Sunday, August 28, 2016

Heat Wave Alert for Morocco

The Directorate of National Meteorology (DMN) has issued a warning that he weather will be very hot from Sunday to Tuesday in several regions of the Kingdom

Maximum temperatures will vary between 42 and Sunday 44 degrees in Es-Smara, Boujdour, Aoussred, within Wad Eddahab, Guelmim and Tan Tan, Assa-Zag, Tata, Ait Melloul Agadir, Taroudant, Youssoufia, Settat, Rhamna, Kelaâ Seraghna, Fquih Ben Saleh, Khemisset, Sidi Slimane and Ouazzane.

During the same day, temperatures from 38 to 41 degrees are expected in Larache, Kenitra, Sidi Kacem, Meknes, Fez, Moulay Yaakoub, Taounate Guercif, Ben Slimane, Khouribga, Sidi Bennour, Chichester, Zagora, Sidi Ifni, Tarfaya and Laayoune.

On Monday, temperatures will vary from 43 to 47 degrees in Aoussred, Oued Ed-Dahab, Boujdour, Es-Smara, Laayoune, Tarfaya, Tan-Tan, Guelmim, Agadir Ait Melloul and Tata.

The national Weather Service also forecast temperatures of 38-42 degrees in Assa-Zag, Zagora, Chtouka Ait Baha Tiznit, Sidi Ifni Inzegane, Chichoua, Essaouira and Safi, Sidi Bennour, Rhamna, Marrakech, Kelaa Seraghna, Settat, Fquih Ben Saleh, Khouribga, Khemissat, Berchid, Sidi Slimane, Sidi Kacem, Ouazzane, Fez, Moulay Yaakoub, Larache, Taounate and Guercif.

Tuesday 30 August, temperatures will be between 41 and 45 degrees Aoussred, Oued Ed-Dahab, Es-Smara, Boujdour, Laayoune, Tarfaya, Tan-Tan, Guelmim, Agadir, Ait Melloul and Tata.

Temperatures will reach between 38 and 41 degrees in Marrakech, Kelaâ Seraghna, Fquih Ben Saleh and Zagora.


Moroccan Children Watching English Language TV

The push for wider English language usage in Morocco is getting a small but unexpected boost from parents. While many politicians, educators and business leaders are calling for English to be a bigger part of the education system, it appears some parents are taking matters into their own hands and using the internet to show their children programmes in English
Time for Teletubbies...

Among the most popular programmes are the British Teletubbies and two Australian favourites; Play School and Bananas in Pyjamas.  From the USA the standout favourite is Sesame Street. 

The Teletubbies characters, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, may speak in their own peculiar way, but even if they are not fully understood by Moroccan kids, their names are becoming well known. The programme is aimed at pre-school children and is easily found on YouTube. Some YouTube sites are subscription, while many others are free.

"Play School encourages a child to think"

Play School has been on Australian TV for the last fifty years and is recognised as one of the highest quality children's programmes. It describes itself as "aiming to encourage a child to wonder, to think, to feel and to imagine. The program shows two warm, caring people taking the time to be with one child. They address the child directly and personally. Into this relationship are woven the stories, songs and activities that form the fabric of Australian children's culture. Play School is successful because it satisfies our basic human need to interact with other people and to be valued by them."

Play School uses clear language and repetition that young Moroccans quickly pick up and t's values are totally compatible with those of Morocco.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking B1?"

Possibly the most popular, and certainly the most addictive, children's programme is Bananas in Pyjamas. The main characters are two anthropomorphic bananas named B1 and B2. Other characters include the three teddy bears Amy, Lulu and Morgan, and Rat in a Hat. The bananas, the teddies and Rat in a Hat all live in the same neighbourhood, a cul-de-sac called "Cuddles Town". The characters enjoy eating "munchy honeycakes" and "yellow jelly". Together they solve problems and care for their friends.

Until recently it was difficult to access many programmes in England and Australia, but now, thanks to simple and popular tech-solutions, access is possible for anyone with a wifi connection.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Consumption of Alcohol Down in Morocco

Since 2012 the legal sales of alcoholic beverages in Morocco has been decreasing. This trend has continued during the first half of 2016

Figures reported by the weekly La Vie Eco in its issue this week show that from January to June 2016, the legal sales of alcoholic beverages declined by 3.7% compared to the same period of 2015. Only 498,298 litres were consumed in Morocco.

