Journey to Freedom - Moroccan Stories
By identifying herself as someone who comes from "the Sharifa, direct descendants of the prophet" 32 , Malika lets us assume that she is a Muslim. But she does so only to remind us of the non-negotiable conflict between her cultural and religious heritage on the one hand, and her liberal individual aspirations on the other. Even at the Palace, where Islam was dominant, Christmas was still Christmas" Once again, the East and the West-via religion this time-are brought up into a knock-out whose outcome is decided by Malika, the in-between arbiter.
To make her readers more convinced about the depth of her Europeanness, Malika defines her embrace of Christian holidays, idols, and rituals as above all a rejection of her former Islamic identity. The prison, which functions as a surrogate family house, is the shrine where Malika and her family, except her mother who "remained a good Muslim," openly announce their conversion: Malika is free, naturally enough, to remember her pain and express her resentment in the terms she prefers.
But the freedom of speech and the freedom of worship do not entitle her to systematically and openly disrespect the beliefs of her own people, who by principle stand against the unjustified imprisonment of the Oufkir family. Is it so difficult for Malika to speak of her conversion without degrading her heritage?
Her story would have been totally different if Malika had chosen to criticize her culture from a local and informed perspective. Instead, she invests into a provocative scheme which vows to frustrate the spiritual, cultural, and psychological sensibilities of an entire people. Malika misses no chance in specifying that her family's social manners, their nick names one of Malika's sisters is nicknamed "Brigitte Bardot", the famous French racist , the books they order and read, the radio programs they listen to, the soccer teams they cheer, and the performances they stage in prison are good and exciting because they all bear the blessing stamp of Europe.
Malika insists on reminding us that the slightest detail in her life is one way or another an expressed allegiance to the West. As Malika "still remembers" now, France, winning or losing, is the only national team that stirred their "enthusiasm and disappointment" Malika does not spare even this trivial detail, which is nonetheless expressive of one's patriotism.
To make her story more precious on the global marketplace, Malika sells the self-image of a Moroccan renegade, a European-oriented martyr persecuted by the "barbaric" East now waiting to be reclaimed by the civilized Christian West. But the image is more complex than it looks. Malika does not abdicate her Moroccan background without first exploiting it, albeit instrumentally.
Journey to Freedom: Moroccan Stories
She recuperates her Moroccan identity when it is suitable to her position as a native spokeswoman endowed with due expertise in Moroccan politics. Speaking as a well-informed insider, Malika alleges that all Moroccans are "prisoners" of their own culture, their religion, and their political system she excludes here her father's military power without at the same time being conscious of their own fate. Right after her escape from prison, a significant public scene in the streets of Casablanca catches her attention: This continual procession of people walking with their heads down, not seeing where they were going, reminded me of Chaplain's Modern Times.
I felt curiously sorry for them. All in all, they were more to be pitied than I was. Not surprisingly, these are the same qualities that Malika appreciates when it comes to her father; Moroccans then are not submissive but "loyal" to Mohamed Oufkir, the man of justice and compassion. In her turn, Malika poses here as a wise woman who is able to diagnose and assure Moroccans that she knows them more than they know themselves.
Yet, the more she pretends to know the deeper she exposes herself as someone with an ambitious task but lacks the most basic intellectual and methodological means to carry it out. Malika should make it clear that her political analysis, no matter how embroiled in emotion, is restricted to a personal trauma going back to the Oufkirs' long benefit from and abrupt deprivation of the royal privileges: The question that haunts her, therefore, is formulated around the enigmatic relationship between her father Mohamed Oufkir and her adoptive father Hassan II: But the Freudian turn against the adoptive father is freed of its psychological bounds to become a vindictive campaign whereby the whole Moroccan nation is accused of being behind the Oufkirs' suffering and victimization.
As Malika's finger-pointing shows throughout her story, all Moroccans must be blamed for her predicament. Should we fail to get this accusatory idea from the story itself, Fitoussi highlights it in the book's preface as a verdict dividing the accuser Malika and the accused Moroccan people. Malika holds Moroccan people in "warmth and passion," asserts Fitoussi, "even though they deserted her" 6. Guilty as they all are, Moroccan men and woman should silently accept the verdict, nodding their heads in recognition of Malika's pitiful and forgiving words.
