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.
Yussef Qaradhawi’s Islam Online reports that a song allegedly insulting Muslims won the first prize in the Chirigota festival recently held in Sebta, a Moroccan northern city still under Spanish occupation.
Local Muslims and political parties have succesfully called for the withdrawal of the prize.
"The Democratic Party in Sebta [which groups many Spanish Muslims of Moroccan origin] is planning a legal action against the festival’s organizers for the racism displayed in the song’s lyrics," party head Mohamad Ali said
The lyrics describe Muslims as "animals" and "bastards." The song includes the words, “Hitler made a mistake … the Turks are animals … bastard Moros.”
However, speaking to the Spanish daily El Plural, the song’s authors, Los Polluelos con pelos en los güevos, deny it is racist and blasted the lack of understanding on the part of Muslims. "We did not intended to insult collectively Muslims, but a part whose attitude we do not share" said Jorge Pérez, author of the lyrics and added "We call animals all those who kill in the name of religion and if a Christian killed in the name of Christ, we would consider him to be an animal as well".
Last night Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos critricised the song for insulting Muslims.
The city's municipality chief, Kwan Bebas, stood behind the festival's organizers and rejected to withdraw the award.
"The song's band will keep the award since it has been given by a professional and independent committee," he argued.
Spanish Antenna 3 TV channel described the song as a stigma on the city's government.
It said in a report that the song could serve as a powder keg in the city despite the painstaking efforts made by Muslim leaders to defuse the crisis.
Meanwhile, Juan del Rio, bishop of Jerez de la Frontera, yesterday said there is "a double standard" in Spain for religions.
“While political leaders ask for sensitivity in understanding Islam, they are silent or look the other way when Christianity is insulted,” Spain Herald paper quoted him as saying.
Pedro Zerolo, a homosexual Socialist activist, who led last year's Gay Pride march which contained a great variety of insults to Catholics, attacked the satirical song for "insulting the Islamic community."
The bishop, Juan del Rio, also declared that "freedom of expression has limits marked by the law," adding that "the name of God should not be used in vain to crush with violence the principles that configure free societies."
He added that “freedom of expression cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers."
The Sebta Democratic Coalition, Social and Democratic Party, and Socialist Worker Party announced that they will press charges against the song and against Sebta President Juan Jesus Vivas for the “incitement to discrimination because there is clear connivance, omission, and cooperation in the crimes mentioned in the charges, since they knew the lyrics beforehand and did nothing.”
In addition, Sebta's Muslim community has requested official authorisation to hold a protest demonstration on the afternoon of March 13, to begin in the middle of the city's Muslim quarter and end at the government building.
The song controversy came less than a month after Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero paid a visit to the city where he met with representatives of all faiths and inspected the sites of African illegal migrants' infiltration of barbed wire lines.
A Spanish auction house was to sell three mediocre oils painted by an amateur, a young officer in the Spanish army. The auction house says it would have been the first time that works by the country's former Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, who signed his work Gironès, have been auctioned.
The three paintings had a starting price of €9,000 (£6,100) each, considerably above their artistic value, as collectors of Franco memorabilia were expected to flock to the sale on April 5. The three oils are scenes from Morocco where Franco spent much of his early career in the Spanish army.
HOWEVER! The paintings have been withdrawn from auction in Seville, after Franco's family denied that they were his work. Seville lawyer, Joaquen Moekel, as spokesman for the Franco family, has "emphatically" denied that they are the work of the dictator as, he said, Franco never signed his work with a pseudonym and never painted landscapes of Morocco.
Franco had a meteoric career as a young army officer commanding Spanish troops in Morocco. He became Europe's youngest general when, aged 33, he was promoted to the rank in 1926. Ten years later he would take command of a rightwing military uprising against the elected government of the Republic.
That uprising started the Spanish civil war and ushered in one of Europe's longest 20th-century dictatorships, which lasted until his death from natural causes in 1975.
The oils were a gift from Franco's daughter, Carmen, to an unnamed person who had worked for her for 30 years. They were being sold by that person's son, whose was also not named.
Painting was just one of the generalísimo's hobbies. He was also a film fan and had a movie made out of a novel, called Raza, or Race, that he wrote under a pseudonym.
Of the 145,000 German tourists who visited Morocco in 2005 many increasingly opt for the plane for their trips.
The number of arrivals by plane increased by 5.4%, said Jamal Kilito, an official of the office in Düsseldorf, on the sidelines of the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin.
The number of night stays also rose by 10%, whereas arrivals in hotels saw an increase of 19%.
These statistics, underlined Kilito, show the good impact of the German tourist flow on the economy of kingdom in general, and the tourist sector in particular.
“In spite of this growth, we have set an obective for ourselves: a 10% rise of German tourists in 2006,” declared the official, stressing that a communication campaign is being finalised.
During this edition of ITB Berlin, which is being held on March 8-12, Morocco is exhibiting its tourist assets and cultural specificities.
The Moroccan stand, which covers 300 m², is characterised by local architectural specificities. The exhibitions of Moroccan craftsmen will be accompanied by Gnawa music and tea-serving ceremonies.
Seven regional and provincial centres as well as representatives from five groups of hotels and travel agencies are presenting Morocco in this event.
Singer Cheikh Ali Tinissani Yaacoubi, one of the deans of the bedouin music of the eastern region of Morocco, passed away lately at the age of 85.
Born in 1921 in Taghjirt, close to the town of Ahfir, some 35 km north of here, the late cheikh, title given to singers and musicians in the region, reached through his genius fame in the Moroccan eastern and Algerian western regions in this music genre specific to the two regions.
The traditional music bands use flutes (gasba) and cylinder-shaped drums (gallal), but also ordinary drums (bendir). Some also use ghaitas or zamar: long flute whose shaft bifurcates in two horns. The songs revolve usually around love, but also general life and many celebrated patriotic figures and resisters during the struggle for independence.
Cheikh Ali also sang the malhoun genre, more sophisticated music originating from Arabic Andalusia, dealing with various aspects of daily life but also historical periods of the region.
Famed for his strong voice, Cheikh Ali also exquisitely played the four kinds of gasba: small ones (makhzania) produce high pitch sounds, followed by taller gablia and sbaiel emitting medium pitch and the tallest lekhmassi bass sound. The various flutes are used for various song styles.
The bands can play dance music to accompany the famous Allawi dance, where drum beaters play cadences of steps followed by dancers who simultaneously reproduce the cadence beating the ground with their feet. Nharia a lighter dance involving a row of dancers, is usually played by women.
The genre is also sung by famous woman singer “Rimiti,” Cheikh Hamada, Cheikh Madani, Cheikh Hattab, (all Algerian) Cheikh Abdelkader, Cheikh Mahri, Cheikh Said Jabri, (all Moroccan).
This genre of music can be called the father of the more modern “Rai” music, sung by several Moroccan and Algerian singers of the region as of the early eighties, including Chab Khaled, Chab Mokhtar Al Barkani, Chab
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