Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sensationalism and Inaccuracy in Reporting Damages Morocco

Reporting of the recent atrocities in France has had an unfortunate side consequence for Morocco. Time and again the suspects were named as being French or Belgian - "of Moroccan origin". The result is the perception that somehow Moroccans were involved. 

To be clear, a Belgian or French national, is French or Belgian, no matter where their mother, father or grandfather was born.

According to Moroccan websites and social media, Moroccans reject any connection with the terrorists and like almost every other nationality has been showing strong solidarity with the people of Paris.

"Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Moroccan who was behind the attacks in Paris"  - a review article entitled published in the online journal Le 360 

The most obvious case in point is that of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged sponsor of the attacks on November 13. Almost every news outlet, including some in Morocco, stressed that he had Moroccan parents. The information spread like wildfire in Morocco, relayed by the national media and social networks, provoking a wide variety of angry reactions.

"In my opinion, it is not authentic to label Abaaoud as Moroccan as he is a Belgian. I have nothing against dual nationality, quite the contrary,  but he grew up in Belgium. He speaks Arabic very badly, he knows nothing of Morocco," says Alioua Mehdi, a sociologist and lecturer at the International University in Rabat.

It raises the interesting question as to why Morocco is seen in such negative light.  Supposedly it enhances the news value of a story to label a terrorist as "Moroccan", when he patently has only an ancestral connection with the Kingdom. It is irresponsible and lazy journalism.

Following the Paris and Tunis attacks Moroccan tourism has taken a hit with local tourism professionals telling The View From Fez that tourist numbers have dropped dramatically.

Morocco has also caused anger in the ranks of daech (ISIL) by its assistance to French and Belgian security agencies. The group posted threats to Morocco on social media including  "to annihilate soldiers, blow up palaces and destroy the economy".  In response Morocco is on high alert.

Arabic daily Al Massae reports that Morocco's civilian security forces (police) and military (Royal Gendarmerie and the Auxiliary Forces) and its intelligence services are on high alert. The State Security Intelligence Unit, the DGSN has cancelled police leave and significantly increase the degree of vigilance at borders, airports and ports to to prevent terrorists entering the country.

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El Baraka Angels - Making a Difference

Moroccans are renowned for their generosity of spirit and nothing exemplifies it more than an organisation called El Baraka Angels

Since its creation in 2003 El Baraka Angels has provided assistance to more than 8000 families with seven food distribution caravans, two medical caravans , school renovations, circumcision campaigns, summer camps and programmes of cultural and artistic activities.

This year is the third consecutive year, El Baraka Angels have organise special winter caravans to support rural populations living in isolated mountain areas. This year they have broadened its reach to include the Province of Azilal following an early and unseasonal plunge in temperatures.

This week twenty-five members El Baraka Angels began their eighth food distribution caravan in the mountainous villages of the Province of Azilal, with a load of almost 40 tons of gifts and winter necessities.

The inhabitants of the rural town of Zaouiat Ahensal,  one of the poorest areas and most isolated of the province, will welcome this caravan which will allow 750 families to receive packages to tide them over the extreme cold period until the milder weather returns.

The packages include 42 kg of basic food and non-perishables, blankets and warm clothing for adults and children.
"In towns in the rural areas, the mobilisation of civil society in times of extreme cold is essential. For us, besides being an important support for these families, these caravans allow us to study the field and identify new enclaves for our projects supporting education, school renovation, medical caravans and very soon also income generation, projects" - Selwa Zine, President of the El Baraka Angels Association.

In 2016 the association is preparing for a renovation project that will improve fifteen schools in mountainous rural areas. It has already completed six school renovations and another is underway in the rural commune of Dayet Aoua.

After completing the first trip this week, members and volunteers of El Baraka Angels will take a second caravan in less than a fortnight, this time towards the Ifrane Province for the benefit of another 750 other families located there that they have been assisting for the past three years. The association intends to conduct sustainable and lasting support actions for the populations in the hundreds of mountain villages that make up the province.

The High Atlas and Middle Atlas regions have been the scene of tragedies in the past caused by the extreme cold.  In 2006 reports described the death of over thirty people including eight children.  At the time the deaths angered local inhabitants who began a march to raise awareness of  the living conditions in these villages.  The following year there were reports of the deaths of thirty people including four women and twenty-six babies.

A child in Anfgou

In December 2012, social networks, national and international media focused on the death of an infant in Anfgou, a landlocked village in the Middle Atlas, where temperatures dropped to -16 Celsius.