Some part of the decline may reflect the decrease in tourist numbers, but the drop observed sine 2012 shows it is an ongoing issue as a result of the increase in domestic consumption tax (TIC) made in 2012 and 2013 which has significantly impacted legal sales of alcohol.

La Vie Eco explains that the strategy recently made by the Carrefour group to withdraw its cheaper offerings has contributed to the accentuation of lower legal alcohol sales.

Official figures from the Customs Administration show that spirits sales declined 7.1% to 32,070 litres. The sales of beer was 341 hectolitres, down 3.8% compared to June 2015. Wines sales dropped 2.6%.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Errachidia Defies the Tourism Slump

22,870 tourist arrivals were recorded in four months, generating 30,939 overnight stays. The figures from the Provincial Tourism Delegation are a clear indication that Errachidia is having a bumper summer season

The city of Errachidia (Arabic: الرشيدية‎‎, ar-Rachīdīya) is located in the province of Errachidia, in the region of Drâa-Tafilalet. Its name is derived from the tribe which inhabited the city. It was formerly known as "Ksar es-Souk".

The tourism potentials of the province of Errachidia are rich and varied with a high concentration of activity at of Erfoud-Merzouga axis with large numbers of tourists visiting while doing a circuit to or from Marrakech, the sand dunes in Merzouga and Fez.

Errachidia now has very good quality accommodation

Errachidia has seen a clear progress during the first four months of 2016, led by strong growth in overnight stays and tourist arrivals.

A total of 22,870 tourist arrivals were recorded in four months in the province, generating 30,939 overnight stays, an increase of respectively 48 and 46% compared to the same period in 2015.

According to a breakdown by nationality, statistics from the Provincial Delegation highlight that non-resident tourists have accumulated 20,563 overnight stays from January to April 2016, and of that total, the Spaniards topped the list with 4,096 nights, closely followed by German tourists (3.953 overnight stays).

For domestic tourists, the number of overnight stays amounted to 10,376.

While 2016 is looking good, it is also an improvement on 2015 when accommodation establishments in the province posted a 38% drop in arrivals and 36% in overnight stays compared to 2014.

Tourist arrivals were about 53,194 in 2015 (86,469 in 2014) and 75,718 overnight stays, against 117,654 in 2014.


Algerian Call for Air Route Between Oran and Oujda

"Zouj Beghal", literally translated means "the two mules." This is the name given to the northern border between Algeria and Morocco at the time of the French occupation. For local people with family connections on different sides of the border its closure has caused years of problems. Now there are calls for an airline service between Oran and Oujda

The Federation of Algerian consumers has sent a motion to the Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, for consideration of the possibility of opening an air route linking Oran in Oujda. This significant demand is based on the difficulties citizens encounter two countries wishing to visit their respective families.

The closure of the land border between Morocco and Algeria, penalises residents of neighbouring regions and all those who have parents and relatives on both sides. Today, the only available flights connect the capital Algiers to Casablanca. And for those who have relatives in the border towns, they still have to travel hundreds of kilometres to reach their destination.

The president of the federation insists humanitarian considerations, particularly in the case of death when the relatives are unable to attend the funeral of one of their own, need to be addressed.

If the Algerian Prime Minister agreed to this request, the Moroccan government would have to agree. Opening the border would be a step in the right direction, given that the road distance between Oujda and Oran is less than 200 kilometres or, by plane around half an hour.

While Algeria has changed the name of the border since independence and renamed it "Akid Lotfi" after one of the leaders of the Algerian revolution, Morocco has retained the name given by the French. But, names aside, pending the reopening of the Zouj Beghal frontier post, an air route would please many on both sides of the border.


Moroccan Beaches - Burkinis and Bikinis

"Au Maroc, burkini et bikini coexistent sur les plages" The Moroccan Minister of Tourism, Lahcen Haddad, may have been speaking French, but his meaning was universally clear - Morocco is more tolerant than France, but, as he pointed out "This burkini story is a Franco-French affair and as a member of the Moroccan government, I am in no position to comment on the decisions of another country."

