Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Moroccan News Briefs - #19

Moroccan News Briefs published in The View From Fez draw on open source material, contributions from readers, as well as material from Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), Morocco Times and official Moroccan Government press releases.

  • The right to caricature God?

  • The fallout from the Danish cartoons scandal shows no sign of abating. Now the French press have weighed in with the claim they have the right to publish what they want. On Wednesday, France Soir newspaper published the Danish cartoons which depict the prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Under the title “Yes, we have the right to caricature God”, the French daily put on its front page the depiction of Prophet Mohammed angry and sitting on a cloud with Buddha, and a Jewish and a Christian God. The caricature shows the Christian God saying “don't complain, Mohammed, we have all been caricatured here.”

    While the Danish paper, which ignited the Arab world's anger, has apologized for causing the “not intended offence” to Muslims, the French daily said it had published the cartoons to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.

    "The publication of the 12 cartoons in the Danish press has shocked the Muslim world for whom the representation of Allah and his prophet is banned," the newspaper said. "But because no religious dogma can impose its view on a democratic and secular society, France Soir publishes the incriminated cartoons," said the paper.

    France Soir has even gone further. According to the BBC, the paper published an accompanying commentary in which the editor, Serge Faubert, affirmed “I would never apologise for the decision to publish.”

    “Enough lessons from these reactionary bigots!” wrote Faubert.

    "There is nothing in these incriminated cartoons that intends to be racist or denigrate any community as such. Some are funny, others less so. That's it. That is why we have decided to publish them," he added.

    Unlike the Danish attitude, the French editor firmly added "No, we will never apologise for being free to speak, to think and to believe."

    Last Monday, France affirmed its opposition to the principle of boycotting called for by Arab countries against Denmark and Norway, following their publishing of the blasphemous cartoons.

    “We traditionally oppose the boycott principle,” said Denis Simonneau, a deputy spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    The French reaction came just after some Danish Muslim groups tried to calm down Arab's anger.

    The Danish government, which declared it would not punish the paper which published the offensive drawings, was subjected to an avalanche of criticism. Boycotts of Danish goods by Muslims took place all over the world.

    Arla Foods, Europe's largest dairy group which is headquartered in Denmark, said it was losing 10 million kroner (£916,000) a day because of the boycott. The world's biggest maker of insulin, Novo Nordisk, has also been hit after pharmacies and hospitals in Saudi Arabia refused to offer its products.

    Seeing that Denmark's position in the crisis threatens the country's interest, the editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten apologised on Monday for publishing the satirical caricatures.

    In a statement to "The Honorable Fellow Citizens of the Muslim World", the editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, said the cartoons "were not in violation of Danish law but they have undoubtedly offended many Muslims, for which we would like to apologize".

    The Danish Premier, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said earlier that he can not intervene in the newspapers' choice of what they print, but soon changed his position saying: “I personally have such a respect for people's religious feelings that I would not have depicted Mohammed, Jesus or other religious figures in such a manner that would offend other people."

    France, publishing a drawing of Prophet Mohammed's turban as a bomb with a lit fuse and another in which he turns suicide bombers away from heaven saying “we have run out of virgins”, stirred the same burning anger that was more or less quenched by the Danish apologies.

    Paris, known for its strict separation of church and state, has already been subjected to similar protests.

    The European country, where five million Muslims live, issued in 2004 a law that prohibited the wearing of Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and prominent Christian crosses in secular state schools.

    Muslims all over the world organised demonstrations to condemn the French decision. Mass protests swept 25 countries and declared an international day against the hijab ban.

    The slogans of protestors read “My hijab is my right and my freedom. It gives me the freedom to do what I want.

    In Morocco, the Higher Council of Ulema reacted angrily to the smearing cartoons, saying that they "disparaged the feelings of Muslims, and averted them from their objective of establishing concord, peace and rapprochement values" according to a communiqué of the Council.

    The document, published on Tuesday, says the denunciation of the Council came after consideration of the "intended and non-intended harm included in the cartoons, the persiflage founded on wrong conceptions, and the fallacious association of the person of the noble prophet with despicable deeds that are diametrically opposed to what this prophet preached."

    The Council, a mouthpiece of the local councils of Ulema and of the institutions of Ulema in Morocco, also condemned "the use of the freedom of speech to launch an assault against hundreds of millions of Muslims," who reject the humiliation of any prophet, from Adam to Muhammad, including Moses and Jesus.

    The Council exhorted wise people and decision makers around the world to stay united to champion freedom and the ethical values against irresponsibility and hatred.

    The communiqué underlined that Muslim scholars, who are working in an increasingly tense international environment, find that their task is getting harder to fulfil because of the repeated acts of disrespect towards their sanctities, on top of which is their noble prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

    The higher council, which is presided over by king Mohammed VI, is comprised of 15 members, heads of the thirty regional councils of Ulema, the minister of Islamic affairs, and a secretary general.

  • King Lunches Chefchaoun Projects

  • On Wednesday King Mohammed VI launched the construction of a sports center and the rehabilitation of a large mosque in the northern town of Chefchaoun. The sports center, to cost USD 1.4 million, is designed to promote sports and cultural activities in the town. The latter hosts annually, since 1965, a national festival of poetry, a plastic arts exhibition and a national festival for Andalusian music. The project, to be completed in 12 months, includes a sports stadium, a room for exhibitions and health and administrative facilities.

