Morocco’s “soft power strategy” against terrorism? Hmm.

A column in Forbes magazine illuminates Morocco’s past and present.

Note: this was not published recently. It was written in June 2010, months before the Arab Spring erupted. However, the author (Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council) makes some points that are very helpful to those of us trying to learn about Morocco’s history and its current atmosphere.

However, I do not think that Berman accurately depicts reality here in his assessment of Morocco’s political and social situation (even if he is writing in 2010). The argument put forth in this piece is that Morocco’s king is doing a great thing by eradicating Islamic ideals from civil society in favor of more democratic and liberal ones. Berman says that Morocco is “inhospitable soil for radicals seeking to drive a wedge between Islam and other faiths” and also that Morocco “has mastered the art of political reconciliation.” He paints Morocco as the one country in the Arab world that has handled the conflicts between Islamic extremists and the government.

Based on what I’ve read about the past decade’s events in Morocco, this is not true at all. There have been several deadly terrorist attacks, notably those in Casablanca in 2003 and 2007 and in Marrakech in 2011, with links to Al-Qaeda. There have also been less violent shows of opposition against the King’s reforms. Basically, over the past decade Islamicists have had a definite presence in Morocco and this presence has made for a struggle. For anyone to write “America desperately needs allies that are willing and able to promote moderate interpretations of Islam at the expense of more extreme ones. In Morocco, it is fortunate to have found one,” at any point in the last ten years seems to me to be glossing over the truth.

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