Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges by Marvine Howe

By Marvine Howe

In Morocco, Marvine Howe, a former correspondent for the recent York occasions, offers an incisive and finished overview of the Moroccan state and its humans, previous and current. She offers a bright and frank portrait of overdue King Hassan, whom she knew individually and credit with laying the rules of a contemporary, pro-Western nation and analyzes the pressures his successor, King Mohammed VI has come less than to rework the autocratic monarchy right into a full-fledged democracy. Howe addresses rising matters and problems--equal rights for girls, removing of corruption and correction of obvious monetary and social disparities--and asks the elemental query: can this old Muslim nation embody western democracy in an period of deepening divisions among the Islamic global and the West?

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And it still possesses a special magnetism, which over the years has seduced foreign artists, musicians, writers, and celebrities like Delacroix and Matisse, Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet, and Brian Jones, Catherine Deneuve, Barbara Hutton, and Malcolm Forbes. An early visitor, Mark Twain writes in The Innocents Abroad: “We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign—foreign from top to bottom—foreign from center to circumference—foreign inside and outside and all around—nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness—nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun.

The big event of the region was the Fête des Fiançailles, the Aït Hadiddou tribal marriage market, every September. According to the local legend, two lakes nearby were formed from the tears of two lovers, whose marriage was forbidden by their rival tribes. In the 1960s, it used to take a long day’s trip to reach Imilchil, struggling over dirt tracks and fording mountain streams. There were no hotels or cafes, and we slept in huge goatskin tents with other visitors. It was like a big fair with thousands of visitors and animals milling about.

As the demand increased, marijuana and its concentrate, known as chira, became big business and an important if clandestine export. Morocco gained the dubious reputation of the world’s number one producer of marijuana. Moroccan and European authorities seize about 500 tons of Moroccan hashish a year, but nobody knows how much gets through to the world market. Official policy since the 1960s has been to phase out the cultivation of marijuana and replace it with other crops. The problem is that substitutes like almond and fruit trees take too long to grow and are less lucrative than marijuana.

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