Their sympathy may not be even retained since it is counterproductive to her general and global cavalcade against their Islamic or Eastern beliefs.
Has she left any reasons for Moroccans, treated here as "deserters," to sympathize with her story? Fitoussi's absurd judgment reflects that she is either a mediocre reader of the story, or is too personally involved in Malika's scheme to be curious about the history of the Oufkirs. What are the specific crimes committed by Moroccans to deserve Malika's blame? Or, what good Malika has done to Morocco to feel disappointed by Moroccans? No matter how strong her suffering and imprisonment, they alone do not make Malika a national heroine whose ideas and actions are to be shared by Moroccans.
The latter stong reasons to reject her polarized and polemical views, without compromising their belief in free speech and self criticism. What was Malika doing when Moroccans of her generation the late 60s and early 70s were fighting for an independent country inspired by the modern values of democracy, freedom, and social progress at the price of being massively eliminated by the repressive machine set up by her father?
A short glance at her life prior to imprisonment is enough to make us argue that Malika had nothing in common with Moroccan men and women of her age. The General's daughter ridiculously describes herself as " a rebel", " a feminist," but neither of these terms has a social or political significance. She spent the years she now remembers as her rebellious period in shopping for the right skirts, securing the last fashionable haircuts, and sneaking to the most fashionable nightclubs in Morocco and abroad. Here's the passage that sums up the productive years of the so-called rebel: I just had to snap my fingers and anything I wanted was mine without any effort on my part.
I flew first class the way others took the bus. I bought up couturiers' collections in every major European city and, if need be, I borrowed my mother's Saint Laurent outfits. My life was an endless round of parties and balls, with guests straight out of the society gossip columns. I had a choice, the world was my oyster. I took everything for granted, money, luxury, power, royalty and subservience. Many would read it as a confession that clears, if not absolves, Malika's political standing. But once we examine the passage carefully and in relation to the insidious message underlying the entire text, we reach a different conclusion.
Malika hides from us the story of her luxurious lifestyle to exonerate her family from power and corruption. She never admits that the fortunes she spent on her numerous indulgences were illegally and immorally amassed by her father. Nor does she feel guilty that the bills of her consumerist desires were paid by the Moroccan poor. The unbridgeable gap between Malika and the rest of the Moroccan people needs no further comment.
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Yet recalling makes us alert to the book's narrative strategies. Malika's omissions are meant to keep the radical contrast, as carried by American reviews, newspapers, web sites, and TV shows, neat and undisturbed. To put the matter differently, Malika would like us to interpret the luxury of her youth as a contrast to her subsequent hardship in prison, not in comparison with the impoverished and modest life of her fellow Moroccans. Readers with no particular knowledge of Moroccan politics risk to be misled by the storyteller's strategies: As for informed readers, it is doubtful that they would be deceived, especially in Morocco where the name "Oufkir" has always been, and continues to be, synonymous with betrayal, self-serving military coups, kidnappings, assassinations, and massive repression of civilians.
But let us know move on to dig out the roots of Malika's European and Christian identity. Since Malika-a Berber native for whom Berbers are no more than exotic clowns stereotypically identified as "Blue Men" of the desert-acquired her new identity neither by birth nor by naturalization, her "deep" Europeanness may be explained in terms of her family's colonial past. As she herself tells us, both her grandfather and her father owe their political prominence to their careers in the French colonial regime, which ruled Morocco from to the independence in In the s, her grandfather, Ahmed Oufkir, was appointed "Provincial governor" of a southern region by "Lyautey, then Resident General under the French Protectorate" Her father would inherit the same, if not stronger, zeal for colonial service.
After his education at the school of Azrou, he became "second lieutenant in the French army" and received "his captain's stripes in Indochina" It is astounding that this history poses no moral or ethical problems to Malika, who instead conveys it to us with simplicity, innocence, and even pride. Nowhere does she imply that by serving the French colonial regime, the Oufkirs were actually betraying Moroccans of their generation who were dying in thousands, in the Rif, the Atlas, the South, and in the cities to free their native country from French occupation.
