Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fès Festival Forums - Day Two

Bariza Khiari sat in the shade of the large Barbary Oak at the Batha Museum this morning as the second day of the Fez Forums launched into today's discussion titled, "The future after the Arab Spring". Vivian Nguyen reports for The View from Fez.

Khiari, who is the vice president of the French Senate, wore an all-white ensemble. The tranquility of her outfit reflected her cool yet calm commentary on the necessity for Muslim societies to retain their grasp on cultural and religious values.

"What is the future of the Arab Spring?" Khiari posed to the audience. "It will require Muslims to retrieve and reconnect themselves with the veritable, traditional Islam that focuses on the family ... and to avoid trying to look for models that are too Western".

In stark contrast with her earlier proclamations against Western values, Khiari's words also urged for a move to establish a more modern woman in Muslim society.

"I regret to say in Morocco that there are not many women who participate in the social sphere, and it's not a good image that Morocco can show. ... There cannot be democracy without the redefinition of the position of women".

Khiari also continued to argue for a move towards democracy in Muslim societies.

"I defend a free, spiritual Islam. I defend democracy. We cannot continue with [improving] societal issues without considering the economy, employment, and well-being of a good governance".

It was clear that Khiari was critically examining both the positive and negative impacts of the Arab Spring, but it remained unclear which perspective she identified with the most.

Fellow panelists, Habib Belkouchi-Driss, El Yazami-Véronique, Rieffel Abdou Hafidi, as well as panel discussers, Amal Arfaoui, Patrice Brodeur, Maati Kabbal, and Gunnar Stalsett, also reflected on the impact of the Arab Spring in transforming the international identity of Muslim societies.

While the panel did a fair job in considering the meaning and impact of the Arab Spring, it did not offer a thorough enough argument on what these uprisings necessarily mean for the future.

Faouzi Skalli - photo: Philip Murphy

When approached for an interview post-Forum discussion, Faouzi Skalli, Director General of the Spirit of Fès Foundation, noted the importance of adopting a more "spiritual democracy" that will preserve the human rights of all Muslims in light of the Arab Spring.

This, Skalli insists, will be the responsibility of the people. Enlightening non-Muslim people about this perspective will also play a vital role in encouraging new ways to consider Muslim identity.

"This Festival, this debate for example ... are all creating a view for people to understand the ways our society is changing. We must start on a small scale, with concrete examples [like the Arab Spring], and from there, continue to introduce new views about. It is our responsibility to do this".

Much like the argument he made, Skalli's words offered food for thought in considering the different perspectives presented on both the Western and Muslim understandings of the Arab Spring.

Tomorrow's panel, titled "Spirituality and business" will occur at 09h00 at the Batha Museum, and will be the third day in the Fez Forum series. For more information, please visit

Reporting for The View from Fez - Vivian Nguyen

See also: Vivian's reports
Fes Forums Day One
Fes Forums Day Two
Fes Forums Day Three


Festival Programme
Festival in the City
Sufi Nights
Festival Forums
Festival Eating Guide
Art during the Festival #1
Art during the Festival #2
The Enchanted Gardens of Fez
Last Minute Accommodation


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