Secret Political and Economic Agreement between Spain and Morocco

Morocco World News has just published an article that details a currently developing secret agreement between the Spanish and Moroccan governments.

According to the article, during the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs Saâdedine El Othmani’s last visit to Madrid (purported to be sometime around February 1st, 2012), the two countries agreed to cultivate the deal. This agreement reportedly revolves around the concept of mutual assistance: due to their proximity and intertwined history, both countries would aid each other within their respective regions of influence. Morocco would aid Spain with its economic and political affairs in Africa, as countries such as France and the United Kingdom have almost always surpassed the country’s presence in the continent. Furthermore, Morocco is in a prime position in the African continent, according to the article, “…Where it could build amicable and economic relations with many countries.”

In return, Spain will use its deep-rooted relations with Latin America to give Morocco an economic entrance to the region.  Historically, according to MWN, Morocco has had trouble entering the region, thus it could benefit greatly from Spainish intervention.

Considering the historical tensions between the countries, this new agreement sounds like a step in the positive direction for relations between the countries.  On one hand, the deal also sounds like more of a one-sided situation, as Spain’s proximity to Africa definitely makes its relations with the continent more essential the than Morocco’s with the Latin American world. Yet, Morocco’s entrance into the Latin American world could also signify great economic success for the country, as the South American region is a large consumer in the phosphate market. According to Businessweek Magazine, Morocco is the world’s third largest producer of phosphates, and although phosphates are being produced in Latin America, there is a much larger reserve in Africa than in South America (the agriculture industry there is much larger than its phosphates industry); furthermore, King Muhammad VI owns more than half of the world’s phosphate reserves. (Article here: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_46/b4203080895976.htm)  The results of this agreement cannot be predicted until it has actually been reached, but it is clear that if such an agreement is reached, it could be mean a MAJOR increase in economic stability and job availability for Moroccans.

For further reading:  http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/02/details-of-the-secret-agreement-between-spain-and-morocco/29172

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Proposal to have “National Chastity Day”

About “Chastitiy Day initiative stirs controversy in Morocco”- from Morocco World News: http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/02/chastity-day-initiative-stirs-controversy-in-morocco/29364

Recently, a prominent Moroccan religious leader has called for the Moroccan government to support a new initiative aimed at cultural reform. Sheikh al-Idrisi Abu Zeid, Qur’an expert and leading member of the Islamist-oriented “Justice and Development” party and the al-Tawhid wa al Islah (“Monotheism and Reformation”) organization, calls for one day out of the year to be dedicated to the promotion of chastity.  According to Idrisi, this day will aim to counteract all the “unchaste phenomena” that has allegedly been invading Moroccan society lately/

Some researchers, such as sociology researcher Mohammad Boulouse, believe that one day out of the year will not be enough, stating that “we need campaigns that would last for weeks and months in order for chastity to become part of our society again and to counter all phenomena that are stranger to all society,” to Al Arabiya news channel.  Boulouse then went on to cite various examples within Moroccan society, such as films, TV channels and programs, festivals, and artistic expressions that are aimed at “sexual arousal” and indecency.

He also stated that “there should be a focus on curbing sexual desire and abstaining from all lustful actions,” according to Al Arabiya.

However, Islamic studies researcher Saeid Lakhal argues that the Tawhid and other movements advocating for the establishment of a “National Chastity Day” are interfering with the burgeoning cultural and artistic scene in Morocco, directly following a new electoral victory for the Justice and Development party.

He recently told Al Arabiya: “The movement and the party have always objected to festivals and cultural activities to no avail. Now they think they can do what they haven’t been able to do for years.”

According to Lakhal, the statements made by Idrisi and other party members, are intended to investigate how the Moroccan people and civil society might react.

In my opinion, the movement and the statements made by Idrisi are intended to examine exactly how Moroccan society will react; it is almost at if Idrisi and his movement’s supporters are far they can go until Moroccan society becomes privy to their deception.  Idrisi is party of the Justice and Development party, the same party that Prime Minister Benkirane is part of.  There is no doubt that his recent electoral victory, indicated to the party that the Moroccan public would endorse and accept the party that promised to completely fix the recent wave of unemployment.  Benkirane, his party, and the government have failed to do this, slipping away with a mere 1 percent point reduction in unemployment since the September 2011 election.  Still, now that his party has taken the Executive Branch, Idrisi, is taking advantage of its position in Moroccan Politics and advocating for a law that is clearly intended to infringe on the artistic rights of Moroccans.  Idrisi, much like his newly elected party, is well aware that the recent electoral victory could indicate a willingness by the Moroccan public to follow the party back in time.

Violent Protests in Taza

Throughout the Arab Spring, there have been protests in which the Morrocan people have called for constitutional, economic, and human rights reforms.  On February 10th, the International Press Service released a story that detailed some of the latest protests that have occurred within Taza, many of which have been plagued by police brutality and violence.   While the Moroccan government has appeared to maintain a relatively calm political tide, the recent protests in Taza suggest that many Moroccans are all but content with the performance of their country’s government.  Yet, in order to monitor the drift of this political tide, it is important to understand the origins of this current civil unrest.

