and compare the loathsome Egyptian regime to the Moroccan, well then there might be some valid point.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at May 23, 2006 10:24 PM
The domestic violence bit is a Human Rights thing. Amnesty talks about it all the time. The rest of the paragraph sounds like one of their reports: Freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and opinion, rights for women. It's discourse...
That he equates Arab = anti-US may be because of the idea of Pan-Arabism that lingers here and there in the West, along with the idea of The United Muslims, the Ummah. One of the things that crop up on Sudan time and again is that Arabs ought to clean up their own act before criticising others...never mind there are no Arabs in Sudan. That somehow Arabs are one nation.
It's almost the norm to believe Muslim = Arab = Muslim, in Europe as well. Ah well. Saudis can't distinguish between French, Danish and Austrians either.
I am yet to meet an Evangelical besides Ned Flanders.
Posted by: Klaus at May 23, 2006 11:30 PM
I am well aware of the Human Rights groups flogging of domestic violence as a human rights issue, I simply think they are fools constantly confusing all nice little Left crusades for the work they should be doing, which is hard enough as it is.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at May 23, 2006 11:39 PM
That's the Left today. Take the Democrats in the US. Barack Obama said: People accuse the Democrats of not standing for anything. That is totally unfair. We stand for everything.
Posted by: Klaus at May 24, 2006 03:31 AM
ya abu l-maal,
my favorite part is still where the author transmogrifies the "Director of Islamic Affairs" (in the Ministry of the Habbous [Awqaf] & Islamic Affairs) into a "Muslim leader" (and a "gracious, soft-spoken" one, no less). he's a bureaucrat.
i wish we had the money to fund an office that would do nothing but read the press and write explanations & corrections. you know - for FUN.
Posted by: raf* at May 24, 2006 05:33 AM
Well my Lazy Faqih, you can't leave everything to me.
However, when I read that title I immediately thought, "did these guys actually understand Abbadi"? Title fragements are nice clue to level of understanding.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at May 24, 2006 10:49 AM
Of course if you substitute Egypt for Saudis, and compare the loathsome Egyptian regime to the Moroccan, well then there might be some valid point
To ensure that Morocco does not send another useless couple thousand soldiers to attack Israel again as in 1973?
Posted by: kao_hsien_chih at May 24, 2006 11:07 AM