In Morocco, an alternative to Iran

This is a great article, I’m reprinting in full from the Washington Post. The King of Morocco is a great man, no doubt about it. I think Morocco is very fortunate to have him as the changes he is making are sweeping and progressive. I see a bright future for Morocco, and it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who appreciates it.

In Morocco, an Alternative to Iran
By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
RABAT — If you want an antidote to the photographs of police officers beating demonstrators and girls dying on the streets of the Iranian capital, take a drive through the streets of the Moroccan capital. You might see demonstrators, but not under attack: On the day I visited, a group of people politely waving signs stood outside the parliament. You might see girls, but they will not be sniper targets, and they will not all look like their Iranian counterparts: Though there is clearly a fashion for long, flowing headscarves and blue jeans, many women would not look out of place in New York or Paris.
Welcome to the kingdom of Morocco, a place which, in the light of the past two week’s events in Iran, merits a few minutes of reflection. Unlike Turkey, Morocco is not a secular state: The king claims direct descent from the prophet Mohammed. Nor does Morocco aspire to be European: Though French is still the language of business and higher education, the country is linguistically and culturally part of the Arabic-speaking world. But unlike most of its Arab neighbors, the country has over the past decade undergone a slow but profound transformation from traditional monarchy to constitutional monarchy, acquiring along the way real political parties, a relatively free press, new political leaders — the mayor of Marrakesh is a 33-year-old woman — and a set of family laws that strive to be compatible both with sharia and international conventions on human rights.
The result is not what anyone would call a liberal democratic paradise. One human rights activist painted for me a byzantine portrait of electoral corruption, involving “mediators” who “organize” votes on behalf of candidates. Others point out that if the demonstrators I saw at the parliament had been Islamic radicals or Western Saharan guerrilla leaders, rather than trade unionists, the police might not have been quite so blasé. Though women have legal rights, cultural restraints remain. A tiny fraction of the population reads newspapers, even fewer have Internet access, and somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of the country is illiterate; as a result, election turnout is very low. Political posters feature symbols, not words.
Yet in at least one sense, Morocco truly stands out: Alone in the region, the Moroccan government has admitted to carrying out political crimes, and it has set up a “Truth Commission” along South African and South American lines. Beginning in 2004, the commission investigated crimes, held televised hearings and paid compensation to some 23,000 victims and their families. The crimes in question — arbitrary arrests, “disappearances,” torture, executions — occurred during the reign of King Hassan II, who died in 1999. The Truth Commission is the creation of his son, King Mohammed VI. But although this acknowledgement of wrongdoing was made possible by a generational change, it did not require a regime change. There was no revolution, no violence. The king is still the king, and he still has his collection of antique cars.
The result of the Truth Commission’s work is a kind of social peace. Not everybody likes the monarchy, but even its opponents concede that the break with the past is real: If nothing else, people feel it’s safe to speak openly, safe to form civil rights groups, safe to criticize the electoral process, even safe to complain about the king. Saadia Belmir — a Moroccan judge and the first female Muslim member of the U.N. Committee on Torture — told me that despite obstacles, “we can now build the future on the basis of our good understanding of the past.” Controversially, perpetrators were allowed to fade into the background. But the crosscurrents of anger and revenge that might otherwise have marked the young king’s reign have subsided.
Is this a model for others? The Moroccans think so, and they have quietly “shared their experiences” with African and Middle Eastern neighbors. Belmir told me that an informal group had been working on setting up a Truth Commission in Togo; others hint at Jordan, though of course that’s unofficial. They all hasten to point out that their formula — slow transformation under the aegis of a (so far) popular king — doesn’t apply everywhere. One thinks wistfully of the shah of Iran and of what might have been.
Still, watching the extraordinary range of clothing and skin colors on the Moroccan streets, one takes away at least one thought: Transformation from authoritarianism to democracy is possible, even in an avowedly Islamic state, even with an ethnically mixed population, even with the presence of a jihadist fringe. More importantly: It is possible to acknowledge and discuss human rights violations in this culture, just as they can be discussed elsewhere. Just because much of the Arab world lacks the political will to change doesn’t mean that change is always and forever impossible.


Real Moroccan Food- Lentils and Chicken Sandwich

Okay, I’ve been forgetting to take pictures of every meal, but here is a between lunch and middle dinner meal. Fresh made bread stuffed with fresh killed and cooked chicken and some lentils.

My pictures aren’t great, but they will do. For now anyway.

morocco scary clowns The Fantastic Depression

Kim Jong Il, Detroit, Morocco

Scary Arab Clown update of the news, quick and dirty for ya…
First of all, congratulations to Kim Jong Il for winning an election that no one could predict:

Now, it has been pointed out that 10% unemployment is considered pretty good here in Morocco, we think that pretty soon, it will also be considered pretty good in the USA (Thanks Bambs!)

