Sunday, July 18, 2010

Anne Frank exhibition comes to Morocco

Volunteer guides in training at the Anne Frank exhibition in Fez

Moroccans have never heard of Anne Frank. Now all that is changing, with an exhibition in Fez about the famous Jewish diarist from Amsterdam, intended to combat Holocaust denial. However, the exhibition tries so hard to 'relativise' the Holocaust, that visitors ask why Anne Frank should have been singled out for attention from other victims of discrimination. Via the View from Fez blog (with thanks: Michelle):

Hafsa Aloui Lamrani (19) says she had been told millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, but before the training, questioned whether it was true or not.

'Here in Morocco we're always shocked by what we see on television, the Palestinians, Iraq, Afghanistan', she said. 'We're always shocked, so this isn't something new. But we still experience this story of Anne Frank.... That there's nobody to help you, that you're all alone in the world and that you're always attacked. One’s race is like a terrible thing.'

The exhibition features 36 panels on the young Anne Frank and her family, as well as photos showing Jews being deported. There is also a focus on other crimes against humanity including the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia. During the training, participants are shown video clips of anti-Jewish protests in Berlin, followed by a violent anti-Islam film, and are challenged on whether freedom of speech should apply to both examples.

It's a different way for these young people in Morocco to learn about a delicate topic that clearly provokes emotional reactions. As well as expressing scepticism about the aims of the organisers and concern about pro-Jewish propaganda, they ask why Anne Frank has been singled out from all the other victims of discrimination.

History lessons in Morocco focus little on World War II, and in the past have tended to skim over the subject of the Holocaust, according to teacher Hassan Moussaoui:

'The reason for this is primarily political, and secondly, religious', he explains. 'The Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict Arabs feel is unfair. They're mistreated, they're marginalized. It's normal that there are negative repercussions. Of course we don't teach this history because the ministry of education is responsible for the curriculum .... It's not that they don't want to include it, but they're hiding from repercussions on the street, from parents.'

Amsterdam's Anne Frank Museum has already taken the exhibition to more than 60 countries, and works with local partners to adapt it where necessary - in this case, the Fez-based Moroccan Centre for Human Rights. Director Jamal Chadhi admits it was a difficult decision to become involved. There were calls for the project to be scrapped after the recent Israeli attacks on aid ships bound for Gaza in which people were killed.

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