The Moorish Wanderer has a trenchant analysis of the disempowerment of the Moroccan people and particularly of Moroccan women.

The first part of his post analyzes the powerlessness of the organized political powers and the consequent alienation of the country's youth from the political process.

The second part of the post addresses the self-immolation of Fadoua Laroui in protest of the treatment she received as a young, unwed mother. Wanderer's sarcastic expression of outrage is painful to read, but it bears remembering that he is talking about a young woman who burned herself to death. In my own time in Morocco, I saw the consequences for children born out of wedlock who were cast aside in a Moroccan orphanage with very little hope of escape. And prostitution was commonplace, even in the conservative countryside where I initially least expected it. Women who did not strictly conform to traditional sexual mores paid a steep price in social ostracism, and prostitution was often the sole means of support available for women who had been branded unchaste.

I don't wish to shortchange the strides that Morocco has taken toward women's rights, or the deficiencies in my own culture's treatment of women. However, I think that Wanderer is right to identify the extreme actions taken by the late Ms. Laroui as the result of extreme disempowerment. Ms. Laroui, it seems, had no one to turn to. As I have written before, there is still an opportunity for H.M. the King to embrace and empower his people. I pray he avails himself of it before it is too late.

U.S. of Hate

One might think that a country whose longest standing treaty of friendship is with the Kingdom of Morocco would be free of the most virulent forms of anti-Muslim prejudice. If so, one would be mistaken, as recent events in Orange County, California, demonstrate. At a Muslim fundraiser for a homeless shelter, people flaunting American flags viciously taunted, berated, and intimidated men, women, and children attempting to enter the community center where the fundraiser was taking place. In attendance and addressing members of this hate rally against the fundraiser were Congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller.

Royce has since attempted to deflect criticism of his attendance and encouragement of the protesters by questioning the character of the speakers at the event, Sirraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali. On the basis of a quick search, Wahhaj appears to be a respected Muslim cleric who has even given a prayer before the United States House of Representatives, although Royce insinuates that he was implicated by association in the first, failed attempt to bomb the World Trade Center. The second, Amir Abdel Malik Ali, is clearly a bit more controversial, and has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center for blatantly anti-Semitic fabrications about Jews. It is quite possible that Mr. Wahhaj and particularly Mr. Ali, as public figures who have expressed controversial views, are legitimate targets of protests. I find Mr. Ali's alleged statements about Jews particularly troubling. But I fail to see how a principled objection to the views of Mr. Wahhaj and Mr. Ali provides any justification for mobbing the people who came to hear them speak. Moreover, the language of the protesters had very little to do with the speakers and a great deal to do with the religious and ethnic identity of the attendees. This is shameful, and it ought not to be tolerated.

Clearly, especially in light of Snyder v. Phelps, the law will permit even the most hateful protests. It does not prevent other Americans from drawing conclusions about the characters of the protesters. It does not limit criticism, obloquy, and ostracism of the "protesters" and especially of the two Congressmen who egged them on. We may have to hear these heirs of the Westboro Baptist Church, but we are not prevented from answering them.

In the event anyone wishes to make their displeasure known to the Congressmen involved, the Capitol switchboard is (202) 225-3121.

Is there a future for Mohammed VI?

Amidst shocking carnage in Libya and Bahrain, the peaceful protests in Morocco for constitutional change, human rights, and economic reform (barring a few incidents of vandalism) have been somewhat overlooked. As one leader after another in the Arab world falls, the longterm survival of the Alouite dynasty also seems open to question.

Portrait of Louis XVI of France

Image via Wikipedia

For the present, news reports suggest that that the focus of the protests in Morocco is reform not revolution. So it appears that Mohammed VI is facing a Louis XVI moment. Confronted with popular demands for reform after the storming of the Bastille and the establishment of the National Assembly, Louis elected instead to attempt to flee France in search of Austrian support to reassert his absolute authority. From the moment he was captured and forced to return to Paris under a humiliating guard, the tide of history turned against him, leading to his ultimate execution.

Mohammed VI may still have an opportunity to be Morocco's greatest monarch, the one who let his people go and guided them to a true democracy, even if in the guise of a constitutional monarchy. But to keep his position, he must give up his power. This would be a great gift to the Moroccan people. The only question is whether Mohammed VI is wiser than Louis XVI.