With “no end in sight” for U.S. job losses amid a recession that could stretch into 2010, American workers will soon have to contend with another blow to their confidence: stagnant, or even falling wages.
Job seekers — already coping with the highest unemployment rate in a quarter century, their savings mugged by a plunging stock market — can also expect lower pay once they land a new job, labor market experts say, because the current downturn shows no signs of turning around anytime soon.
Lower wages, in turn, could further erode the outlook for the U.S. economy by hurting consumers’ spending power.
The unemployment rate leaped to 8.1 percent last month from 7.6 percent in January, the highest number in 26 years

And for those of you who think a graduate degree might be the answer, the news is even more grim as reported by the New York Times. Link
How bad can it get? We notice that Vago and others have been warning about just how bad it will get for quite some time, but if you prefer to listen to the optimists have a look here link and then read about the improving conditions in Detroit. Link

For decades, scribes from America’s coasts and beyond have been parachuting into Detroit to marvel at its horrors. The city never fails to deliver colourful copy: the urban decay, the $1 houses that still go unsold, the tragicomic city politics. Jerry Herron, a writer and scholar at Detroit’s Wayne State University, likens journalists’ morbid delight at Detroit to that of Victorian travellers reaching Pompeii. “City of the dead, city of the dead,” Thackeray wrote. The words might as well apply here.

We might point out that here in Morocco, things are improving, even if it looks like complete chaos to a wanna-be evel arab clown like Vago.

Led by Morocco and Tunisia, the region of 84 million people is attracting serious investment—more than $30 billion over the past five years—to build everything from auto and aerospace factories to five-star resorts and call centers for multinationals.

morocco scary clowns

Let's Talk Morocco

We are a little bored sometimes with our own focus on the USA so today we will discuss Moroccan news and culture:
First, we are excited about several upcoming festivals:
We are missing this one but it looks great: The Nomad Festival in the small village of M’hamid.

The Nomads Festival is based in the small Moroccan village of M’Hamid El Ghislane some 60 kilometres south of Zagora in the Draa Valley. This, the sixth edition of the festival, features dance, music, exhibitions, conferences and handicraft displays and draws international artists from France, Spain and Brazil.
First held in 2003, the Nomads Festival performances are held at two sites, in the village itself and in a specially set-up nomadic camp in the desert, located about 20km from M’Hamid.
The festival runs through until the 9th of March and details (in French) can be found on their website. Nomad Festival.

Also coming soon are the Sufi Culture Festival in Fes 18-25 April:

Brainchild of Sufi scholar, Faouzi Skali, the 3rd annual Fes Festival of Sufi Culture will be held from 18-25 April. The programme promises some fascinating discussion topics and superb concerts, including various Sufi brotherhoods from Morocco and Algeria, and the Egyptian master, Cheikh Ahmad al-Tuni.
The conference will be held in the Bouanania Medersa, and all the concerts in the Batha Museum.
For more information, see

The Fes Sacred Music Festival 29 May to 6 Jun:

Welcome to sacred music festival in Morocco! Internationally renowned artists from around the world flock to Morocco’s spiritual capital for the annual Fez Festival of World Sacred Music and perform a variety of styles, from Moroccan Sufi chants, Pakistani qawwali incantations, and Egyptian madhi odes, to flamenco-style Christian saeta, ancient Indian gwalior chants, and Turkish whirling dervishes. Over the course of the event, musicians from France to Rajasthan find common ground, with collaborative performances culminating the program and celebrate this festival of sacred music.

and the Cherry Festival in Sefrou 11-24 Jun:

Sefrou’s Cherry Festival celebrates the harvest with music and dance, a colourful souk (market), sporting competitions, a torchlit procession, a fairground and the election of Miss Cherry, with a parade by her admiring followers.
The event takes place in an ancient walled town, one of the oldest in the area, pre-dating even Fez’s 8th-century structures. Sefrou lies on the rising slopes of the Middle Atlas, the ideal ground for the thousands of cherry trees which lend the town its fruity renown.

Sufism is very importtant in Morocco, though Vago has been looking for a Sufi teacher and has not yet found one:

Sufism has been infused in the culture of Morocco for centuries. Sufi teachers are viewed to be moral examples for the rest of the public, because of their teachings of leniency and their lives that reflect peace and compassion. This form of spiritual education is seen as the centre piece for the Islam faith and has been recorded to have been in existence as far back as the eleventh century. Spiritual centers where Sufism is taught started coming to light in the thirteenth century and during the Mongol invasions. Sufi became vital to the Muslim religion by preserving their belief in spirituality.
For the people of Morocco, Sufi has become an important part of spiritual and human development.
Morocco has a long history with Sufism. In Morocco alone, there are 1000 different Sufi cultures and brotherhoods. Brotherhoods established by Sufi teachers were known for their leniency and tolerance and have long been viewed as models of moral conduct to be emulated. Sufis founded institutions of learning run by local zaouias in towns and villages, many of which remain today and enjoy state support. Morocco has always made a considerable effort to encourage Sufism. The country has produced such a remarkable number of Sufis such as Gnaoua, the Aïssawa, the Hamadcha and the Master Musicians of Jajouka.

In the news Morocco has cut diplomatic ties with Iran:

Morocco and Iran have had a rocky relationship since the Iranian revolution in 1979. The two only normalised relations in the late 1990s and now, in a reversal, Morocco on Friday severed diplomatic ties with Iran.
Morocco’s move is not considerd by analysts to be so much about Bahrain but about the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat seeking to spread Shia Islam in the predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom. A statement from Morocco’s foreign ministry accused on Friday the Iranian embassy of “intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom”, and of engaging in activities which threatened the religious unity of the country.

and as to the Economy

According to a Reuters report Morocco’s Central Bank is more worried by inflation than by global financial markets turmoil originating in the United States.