Worse, Mohamed Oufkir, as several historical sources testify, did not hesitate to execute hundreds of Moroccans during the popular uprising following the exile of King Mohamed V-Malika's adoptive father-in the early s. Mohamed Oufkir killed his own countrymen, both Berber and Arab, without the slightest feeling of shame. Nor does his daughter desire to redeem his criminal past in guilty or confessional terms. What stands clearly as the father's betrayal is for the daughter an achievement to be rewarded.
Malika deviously transforms her father's opportunism into natural outlines of a progressing career. Her father would of course not let any opportunity slip by without exploiting it to keep his dominance.
He distanced himself from the French and their Moroccan puppets Laglaoui and Ben Arafat only when he realized that the end of the French rule was eminent and the power transfer was about to take place. He successfully made his way into the new Morocco, climbing from director of National security to minister of the Interior to head of the army. The telling irony is that his role in rebuilding the free nation consisted in emptying it of its most promising voices in democracy, social progress, and economic development. Just as his military power was increasing so were his crimes.
Oufkir's countless crimes the most notorious is the assassination of the Moroccan and Third World charismatic leader Mehdi Ben Barka. All Moroccans knew that Malika's father kidnapped and executed Ben Barka in If it is too embarrassing for Malika to ignore her father's implication in the assassination, she remembers it in her book as a complicated affair beyond the mental scope of a young woman like her: One student called me a murderer's daughter, because of the Ben Barka affair, about which I still knew nothing.
I didn't know what to say back to them. With the naivety of my age, it wasn't my father I condemned during our political arguments, but the Government with a capital G and a capital R. It makes absolutely no sense to describe the Moroccan government from the independence to the coup without mentioning its essential backbone the General Mohamed Oufkir. Her devotion to French values did not help her either in discovering that France sentenced her father to life imprisonment for kidnapping Ben Barka Fitoussi puts the information in the book's footnote.
The same thing holds true for her school exams, scholarships, and studies abroad-the list of the laws broken by the Oufkirs can never be closed. All of a sudden, the Oufkir mansion, the bastion of French values according to the daughter, collapses upon its own inhabitants when they are asked to prove their commitment to law, trustworthiness, transparency, and honesty.
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Malika's naivete and obsession with luxury, if we wish, might explain her disinterest in political details, but never to the extent of ignoring the fact that her father had absolute power over the Moroccan secret service, security forces, home affairs, the army, and the Royal Air Force. Most importantly, by the time Malika conceived and wrote down her story she was a mature woman and a responsible public figure that could no longer hide the truth under the excuse of naivete. Yet, there is no significant difference between her thoughts now and her thoughts thirty years ago. The message remains the same: Oufkir used to be a powerful man, but all his crimes, including the assassination of Ben Barka, were virtually committed by the monarchy.
The missing details in the Ben Barka affair are now made available by European and Moroccan newspapers and magazines. According to the French daily Le Monde of June 26, , Ben Barka was "tortured to death" in a villa outside Paris, "assassinated by the General Oufkir and his assistant Major Dlimi" in the deep night of October 29, The Moroccan newspaper Le Journal added that King Hassan II made it almost clear in one of his speeches at the time that Ben Barka had the choice to come back from his French exile to help form a Moroccan democratic government.
The prospect of such a government was an obvious threat to Oufkir's power. He therefore began to coordinate with the French secret services and the CIA agents in preparation for the crime.
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Oufkir did not simply execute Ben Barka, but was determined to savagely torture him. To go back to the shocking details provided by Le Monde, "Mehdi Ben Barka, with a face dripping with sweat, is gasping for breath. Holding a blade in his hand, Oufkir gets closer, brushes against his [Ben Barka's] face, and draws sharp cuts on his open chest. But the opponent does not react, nor does he answer the questions Dlimi continues to ask him.
The corpse was smuggled in a plane to Rabat and was then dissolved in a bath of acid by Oufkir's security agents. It is actually one of these agents, Mohamed Boukhari, who uncovered the whole story of Ben Barka's kidnapping and assassination.
In spite of the pieces of information spared by Malika, she is never willing to help us get a glimpse of the ghastly role her father, who figures in her book's dedication, played in modern Morocco. Had Malika told us the whole truth her story would have captivated our hearts and our minds. To the thousand spectators who watched her on American TV channels, where, surprisingly, no one familiar with Moroccan politics was invited, Malika could have bravely told the missing truth about her family's devastating legacy.