    The king also launched the rehabilitation of a large mosque that was built in 1471 (969 Hegira). He was briefed afterwards about the rehabilitation of the town’s main square, extending on a 12,800 m2 area.

  • Spanish Visit "Deplorable"

  • Tuesday's visit of the head of the Spanish government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to the Spanish-occupied Moroccan northern cities of Sebta and Mellilia is "inappropriate" and "deplorable."

    The statement was made by Morocco's Minister of Communication, Spokesman of the Government, Nabil Benabdellah, who said "it is a visit that we deem inappropriate and that changes nothing in the nature of the problem," adding that "we can only deplore such a move."

    For its part, the Moroccan press was unanimous in condemming the visit as “inappropriate”, claiming that it does not serve the interests of either Morocco and Spain.

    Liberation, mouthpiece of the Moroccan socialist party (USFP) called Spain’s socialists to “consolidate their civilizing dialog policy with their southern neighbors, including Morocco.”

    Al Istiqlal (independence) party daily L’Opinion described the visit as “regrettable,” “inappropriate,” “provocative” and “prejudicial to the feelings of Moroccans.”

  • Swiss Foundation donates funds

  • Two Moroccan associations are to receive funds to pay for their social and job generating projects from the Swiss "Smiling Children Foundation," which has organized, to this end, lately a fund-raising gala in the Swiss city of Geneva.The Casablanca-based "l'Heure Joyeuse" association will get some of the money for its project "Heure Propre" (clean hour) that collects, sorts out and treats industrial waste.

    The project is in a first stage to open a company to reuse printer cartridges that will help create 50 jobs, and in a second stage enlarge the activities of the company to processing other industrial waste.

    The Swiss foundation is also giving some of the money to the "INSAF" association that is running a project to sponsor girl maids to help them get out of the work circle, re-integrate them in their families and enable them to go to school.

    Moroccan ambassador to Switzerland, Mohamed Guedira, said in a message to the gala, the action of "Smiling Children" is contributing to the efforts of the Moroccan civil society to narrow the economic and social disparities that the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), initiated by King Mohammed VI last May, to fight poverty and exclusion in the north African kingdom, targets to eradicate.

    The gala featured French-Moroccan comedian Jamal Debouz, who, according to organizers, through "his generosity," helped the Swiss foundation reach the goals it set to support the projects in Morocco.

    The foundation mulls launching another project in the Imine Tanout region, some 100 km south of Marrakech, in an olive tree plantation likely to help the youth of the region get jobs. Debouz asked the Ora-Bto designer to make a bottle for the olive oil to be produced in the plantation.

    "Smiling Children" was set up 14 months ago in the wake of the December 2004 Asian Tsunami to help children schooling and create job generating enterprises for impoverished young people.

    It is a non-profit foundation based in Switzerland. Its principal objective is to support or create projects generating employment for human beings in great material, environmental and/or emotional difficulty (refugees, homeless children, orphans, single mothers...), reads the web site of the foundation.

    The foundation's aim is to help those distressed groups of people to support themselves without outside aid. Smiling Children aims at accompanying these people up until the point when they will be of sufficient autonomy to be the sole provider of their physical and social needs.

  • Canadian doctors are volunteering

  • A group of Canadian cardiologists will visit Morocco in March to perform fifty operations on children suffering from cardiac deformities.

    Speaking at a press conference, held Tuesday at Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal, organizers said a Sainte-Justine hospital team, including twenty medical and paramedical staff, will visit Morocco twice a year.

    This humanitarian mission is part of a cooperation entente signed in March 2005 between the Sainte-Justine hospital, Bonnes Oeuvres du Coeur of Casablanca and Quebec's NGO "Mobilisation Enfants du Monde" (MEM).

    The agreement aims to develop a close cooperation between the Moroccan and Canadian cardiology programs and to support the training of Moroccan medical staff.

    The Moroccan-Canadian partnership will also include training of Moroccan staff in the Canadian hospital, a program of videoconference training and sending materials from Sainte-Justine hospital and its Canadian partners to Morocco.

    Some 300,000 children suffer from cardiac deformities in Morocco. Their health condition requires an expensive treatment that is too expensive for the majority of families. To address this situation ,the “Bonnes Oeuvres du Cœur” association created a clinic that treats impoverished young patients suffering from cardiac deformities in Casablanca.

    Although the Canadian doctors are volunteering for this work, the costs associated to the mission will reach nearly USD 55,000. Mobilisation Enfants du Monde will raise the money to fund this project.


    1 comment:

    Poetry said...

    24 JUne 2007 (even tide)

    A study of Sun Rays (Crespuscular)

    Running to find the end of the rainbow.

    Running to find that shaft glory--to be bathed in light.

    Bearing the soul to the divine.

    Seeking rest, surcease and cleansing all at once.

    Faith like a waterfall--full, abundant and never ceasing.

    25 June 2007

    Faith like a dream.

    Steadfast like a rock among the rapids.

    Quickly before the moment has passed

    Look into the water and see the gathering malestrom in the deep.

    Faith like a million droplets in a summer storm.

    Take delight in the rain.

    Move and have your being in it.

    "Be still and know that I am God."

    26 June 2007

    Clouds on glass.