Friday, April 22, 2016

Morocco's Quiet Youth Revolution - Opinion

There is a change taking place amongst the young people of Morocco.  The high acceptance rate of new technologies is leading to attitude changes that will have a lasting and positive effect on the country. Ibn Warraq reports...

According to the annual survey of the ANRT (the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency) one in every two Moroccans has a smartphone. This take-up rate is even higher among younger people, particularly in the major metropolitan areas. The survey shows that there were an estimated 15 million in 2015 on top of which 66.5% of households now have access to the Internet.

The access to the internet and smartphones is having a profound effect on the social behaviour of young people, giving them a freedom to communicate with their peers in a way earlier generations could not. This is particularly true of relationships between young men and women. It is no longer possible to control social interactions as in the past. FaceBook, WhatsApp and Skype mean that the role of the chaperone is defunct. For young Moroccan women, organising a date or simply texting has opened the way for direct communication away of the controlling eyes of parents or extended family.

The access to information via the Internet is opening up the world and its possibilities. While there are those who see this freedom of information as potentially causing problems, for many it is a source of inspiration.

According to many more conservative Moroccans, these new-found freedoms come at price and potentially undermine traditional values. Others say that with the new freedom to communicate young people are quickly becoming adept at managing their own affairs.

Young Moroccans have shown themselves to be fast at adapting to the new social freedoms and use their online networks to share information. Recently, when the major telecom providers attempted to block VOIP calls, the social networks quickly spread the word on how to bypass the restrictions and within days almost every teenager was able to continue to use their calling and messaging services.

At the same time as social and communication freedoms are taking place there are attitudinal changes amongst young people, with an overwhelming majority of Moroccan students declaring themselves secular

Assabah News is carrying a report on a survey of Moroccan students that shows Moroccan students are a secular majority who believe think that religion should remain in the private sphere.

75.6% of surveyed students think that religion should not be taught in school and must remain a personal matter. 15.6% believe that religion promotes good conduct while only a very small minority, 4.5%, think that religion should be involved in politics.

The study also reveals that an overwhelming majority (95%) of Moroccan students want more foreign languages ​​offered at school because they believe that improved command of languages ​​is crucial for the employment market.

According to the Assabah News story the study was produced by the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Moroccan Student group. The sample group comprised 5200 students from both public and private schools.

The result is seen as being accurate and showed little change since the last Education Ministry survey back in 2012 which showed that a similar majority of students were describing themselves as secular.

A recent comparative study of young, educated, professional and urban women in Morocco and women of Moroccan origin in France, examining attitudinal changes and discerning cultural trends showed that exposure to global trends, coupled with high education standards showed that young, educated, professional and urban women in Morocco and women of Moroccan origin in France share significant values. These include their conceptions of Islam being marked by a desire for personal interpretation.

Rural Morocco is slower to change

The large proportion of unmarried women in their late twenties and early thirties in both samples indicated a strong desire for self-realisation and determination at the cost of early marriage or marriage altogether.

In a society strongly shaped by the values of Islam and by traditional Arab views concerning honour, modesty, and gender, the speed at which changes are taking place varies widely between rural and urban communities. The social, sexual and behavioural attitudes of young people in Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech or Tangier are far removed from the strongly-differentiated gender roles in the villages of the Atlas Mountains or the Saharan fringes.

This is a quiet, non-violent revolution and while the societal impacts over the next decades maybe hard to predict, one thing is certain, Pandora's box has been opened and can not be closed.

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