dimanche 29 mai 2011

Demystifying Social movements in Morocco: an agenda for the future

This introduction will set the scene for the coming articles on social movements in Morocco; it is an attempt to answer the following question: whether the current political developments in Morocco will lead to democracy or will it just be replaced by a new repressive regime? The social protests in Morocco from the 2Oth February onwards have seen ups and downs; the movement started as a young virtual call for protest on the streets on the 20 February then it became a reel movement with reel activists, known by their names and their ideologies. The metamorphosis from a virtual to a reel movement has its gains and losses; the Moroccan case is the best example of an inetractionist negotiation between two approaches: “pressure from below” and “top down” interventions. A series of articles will be published in order to attempt to approach this problematic, to understand and demystify the social movements, their discourses, their trajectories and their mobilization strategies.  

feminization of public sphere in Morocco

Lalla Salma or Nadia Yassine: Feminization of Civil Society

Mohamed VI social policies epitomized him as the king of the poor. When he decided to get married, he married Lalla Salma from a middle class family from the imperial city of Fes. Contrary to his father and ancestors, Moroccans can get to know the king's wife and be seen on TV and got responsibilities. Mohamed VI rebelled against his dynasty's values and put an end to Harem life. The king has one wife; she is very modern and she activist in civil society. She is a diplomat holder in computer science and business management; and a daughter of a pedagogue. She is the president of  Lalla Salma Association to combat women's cancer. On the other side, Nadia Yassine understood with her father (A.Yassine the spiritual leader of Al-Adl-Wa-Alihsan) that the battle of the palace and its strategies changed into a play on symbols and in civil society. Securing its association from oblivion especially that its leader is aging, Nadia moved in strong polemic to destabilize the king, his legitimacy and his symbolism. She graduated from Lycee Descartes; a French mission high school where only rich middle class families send their children to get good education. Her father was a pedagogue. She describes herself as a Moroccan intellectual and a Neo-Islamist.

Both Lalla Salma and Nadia Yassine are entrusted by their husbands and fathers to get engaged to change the social and political landscape in Morocco. Apart from their activism in civil society, they both use symbols to vehicle their views and impose their way of seeing change, modernity and tradition in Morocco. Nadia Yassine uses the veil, media and lectures abroad to resist the king's sacredness and also to bargain for more power and legitimacy for her association. Lalla Salma mixes tradition with modernity as far as dress is concerned to vehicle the moderate face of Islam and the changing old-fashioned harem life in the palace. Both of them use civil society to mobilize masses and to impose and sympathizers. The war is waged by means of media image. Mohamed VI during religious feasts he wears traditional 'Jallaba' and grows beard. Lalla Salma also wears white female 'Jallaba' and put on a white veil. They subvert Islamists way of distinction in the public space. For Nadia Yassine association, they have lost one symbolic ground on which to mobilize masses. They turn now to other strategies of empowerment

This growing of strategies of feminization of civil society in Morocco is one symptom of the emergence of new alternatives and new forms of legitimacy renewal. The social arena is played on the symbolic grounds. This symbolic arena of mobilization of cultural issues in opposition to modernization efforts of the king yields new hybrid aspects of an emergent field where the political, the social and the cultural intertwine in the public sphere.

Gender Activism in Morocco

Women’s Needs and Interests between Deliberation and Solidarity

Participation of third world feminists in debates on gender and development broadened our understanding of the practical and strategic needs of women in different contexts. Locality, solidarity and marginality are building blocks of place based activism or “place consciousness” as theorised by Grace Lee Boggs. Locality is significant as a refuge or resistance to globalism. Solidarity, on the other hand, is a real answer to hegemonic discursive paradigms. Besides, marginality, as the super ego of globalism, can acquire epistemic privilege if silent voices are given opportunity for knowledge production.

 I would argue that at the root of this ongoing debate a new vision to the interrelatedness between local and global cultures. This new conceptualization gives voice to the subalterns, recognizing periphery and marginality, engendering social values and cultures, enhancing solidarity, celebrating diversity and difference. Marginality is here meant in the sense argued by Bat Ami Bar in her article “Marginality and Epistemic Privilege”, explaining the relation between marginality and acquiring epistemic privilege in the following words:

Epistemic privilege is assigned to the marginalized not because they can block the centre’s authority but because the order needs new voices to legitimise its authority.

Here I adopt the critical point of Lister which is “politics of solidarity in difference” and it identifies three elements of this politics:

1- Framework agreement.

2- A commitment to valuing difference.

3- Dialogue or a deliberative communicative ethic.