On July 1st, 2011, changes to the constitution were enacted which granted more power to the executive branch, while allegedly reducing the power of the monarch. These changes were granted in response to demands made by protestors throughout the country on February 20th, 2011, in an effort to maintain calm during a time of regional turbulence.  Furthermore, during the general elections of September 2011, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane was elected while running on a partial platform of job-creation and economic reform. However, according to the article, almost nothing has been done to reduce unemployment throughout the country:

For instance, the promise to completely eradicate unemployment, which currently touches 19 percent of the working population, evaporated soon after his [Benkirane’s] appointment, giving way to a negligible decrease in joblessness of a single percentage point.” (IPS)

While the government determined that it would “completely eradicate” unemployment, it failed to present a viable way to do so. Furthermore, Benkirane’s promise to increase the minimum wage to 3000 dirham has been pushed back to 2016. Benkirane just presented his proposal to Parliament last month, and no increase to the minimum wage has been enacted, indicating that accomplishing the proposed goals has taken a backseat to creating the illusion of political calm.

As a result of this inaction, public opposition has been strong and incensed; in particular, recent college graduates have been protesting throughout the country, demanding jobs and economic reform.   On January 21st, 27-year-old unemployed graduate Abdelwahab Zaidouin set himself on fire at a political demonstration held by other graduates in front of the Ministry of Education in Rabat.

Three days later, Zaidoun died, igniting the current wave of violent protests within Taza; the most incendiary of which occurred on February 1st.

The new government violently quelled the protest, according to an eyewitness to the events:

“ ‘At first, the protests were peaceful. The police surrounded the city. They blocked Internet connections and cut off the telephone lines before beginning to club everybody,” he told IPS.’ ”  

The actions of the new government are a clear indication that the “Moroccan example” of political calm is not as true as it might seem; in my opinion, the Moroccan government has done a very good job of creating a front of political acceptance and tranquility, while operating with violence and indifference behind the scenes.  Although the government has decided to legislatively enacted changes, the Moroccan people have barely seen the results because the changes haven’t been physically acted upon. While preserving the Moroccan people’s civil rights and economic security might appear to be the new government’s number one priority, the recent use of violence to quell the Taza protests, and the government’s negligence in enacting economic reform, says otherwise.  It might appear that Morocco has a relatively calm political tide; yet, the new government is merely operating under a reputation bolstered by partial truths, and riding the resulting wave of international approval.

For further reading: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106714

Obtained from http://www.presstv.ir/detail/224713.html

Taza citizens clash with police during Feb. 1st protest

Moroccan Architecture and Art

Moroccan Architecture

This is an example of the typical Moroccan courtyard.The architectural styles of Morocco are revered for their extraordinary beauty, and reflect a diverse, cosmopolitan cultural fusion. The indigenous people of Morocco are the Berbers, who have lived in the land since at least 200 B.C. Yet, Morocco has also been occupied and ruled by other countries, including the Portuguese, the Arabians, the Spanish, and the French.  As a result, Morocco’s art and architecture have been influenced by the artistic trends of various cultures. Here is another Moroccan Courtyard

In many Moroccan cities, including Fez and Tangier, there is a quarter called the medina, or the old city.  This area of the city is characterized by its Moorish and Arab-style architecture.  Right next to the medina is the ville nouvelle, or French colonial city; the French colonizers built this section as part of an effort to develop the Moroccan cityscape in the early twentieth century. Here is a riad in Morocco. The two sections contrast each other in both city planning and architectural style.  In the medina, one might see narrow passages and streets that seem unplanned. These narrow streets extend in almost every direction. Interestingly enough, the medina strongly reflects Islamic architecture.

Since 685 C.E., Morocco has been an Islamic state, and thus has been transformed at the architectural and artistic level.  The Islamic architectural influence is apparent in the wide use of horseshoe arches, decorative mosques, and tall minarets. A key concept of Islamic architecture is the enclosed space for living and dining; derived from desert life, the idea was that one would be protected from a potentially hostile climate.  As a result, one will find the fountains, gardens, and decorative elements within the confines of the building, rather than surrounding the building (as one might observe with European architecture).  In Islamic architecture, the building is considered a part of the environment. As a result, private gardens and homes in the medina, called riads, usually have enclosed courtyards with gardens and pools. Because the medinas have their roots as virtual city-states that were built throughout Moroccan history, towers and crenellated walls typically surround them. These architectural elements protected against invasion, and are still present within the Medinas today.  The ville nouvelle has a very different architectural style to it; wide boulevards and grid-like streets characterize this part of the Moroccan city.

Moroccan Visual Arts

Moroccan wall decoration
Moroccan visual arts reflect a deep commitment to complex geometry, floral patterns, and calligraphic designs of simple, pastel colors. Because Islam prohibits the representation of people and animals in art, the use of abstract patterns and calligraphy are popular, and help focus the viewers mind.  At any medersa (Islamic universities), one will find calligraphic patterns carved in wood and stone, most of them taken from the Koran.  The backgrounds of these carvings are of incredible geometric complexity.  Walking through the Medina, one might also find complex tiles, called zellij mosaics, covering public spaces and furniture.  The riads, gardens and palaces, and medersas (Islamic universities) have inspired many artists, including western artist Delacroix and Henri Matisse. Moroccan artists today, such as Ahmed Cherkaoui and Hassan Slaoui, have seen a flourishing international status.

Ahmed Cherkaoui's Work

Hassan Slaoui's Work

Sources:

-http://www.morocco-travel-agency.com/culture.html#architecture

-http://www.myweku.com/2010/02/moroccan-architectureislamic-art-and-interior-design-part-3/

-http://www.myweku.com/2010/01/moroccan-architecture-history-and-styles-part-1/