In addition to blaming the monarchy, she could have dropped a short note about the CIA involvement in Ben Barka's assassination to make her American admirers question their foreign policy. For those of us who are deeply concerned, like the members of the Ben Barka family, Malika's recollection of her parents is even more insulting: If her father is "ordinary" then we should no longer trust the meaning of words. Perhaps such a skeptical attitude will motivate us to seriously think about the making of stories, not only what they say but also how they are written, published, and disseminated.
As for the Oufkirs' values and principles, they have yet to find an identity that will adopt them. In the meantime, we will continue to imagine Scheherazade as an exotic plant whose seeds were planted on a spoiled Moroccan soil and whose sour fruits are sweetened and consumed elsewhere. Mokhtar Ghambou Yale University mokhtar. Ghambou's article about "Stolen Lives" By: Weaver As an Anglo-American, I can tell you that the average American has no difficulty separating your country's historical socio-political policies from the principles of Islam including its flagrant violation of basic, universal concepts of human rights and human decency.
There is no confusion in our minds that equates Islam with Islamic politics as there is none in our minds regarding confusion between Christianity and our own socio-political ethos. We have no quarrel with Islam.
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The latest draft of the accompanying organic law adds a Kafkaesque twist: Moroccans have never been allowed to choose between these options, and nobody knows what the majority would choose in the unlikely event that people were ever consulted on the question. Also, the palace has prevented the emergence of any credible alternative to itself, evolutionary, revolutionary or otherwise. Only a quarter of adult Moroccans bothered to participate in the last electoral charade.
If anything, Moroccans have collectively chosen political apathy over either evolution or revolution. Many young Moroccans are unemployable under the conditions of global free-trade capitalism, and that won't change any time soon. Most Moroccan school leavers and graduates are woefully ill equipped to occupy the high end of the global labour market due to the dismal public education system; the current palace-led overhaul of that system, if successful, will take a full generation to bear fruit. At the same time, Moroccan semi-skilled and unskilled labour is not competitive.
Tragically, while the national minimum wage of about one Euro per hour is not enough for a family to live decently in a big Moroccan city, it is prohibitively expensive in a globalised world in which factory workers elsewhere get paid less than fifty Euros a month. Today's challenge is not to create millions of jobs, which is impossible in the short term. The real challenge is to keep millions of angry young people from collectively venting their rage against a system that first neglected them and then left them to rot while the privately educated kids of the rich cornered all the desirable jobs.
Morocco may be less unstable than Algeria, Libya, Egypt or Mauritania, but that hardly makes it a stable country. Morocco is riven by multiple fissure lines: These pre-existing divisions could easily be deepened and exploited by unscrupulous political actors if the opportunity arises. The demonstrations that erupted all across the country during the Arab Spring ended in full-blown riots in many towns.
In the near future, Morocco's already tenuous social stability will be further strained by the growing number of unemployable young people see above and the devastating impacts of climate change. According to the World Bank , "[l]arge fractions of currently marginal rain-fed cropland are expected to be abandoned or transformed into grazing land; current grazing land, meanwhile, may become unsuitable for any agricultural activity". Picture the following scenario: A severe drought sends the economy into a tailspin, violent demonstrations erupt nationwide, and at that moment the royal plane crashes.
The prime minister has repeatedly affirmed his government's role is to implement royal directives. Political parties are narrow patronage pyramids that don't even practice democracy internally. Business leaders seem unlikely to countenance large political risks against a background of long-term positive economic growth. Most citizens don't vote within the system; most don't actively demonstrate against the system.
What do Moroccans want? No reliable polling data exists, it is impossible to tell. As for America and Europe, why risk democracy in Morocco if you can deal directly with a 'reformist' king who keeps imports up, Islamists down, and illegal immigrants out of Europe? Stability, already tenuous, will come under further strain due to unavoidable mass unemployability and the effects of climate change. Only one thing is certain: This piece originally appeared on the openDemocracy website, and is republished here under Creative Commons licensing. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy Wrong. The palace has embraced democratic reform Wrong.