Marrakech Syndrome

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By Pierre Scordia

We’ve already heard all about “Paris Syndrome” for Japanese tourists, extremely polite and considerate people, battered by an impatient urban society. Indeed, Parisians are internationally notorious for being insolent, brusque and cranky. Nonetheless, this syndrome seems almost benign compared to the Marrakech one, because in that city, it's not a lack of courtesy which tourists suffer, but the constant harassment of the vendors, insults from youngsters, incessant scams, the dizzying maze of the narrow streets, the deafening calls to prayer and hostile glances from bearded men and indoctrinated teenage boys. From day one, you begin to regret setting foot in this city, you feel like a cash machine, a prisoner of an inhospitable medina. You feel too much a westerner, too Judeo-Christian. You come to realize that racism can be experienced on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

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A big mistake to make is choosing to spend just a weekend in Marrakech. To enjoy this amazing and unique city, you must stay at least a week. As soon as your foreigner face becomes familiar, locals begin to leave you in peace, to greet you, to smile and even to lower prices. You are no longer the foolish tourist, the Roumi from whom locals need to extract the maximum. As a vacationer, you start feeling more comfortable and confident, not so naive, less upset or angry. You begin to appreciate the architecture, the charm of medieval streets and realise that the Moroccan kindness is genuine.

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Several days after my arrival, a few residents of this ancient royal city began to engage with me and were willing to discuss several sensitive subjects including Islam, taking good care however to refrain from criticism of the monarchy. Idris, a businessman from Casablanca, who settled down ten years ago in Marrakech, and who requested anonymity, told me of his despair as he witnessed the social evolution of the city. "Our society is a victim of hate speech from bearded men who want our women kept at home, our children radicalised by the age of ten, alcohol prohibited, Westerners held as the enemy, Jews and homosexuals seen as monsters. These preachers have Qatar’s money."

"Young people long to leave this place, to move to Europe, even those who rejoiced over the Paris attacks as revenge against colonialism... They want freedom; they dream about it." A recent study confirms this, showing that 75% of college students desire a secular and free Morocco. "In Marrakech, there is no privacy. You are watched: your movements, your relations, even to the point where your neighbours try to discover what it is you are carrying inside your plastic bag. Unfortunately, we see more and more ‘hairy’ men in the streets of Marrakech” commented Idris, “Many women began wearing the scarf here ten years ago and now it is not rare to see women wear the hijab in the Qatari fashion". My interlocutor is increasingly appalled by the hypocrisy creeping into Moroccan society. Men, like all over the world, want to express their sexuality at puberty, but they impose strict taboos upon their sisters. Islamists see only sin and temptations; even in hammams, they wear long shorts covering their knees to avoid exciting fellow bathers.

Idris sees no hope of improvement, quite the contrary. Under the influence of the Gulf monarchies, Morocco's moderate Islamist government gives priority to alcohol prohibition in some supermarkets (still freely available in supermarkets of rich neighbourhoods), to construction of mosques, to the reduction of "debauchery" places. They are not interested in women's rights, religious minorities and homosexuals; moreover, the latter group have become persecuted. There is now a manhunt and the authorities turn a blind eye to street lynching of gay people or even men merely suspected of "deviance", as has happened in Fez. What action is taken by the police and the law? They arrest the victims and condemn them to jail.

"Where are we heading? Would they have lynched Truman Capote, William Burroughs, Juan Goytisolo, Bill Willis, Yves Saint Laurent, all of whom contributed to transforming Morocco and especially Marrakech into a holiday destination and place of refinement? We have fallen into absurdity, fear and hatred. We are experiencing setbacks in all areas. Moderate Islam seems an oxymoron today. When I got married to a European woman, the first question of my Marrakchi acquaintances was: did she convert?"

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"Fortunately for us we have the monarchy”, he says. “The king, due to his religious status, stands in the way of the Salafists." The authorities are not lax. Since the attacks in Casablanca and Marrakech, the Moroccan security services do not see “Purists” as a joke. They are monitored closely and sometimes neutralised. A sexagenarian French lady, a resident of Marrakech for 20 years, repeated to me an amazing story that she heard from her maid. A religious cleric from her employee’s neighbourhood committed suicide. A religious person taking his own life? Unheard of! He was known to be so sweet, so gracious, so generous. It turns out that he was recruiting young boys for Daesh Maghreb after Friday prayers at the mosque. He indoctrinated them in exchange for a sum of 200 or 300 Dirhams per meeting (just under 30 Euros). Those “bearded men” think in the long term. Children are their best investment. Where does the money come from? "Well, one wonders ..."

But what would be the alternative to religion for people lacking jobs, resources, education, freedom and justice? As Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. My taxi driver, Hassan, who brought me to the Ourika Valley, had to stop at least twice on the journey to pray. He is proud of his religion but he draws the line at his daughter wearing the hijab. “She must show some form of femininity” he said. Hassan does not drink. That said, he smokes like a chimney, but then the Koran does not prohibit tobacco. With all the daily rituals, Hassan feels virtuous and godly. Religion gives him the strength to face the vagaries of life. Before we parted, he asked me, "Why do you think women cannot have multiple husbands?” In the face of my silence, he answered himself, "Women cannot have multiple partners because men would be unable to distinguish their own children." When one wants to justify discrimination, any argument seems valid.

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Opposite the Moroccan coast, the first glimpse of Europe is Europa Point, Gibraltar, dominated by a beautiful mosque, built by the Sauds, enemies of Muslim diversity, Jews, Eastern Christians and secular Europe. Riyadh and Doha are now courted by both London and Paris. Even the Premier of Quebec, former adviser to a Saudi minister, has complied with the Sauds’ communalist demands. As for President Hollande, he awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest distinction, to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, yet another big step towards submission.

Marrakech syndrome is the growing awareness that fear will prevail over reason. One realizes that Europe will face a great inevitable migration from Africa because that continent does not have the resources to meet the needs of young people under 25, who make up 50% of its population, nor has the means to enable its population to blossom personally and intellectually. Unfortunately, by a complacent policy of appeasement, our elites are sponsoring an unprecedented clash of civilizations that will bring the pluralistic democratic model to an end, not only on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, but extending as far as its northern reaches.

FΩRMIdea, 05/05/2016

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