Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two sides of the Moroccan coin

 Is Morocco a model of Muslim-Jewish coexistence or is it infected with the virus of antisemitism? Two articles have emerged recently showing both aspects: neither contradicts the other. The first, by Noam Nir in the mass circulation Hebrew daily Maariv, points to pernicious antisemitism in school exams. The second, filled with reminiscences  by Charles Dahan of the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, tells why Morocco gives him hope for Middle East peace. A cynic would point out, however, that Dahan is writing from the comfort and safety of Florida, USA.

While Morocco's King Mohammed VI works to ensure coexistence and preservation of Jewish heritage, anti-Semitism is gaining legitimacy even in  academic circles in the Kingdom.
האנטישמיות מרימה את ראשה. שאלון הבחינה במרוקו
Anti-Semitism rearing its head. Morocco exam questionnaire

The latest antisemitic incident occurred last week in the city of Oujda in eastern Morocco. A few days before the King's visit to an academic institution, a local newspaper published a photo of a recent test of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences demonstrating serious examples of antisemitism.

Students being tested in English were asked to answer the following two open questions: "How does the history of the Jews show their hatred towards others?" And how how can one justify the fact that Jews use immorality and deception, basically, based on their spiritual bankruptcy? Use historical facts to explain your answer. "

It was a rare case in which antisemitism trickles down into an educational institution, but it is certainly not the only one. In 2009, for example, a leading current affairs magazine in Morocco revealed  students' elementary exam papers where Jews were called "pigs and monkeys" and prophets' killers. "

Perhaps this is not surprising considering that the annual book fair held in Casablanca, the business capital, features publishers who regularly promote anti-Semitic books, including "Mein Kampf" and the " Protocols of the Elders of Zion. "Has turned the past Wiesenthal Center, battling anti-Semitism, the Government of Morocco and sought to stop the selling books, but to no avail.

Google translation into English

Charles Dahan writes in the Washington Post:

As a Jew growing up in Meknes, a city in the northern part of the country, I attended public school, studying alongside Muslim (and Christian) classmates. To this day I remain friends with many of them, and not once did I feel different from them in anything but our religion. Even then, our traditions were always welcoming, constantly overlapping. Jewish families would often invite their Muslim neighbors for the traditional Shabbat meal on Saturday afternoons, where we served “dafina”—a stew of meat, potatoes, eggs, chickpeas and grains seasoned with favorite Moroccan spices like turmeric and cumin. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, I remember that the mayor of Meknes and many government officials, including the chief of police, were invited to receive a special blessing from the rabbis.

My favorite example of these exchanges is Passover. According to Jewish law, households must get rid of all bread products before Passover. In Morocco, we would give these to our Muslim neighbors before the start of the holiday. For eight days, Jews could not eat at Muslims’ homes due to the dietary restrictions. But at the mimouna—the festival meal marking the end of Passover—they joined us for a true feast, bringing sweets as a symbol of hospitality and friendship. Of course we were invited to Muslim holiday celebrations, too. Their holidays were like open houses, where everyone was welcome.

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