Diplomacy aside, Minister Haddad is correct. Visit a Moroccan beach and you will see a huge range of beachwear. However, some hotels and resorts have implemented bans in their pools. The Minister is quick to point out, that "... the ban on Burkini in Morocco emanates from some private institutions. We are in a Muslim country that also respects individual freedom and private initiative."
"The Moroccan state does not intervene there. On the beaches, people wear what they want provided you follow the rules of modesty. But for hygienic reasons of their own, some institutions and resorts do not tolerate the burkini. In Morocco we respect the values ​​of moderate Islam. bikini and burkini co-exist on our beaches." - Lahcen Haddad
The Minister also noted that in 2001, Morocco cracked down on Islamist association Al Adl Wa Al Ihssane’s members and supporters who attempted to Islamize Moroccan beaches.

“The Moroccan state takes control when citizens try to be vigilantes in public places,” he said, “the public beaches are available to everyone to access them, but no one has the right to tell others how to dress.”


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Backlash Against France's Burkini Ban

France is experiencing a worldwide backlash against its shameful moves to ban the burkini - the Australian designed bathing costume for Muslim women

Nice, Cannes, and several other French cities have recently enacted bans against the burkini, with supporters arguing that the swimwear is not "respectful of good morals and of secularism," and that it poses risks to hygiene and security. Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said that the burkini represents the "enslavement of women," while former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced his 2017 presidential campaign this week, described it as a "provocation" that supports radical Islam.

The argument for the ban rests, ostensibly, on the French principle of laïcité, which aims to keep religion out of the public sphere, and on the basis of gender equality. But critics say the burkini bans only serve to further stigmatise France's Muslim population — the largest in Europe — at a time when tensions are running high following terror attacks in Nice and the northern city of Rouen this summer. The French feminist group Osez le Féminisme! excoriated the bans in a statement released this week, saying they serve only to humiliate Muslim women "on the grounds of sexism and racism".

On Thursday, the council of state, France’s highest administrative court, will examine a request by the French Human Rights League to scrap the burkini bans. Lawyers argue that the short-term decrees are illegal.

A French politician has threatened lawsuits for showing these photos

Meanwhile, a French politician has threatened to file a lawsuit against anyone who shares photos or videos of police enforcing a ban on the burkini. The statement comes after the widespread circulation of photos showing the Muslim woman removing her clothes in front of four male police officers on a beach in Nice. The French spin doctors are hard at work trying to lessen the damage and now the Nice mayor’s office has even attempted to deny that the woman had been forced to remove clothing, telling Agence France-Presse that the woman was showing police the swimsuit she was wearing under her tunic over a pair of leggings

Christian Estrosi, president of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and deputy mayor of Nice, said in a statement Wednesday that the photos "provoke defamatory remarks and threats" against police agents. He added that legal complaints have already been filed "to prosecute those who spread the photographs of our municipal police officers and those uttering threats against them on social networks."

News media around the world have widely condemned the French ban and even non-Muslim women have been buying burkinis to wear in solidarity with the French women.

Burkini to the rescue - an Australian lifesaver

The British newspaper, The Guardian comments: The French republic is built on a strict separation of church and state, intended to foster equality for all private beliefs. In theory, the state is neutral in terms of religion and allows everyone the freedom to practise their faith as long as there is no threat to public order.

Benoît Hamon, a former education minister running to be the Socialists’ presidential candidate in the 2017 election, said a woman being stopped by police for wearing a headscarf on a beach made a mockery of French secularism and warned against “an obsessive oneupmanship against Muslims” by politicians.

The Green party senator Esther Benbassa tweeted: “Women in headscarves stopped by police on the beach. Secularism? No. Harassment. Anti-religious persecution.”

The French group Osez le féminisme said: “We condemn these anti-burkini decrees. Where are women’s rights when we hold one category of women responsible for ‘public disorder’, or even for terrorism? What is the link between a woman in a headscarf on a beach and mass murders carried out by jihadis?”

The garment’s Australian creator Aheda Zanetti,  reports that her sales have gone through the roof since Nice joined Cannes and a number of other water-side locations in not allowing women to wear the conservative design.

“Online sales in the last week have probably had a 200 per cent jump, maybe even 300 per cent,” she explains.