Following the death in Anfgou there was a national reaction with in-kind donations valued at more than more 600 000 Dirhams (60,000 USD) collected and then sent to the region.

To support the actions of the El Baraka Association you can make a donation by cheque or bank transfer:
Account name: El Baraka Angels
Account Number: 007 810 24 0001055000000210
Swift Code International BCMAMAMC
Agency Attijari Wafabank, Avenu de France, Rabat

"Death will always have to keep you company, ease your suffering by collecting the souls exhausted by time and winds of winter..." -  Hassan Oumada

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Winter Weather in Fez

The first really cold weather of the winter has arrived in Morocco with the Fez Medina recording morning temperatures as low as 2 degrees Celsius

If cold weather is no deterrent, then the region inland from Marrakech, such as the Ourika Valley, Asni Valley and Oukaimeden Valley, are the perfect places to get a feel for Morocco's alpine scenery. But be warned that the temperatures over the next few days are expected to be very cold. For the Toubkal area it will be mostly dry. Temperatures will be below freezing (max -3°C on Fri morning, min -6°C on Sun morning). Wind will be generally light.

None of the ski resorts are reporting significant snowfalls yet, but by mid-December, conditions should improve.

Marrakech is expecting mild temperatures

In the major tourist destinations the weather should be fine over the coming week. Casablanca and Rabat highs should be in the low 20s, while Marrakech will be slightly warmer averaging around 25 Celsius. Agadir will also average around 25 degrees.

Travellers to the sand dunes of Merzouga will have sunny days around 21 degrees but at night the temperature drops dramatically to between 3 and 5 Celsius.

Merzouga - expect cold nights

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Recycling Workshop in Fez

This Sunday the ALC-ALIF Environmental Club is offering a fascinating recycling workshop in the Fez Medina

Click image to enlarge

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Majority of Moroccans Want English as Second Language

For months the debate about  linguistic identity has raged in Morocco. The tussle is between French, the English, with clear lines between those who favour retaining what they describe as the "language of history and the protectorate" and English, the language of "science and civilisation" 

The politicians have been vocal in the debate with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, expressing his desire to give English prime importance in the educational system and to become the second language after the Arabic.  The Minister of Higher Education, Lahcen Daoudi, has repeatedly stressed of English in the scientific disciplines, saying "We are obliged to gain proficiency in English" .

According to a recent poll by the Hespress newspaper, the overwhelming majority of voters want English over French in Morocco's educational system in Morocco.

The results of the poll of  41,526  people saw the support rate for English at 85.98 with only 14.02 percent of respondents wanting to keep French.

Dr Abdel Kader Fassi Fihri
International expert in the field of  linguistics, Dr Abdel Kader Fassi Fihri, says the result was"good news", because it reflects the awareness of Moroccan citizens in regard to the choice of foreign language, and the language of education in particular.

Fassi Fihri stressed that English, "being the universal language, is the language of trading and if you want to reach out to the world or want to move between one region and another, even in the Arab countries or  China, you need English. "

He also pointed out that English is the global language of science and scientific journals internationally are all indexed in English.

Dr Abdel Kader Fassi Fihri noted that "English has become the first language in Europe.  For example, in Spain, Germany, Portugal, and France the first other language is English," adding that he "You only find  French as the first foreign language in some African countries, which were a colony of France and Belgium."

According to Morocco World News, Moroccans have become more outspoken about the importance of switching the country’s education system from French to English. For the majority of them, as it is the case with the sample surveyed by Arabic-speaking news website Hespress, French is limiting their access to knowledge and economic opportunities. Even Moroccan officials have expressed on numerous occasions the importance of adopting English over French within the Moroccan educational system. For the head of government Abdelilah Benkirane, for instance, English is the language of today’s science, technology and commerce.

However, there are still people in Morocco who fiercely lobby for French to be kept the first foreign language of the country. Their efforts have yielded results as the Supreme Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research is said to be reconsidering earlier recommendations to replace French with English in the Moroccan curriculum. The new recommendations, if adopted, will be included in the Supreme Council’s Strategic Report to be submitted to King Mohammed VI.

The council headed by Omar Azziman, an advisor to King Mohammed VI, is said to have ordered the formation of a sub-committee to review the proposal of replacing French with English, a proposal already hailed by many members of the Council’s Permanent Committee on Curriculum, Programs, Training and Teaching tools in earlier sessions.

As one school teacher in Fez summed up, "The longer we take to make the switch to English, the longer we limit Morocco's possibilities."

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