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Vive la Revolution!

Along with much of the world, I am both excited and hopeful about the possibilities for Tunisia following the ouster of the Ben Ali dictatorship. My excitement is tempered by the fact that the seed of freedom has just been planted, and not every flower blooms.

Paying the Piper

The Moorish Wanderer has an interesting analysis of Morocco's recent borrowing of 1 billion euros from the capital markets. To those, like me, who are not particularly versed in finance or economics, it may be a little opaque. However, the gist seems to be that it is a potentially risky move in light of a declining ratio of exports to imports, but that we should regard the situation with cautious skepticism pending further developments.

Why don't we profile Muslims?

For some reason, I found myself today reading a column by a Washington Times columnist who was furious that former CIA Director James Woolsey had suggested that profiling Muslims might not be the answer to airline security. Granted, I am not an expert on security or counterterrorism, although in light of the fact that our experts do things like posting their security procedures manual on the Internet, perhaps anyone is qualified to bring a little common sense to the issue. For the sake of argument, let's leave aside the quaint notion that Muslims are fellow human beings who deserve the same dignity and respect as anyone else, and focus purely pragmatic reasons why a policy of profiling might not be a good idea:

  1. Bigotry does not equal security. Stereotyping all Muslims because a tiny fraction have been involved in acts of terror against the United States is both a lazy and ignorant way to cope with the problem of terrorism. Lazy because it relieves one of the necessity for analyzing the problem. Ignorant because it makes an assumption that in the vast majority of cases is untrue and unwarranted. We've been here before: we made the same mistake with the Nisei in World War II.

  2. Humiliating people does not make us safer. Treating Muslims like cattle, particularly in countries like Iraq that we are trying to "help," has been proven to undermine our counter-terrorism efforts. There is nothing like an Abu Ghraib to recruit people to Al Qaeda. So why should we adopt a policy that humiliates and discriminates against Muslims generally?

  3. Profiling all Muslims is radically overinclusive. When approximately one in six people on earth is a Muslim, and a de minimis number of them pose a threat, then it is highly inefficient to try to screen all Muslims in order to uncover the few who may be terrorists.

  4. Profiling all Muslims is radically underinclusive. Two words: Oklahoma City. Profiling Muslims does nothing to catch the Timothy McVeigh's of the world. There are lots of people who hate us who are not Muslims.

  5. It's impractical and inefficient. Much as we like to think we have infinite resources in the United States, in point of fact there is no way we are going to be able to keep track of a billion people.

  6. It misjudges the threat. If Flight 93 had reached its destination, I might well have died in my office a couple of blocks from the White House on September 11, 2001. As it was, I left the office shortly after Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon across the river. My brother in law watched the twin towers fall in New York. Despite the unprecedented carnage and the shocking effect of an assault on American soil, however, there was never an existential threat to the United States. Unlike Japan or Germany in the Second World War, Al Qaeda had no ability to follow up. Before we turned the tide in the Pacific, Japan had not only bombed our main naval base but asserted control over a good part of the Pacific and invaded China. Germany, meanwhile, reigned supreme over the rubble of Europe, where England was a beleaguered holdout. While I agree we should treat the threat from Al Qaeda seriously and pursue it relentlessly, lest it develop the capability to do us greater harm, I do not think that our values, our liberty, and our privacy should all be mindlessly sacrificed in pursuit of the terrorist menace. Frankly, at present the average American is far more likely to die in an automobile accident than to be a victim of airline terrorism. And yet our cynical and cowardly public officials harp on our irrational fears and prejudices to the benefit of their own power and position.

  7. It's not the most effective use of our resources. Where is Osama bin Laden and why is he at large? A more effective pursuit of Al Qaeda (rather than the sideshows in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Yemen?) and a reexamination of the brutal Realpolitik that drives American foreign policy would, in my opinion, do more to reduce the terrorists threat than profiling every last Muslim could ever accomplish.

In Education: Morocco climbs as U.S. slides

Michael Toler reports in Random Thoughts that Morocco is increasing investment in its educational system even as Paul Krugman decries in the New York Times the fact that the United States is reducing its investment in its crumbling educational system.

Moroccan Portal

Every once in a while Twitter vindicates itself, in this case leading me to the fascinating Moroccan portal: Atlantic Connection. So far I have only just signed up and skimmed the site, but it looks quite rich.