Aheda Zanetti - "I created the burqini for freedom, not to take it away"

While Ms Zanetti’s business has been buoyed by the recent controversy, she says that as a woman and a mother, she’s deeply hurt by the ban.

"I don’t understand why people think they have the right to [tell women what they can and can't wear]", Ms Zanetti says. She's also disappointed that her design has been politicised and associated with a certain religion.

“You can’t judge a wearer, she could be anyone and she is anyone," she states, “This has always been a swimsuit for everyone, it was designed to integrate among the West. It does not symbolise a Muslim woman, it should not symbolise a Muslim woman because the veil was taken away."

"The veil is usually a symbol of a typical Muslim woman and we took that away and replaced it with a hood to integrate within our Western friends and neighbours. No one needs to judge us on what faith we are if we choose to be modest while enjoying our leisure time."

At the same time France is being put to further shame by the actions of several other more tolerant societies. In Canada, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, called for  "the respect of individual rights and choices" and ruled out a burkini ban.  Also the Royal Canadian Mounted Police known simply as "the Mounties", have adopted a new uniform policy to allow female Muslim officers to wear the hijab.

Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, confirmed that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson recently approved an addition to the uniform policy to allow women officers to wear the head scarf "if they so choose."

"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a progressive and inclusive police service that values and respects persons of all cultural and religious backgrounds," Bardsley said.

Bardsley said the RCMP will be the third Canadian police force to adopt the hijab policy, behind Toronto and Edmonton police services. Police services across the U.K., Sweden and Norway, and some in U.S. states, have also adopted similar policies.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims applauded the policy change, calling it a "welcome one and a natural evolution for Canadian policing." The advocacy group said three types of headscarves were tested to select one that would not encumber officers and could be easily removed when required.

"While in 1990 there was initial reluctance to allow Sikh RCMP officers to wear the turban as part of their uniforms, Canadians have since embraced the change and we expect that this will be the same with the decision to allow the hijab, said the council's communications director Amira Elghawaby in a release.

"The Canadian Muslim population is growing and this decision will help reflect the richness and diversity of our country as well as open up career options for minorities."

The military has longstanding policies "to protect and promote the religious or spiritual rights and freedoms of [Canadian Armed Forces] members," including accommodating religious and spiritual requirements "if militarily practicable."

 Lt.-Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh became the first CAF member to wear the hijab in 1996

Lt. Commander Wafa Dabbagh became the first female member of the Canadian Armed Forces to wear the hijab in 1996.

According to the military's dress instructions manual dated 2001, members can wear the hijab with certain conditions.

"For spiritual and religious reasons, members are authorised to wear the hijab, provided that any danger should be avoided when they carry some types of operational gear parts such as gas mask, oxygen mask, combat/vehicle/flying/ construction helmets, diver's mask, etc.," the policy reads.

"In case of real danger, these members shall modify their hairstyling or hijab, or both, in a way that will allow them to wear the requested gear."

British police have allowed hijab for the last ten years

And on the other side of the Atlantic, Police Scotland have approved the hijab as official uniform to boost number of Muslim women joining force.

In a statement, chief constable Phil Gormley said: “I am delighted to make this announcement and welcome the support from both the Muslim community, and the wider community, as well as police officers and staff.

“Like many other employers, especially in the public sector, we are working towards ensuring our service is representative of the communities we serve. I hope that this addition to our uniform options will contribute to making our staff mix more diverse and adds to the life skills, experiences and personal qualities that our officers and staff bring to policing the communities of Scotland.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Scottish Police Muslim Association (SPMA), a group that aims to build links between Muslim communities in Scotland and the police.

Fahad Bashir, chair of the SPMA said: “This is a positive step in the right direction, and I am delighted that Police Scotland is taking productive steps in order to ensure that our organisation is seen to be inclusive and represents the diverse communities that we serve across Scotland.

“No doubt this will encourage more women from Muslim and minority ethnic backgrounds to join Police Scotland.”

Back in France Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has warned against stigmatising Muslims. Speaking after a meeting with the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Cazeneuve said: "The implementation of secularism, and the option of adopting such decrees must not lead to stigmatisation or the creation of hostility between French people."

In the end, France’s burkini ban exposes the hypocrisy of its secularist state and the ban on the burkini will do nothing but further increase tensions and fuel extremism. It brings nothing but shame to the country of France.