In conclusion, I would argue that the next phase of women’s struggles needs to take more seriously the politics of needs interpretation according to which needs and interests locally and globally be defined by women, for women to achieve a real empowerment. It is a struggle over whose ‘needs’ discourse is more powerful and more legitimate. In the same line of reasoning, Nancy Fraser calls for a restructuring and a reinterpretation of needs

the invasion of public sphere in Morocco

A major characteristic of Islamic societies in the era of globalization and modernity is the crystallization of a very vibrant and autonomous public sphere that was of crucial importance in shaping the dynamics of these societies. This public sphere crystallized out of the failure of development projects adopted by state regimes in postcolonial era and the imported governance structures of democratization; thus, there appeared new social movements both secular and religious refuting the monopolization of history, morality and society by their rulers and their allies in the west. Therefore, we are witnessing a new phase within Islamic societies after 9/11 and the Arab Spring revolutions. This process took place from an individual choice to a collective mobilization against authoritarianism, dictatorship and poverty.

However in both camps, Islam plays a major role of social change. Hence, Islam is mobilized in these social movements through new roles and new images (dress, language, behaviour and rituals), new generational and gender identities; some argue that there occurred a 'youth-ization' of the public sphere in these societies. Islam here is represented as a symbol, culture and practice mainly within a plurality of many manifestations of Islam (official, popular and political). 

As a Muslim North African and a Mediterranean country, Morocco is witnessing a return to locality as both refuge and resistance to globalism. The Islamists resort to the primordial utopian Islam to Islamize modernity and convert the other; the secularists seek refuge in local participatory democracy models to give voice to the people. Thus, the central focus of this reflection is to shed light on this dynamism as a place-conscious identity in Morocco among young people through a very recent national study on religious values among youth; and how concepts of trans-nationalism, civil society and the public sphere apply to these emerging identities in order to deconstruct the underlying mechanisms producing violent politically justified Jihad. For the purpose of this article, I attempt to debate how youth are constructed within discourses of revivalism and how youth-ization leads to violent choices from within faith and beliefs. I argue that both Islamists and secularists have recourse to ‘Ijtihad’ as an intellectual endeavor to solve modern dilemmas of the individual confronting rapid processes of globalization, modernity and information technology. Both Islamists and secularists cope with these processes through the lens of revivalism.

samedi 28 mai 2011

A Young Social Movement in Morocco

Who is Afraid of the Youth Awakening?

I was at home when I received a call phone from a foreign friend telling me that some foreign journalists are in Rabat for the coverage of the 20th February movement. Also I received an email from a foreign embassy inviting me for a friendly discussion on the Rabat March and its impact on Morocco and the overall situation in Morocco. I thought deeply before I uttered a word for our neighbors because I consider any analysis a heavy burden on my shoulder as a researcher before I venture on talking about it. Question: is it going to be violent? Answer: no. Q: is it going to be bigger? A: not much. Q: is the reaction from the king going to be quick? A: yes. The arguments I advanced for my answers are: violence is the last resort mechanism Moroccans resort unless all options are saturated; this is at least the rule throughout all the social revolts Morocco witnessed from the 70’s till now. The “young” “new” social movement is not going to much bigger in both influence and number because the democratization process engaged by Morocco 10 years now has stagnated social movements; also the social policies engaged by the king congealed social activism too; the powerful presence of USFP, the King and the language of reform has jellified Moroccans except for some local decentralized revolts now and then but they do not amount to real revolutions. The king proved quick again in responding because legitimacy obliges him to do so. The expectations were high and the answer was political and revolutionary. Between the lines: 20 February movement is not a “young” movement because “old” radical Marxists are behind the movement; the demands are also “old”; these are the same political demands of the Marxists in the 70’s; the tactics of the movement are those of the “AMDH”, “VoixDémocratique” and “Adl Wa Al Ihsan”. How to explain all that: 

It seems that the language of “soft activism” has been replaced by revolution. The civil society boom in the 90s, or the NGOization of social movements, is a matter of the past as protest, revolutions and uprising are the new discursive strategies of the public sphere in the Arab world. The Arab world now is witnessing the end of “soft civicactivism” and the beginning of political social movements where the main slogan is “the people want”. People movements now have political, social and economic urgent demands. Presidents, kings and governments are asked to meet these claims now and as quickly as possible. Efficiency and transparency are the key solutions for these protests.

The story of Morocco: the players in the scene know each other well though they have changed their old faces with young ones to meet the fashion; the field is now a fertile arena for boxing and showing “off” power, symbolism and legitimacy. The needs of the people are high jacked: some are buying the political “virginity”; others are training for the coming “Sahwa”; some dream of “a possible Morocco”; others are just curious.

Understanding the movement requires understanding the history of protests in Morocco, the nature of civil society, activism of the youth throughout history and also the nature of political parties, their discourses, most importantly trajectories of actors; the nature of monarchy’s reactions to popular mass protests in Morocco; moreover, it has been demonstrated that actors in the public sphere in Morocco always negotiate their activism, existence and hence their political demands. The spring revolution has destabilized all actors; it has forced some to review their agendas, others to put pressure for more gains. In Morocco, the movement, starting in 20 February, is gaining more ground, mastering more the scene and putting more pressure on the state.