Kif in the Rif

I do not encourage either the production or the consumption of marijuana, but my only real policy concern related to either of them is the undesirable social effects of interdiction.

When I read a a self-congratulatory proclamation that marijuana cultivation has been significantly reduced in areas such as the Rif Mountains of Morocco, estimated to account for half the world's hashish production, it raises a question in my mind which almost always goes unaddressed.

If cultivation of marijuana in the Rif has been significantly suppressed, what exactly are the farmers and the families in this notoriously poor region of Morocco doing to support themselves? Have the governments that are suppressing cultivation (we are not told how), provided roads, schools, and jobs so that people in the Rif can make a living by other means? Curious minds would like to know.


The two journalists from the weekly newspaper Al Watan Al An, Mustafa Hormatallah and publisher Abderrahim Ariri were convicted by a criminal court in Casablanca for "concealing items derived from a crime."

VOA News. The conviction of two journalists for apparently violating Morocco's version of the Official Secrets Act, is the kind of prosecution that before the Bush Administration would have been laughable in the United States. Ironically, it would appear that, with its support for secret detentions and torture, the Bush Administration's effect on press freedom and human rights in Morocco has been generally malign at a time when the Kingdom has become more liberal generally.

Little hope in the Western Sahara, says USIP

A recent briefing by the United States Institute of Peace reaches the depressing conclusion that nothing is likely to change in the conflict over the Western Sahara in the foreseeable future. The briefing suggests that the Baker Plan, with its plan for a referendum, was the last best hope, and that since then, the parties have become too locked into opposing, and incompatible, positions to be able to reach a deal. In light of the United Nations' passivity, little is likely to change the positions of the parties.

Western Sahara - How to Create a Stalemate by Anna Theofilopoulou: USIPeace Briefing: U.S. Institute of Peace

Routing Around Moroccan Censorship

The Morocco Report calls upon the Blogoma to rise up in protest of Morocco's decision to block access to YouTube, joining the likes of China, Syria, and Iran as Internet censors. Fortunately, an attack on the Internet is often defeated by the Internet itself, and there are a number of suggestions online for circumventing such censorship: see for example, Blogspot Blogs Banned in India and How to Access Blocked Sites. Unfortunately, since I am not in Morocco, I cannot personally verify whether any of these methods work, although I would certainly appreciate feedback from anyone who tries them.

Gung Ho for the Maghreb

Stars & Stripes: Iraq-bound Marines get a taste of Morocco

“When I first got here, I thought that this could be California, and we could do this training at Twentynine Palms, so why come here?” Espinoza said. “It costs a lot of money.”

For all the Marines see of Morocco, they might as well be in California. Apart from the fact that the Moroccan medics had a trick or two to show the Americans, the deployment in Morocco for training appears from the Stars and Stripes article to be wholly gratuitous. The article does not indicate that there is any significant contact with the Moroccan population. Even if there were, it is hard to see how such contact would be helpful to preparing the Marines for Iraq. It might be helpful for the Marines to learn a little Arabic, but Morocco, with its significantly different dialect, is not likely to be much help with respect to language, either. So what are the Marines doing in Morocco,anyway?

Can Our Government Do Something Positive in the Arab World?

U.S. Commemorates 50 Years of Partnership in Morocco - Standard Newswire

On April 2, 1957, the United States initiated a program of economic and technical assistance to Morocco. Since then, the American people have invested over $2 billion in the human, economic, and institutional development of Morocco.

The answer may be yes, but it would appear to have more to do with sustained good relations and long-term investment than arms buildup and military action.

Moroccan Suicide Bombers

Terrorist Networks Lure Young Moroccans to War in Far-Off Iraq - washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post ran a front page story today suggesting that Tetouan, home of several radical mosques, has become a recruiting ground for suicide bombers responsible for attacks in the Middle East:

About two dozen men from Tetouan and nearby towns in the Rif Mountains have traveled to Iraq in the past 18 months to volunteer as fighters or suicide bombers, according to local residents and officials. Moroccan authorities said the men were recruited by international terrorist networks affiliated with al-Qaeda that have deepened their roots in North Africa since the invasion of Iraq four years ago.

The Post further reports that the Moroccan authorities are cracking down on recruiters, but that the Islamic PJD has suggested that the attacks are simply a pretext for curbing the rights of Islamists.