Moroccan Press Review November 2003
Hicham Raji - 03/12/2003
The new family code:
Enthusiasm and scepticism
The kings presentation on the 10th October of the new family code that will replace the very highly discredited moudawana has pleasantly surprised the reform supporters. The turn that the events had taken since the declaration of the first project in 1999, the furious reactions of the Islamic circles and conservatives had not predicted a prosperous outcome. Finally, the power seems to have found the formula that satisfies the modernists without shocking the conservatives.
However one must not delude oneself: the enthusiasm aroused by the declaration of the new family code is due above all to the fact that a less ambitious project was expected. The final text remains short of the expectations of the human rights organisations and the woman’s associations who have never yielded, even when left-wing parties and democrats have sacrificed their principals for political motives.
Today, one knows that everybody, on the left as on the right, islamic as the laic, welcomes the new code. The makhzen seem to have succeeded, once again, a sleight of hand by managing to almost achieve unanimity around a reform text where everybody is considered : the modernists see in it a will to engage the country on the road to progress since it answers partly to their expectations ; the islamic see it as an attempt of ijtihad on the sacred texts but that it betrays neither the spirit nor the foundations of Islam.
In fact, if nobody dares to dispute the project, it is primarily because the king endorses the paternity. The makhzen circle, and all the authorities that oscillate around it, pound with insistence the title ‘amir almouminine’ (Commander of the faithful) of the king, as a reminder that the sovereign is primarily the first Muslim of the kingdom, and therefore could not give his endorsement to a law that goes against the religion.
In his October speech, the king stated, clarifications necessary for the benefit of the Islamic, oulemas and all the hesitant : ‘I can not authorize that which God has prohibited, nor prohibit that which the Almighty has authorised’ The foundation of power is theological. To meet frankly with modernity would have pushed the makhzen to show too much zeal in ijtihad and therefore to write itself off, by challenging its ideological base. He could not in any case alienate himself from his oulemas (his faithful clergy), who are, indeed reactionary, out of step and inapt to assume progress, but are nevertheless loyal supporters and in any event, the only ones capable of confronting the invasion of mosques by the islamic. It was necessary, as the islamologist Mohamamed Tozy so subtly said, to give a ‘theological packing’ to the reform. It is what pushed the makhzen to search for a legitimacy for the most ambitious points of the reform, and therefore the most controversial, in other movements of Islam or in the courageous reforms experimented in other Moslem societies.
But the points which could have posed problems were evaded : polygamy is not openly banned and the question of equality in view of heritage is not even brought up. One can therefore only speak of a reform in its early stages, but by no means of equality in the eyes of the law between man and woman. At most ,it allows our antiquated laws to be a little less in contradiction with socio-economic reality, social advancement and mental evolution.
The Progress that the reform brings can be summarized in a few points : equality between husband and wife within the family, implying that the woman attains the majority and that the husbands guardianship(wilaya) is abandoned. In the same way, one will not be able to impose marriage on female minors, since from now on the age of marriage coincides with that of majority for both sexes (18 years old).Divorce by mutual consent, for a long time already in practice, will substitute definitively repudiation. Children’s rights are better protected and in particular, the right to paternity. Regarding the division of wealth, which has always been the rule, it is now also included the equal distribution of wealth acquired during the marriage. Polygamy is not openly prohibited, but is made very difficult and is subordinate to the assessment of a judge and the agreement of the woman.
The two big Islamic components of the countries society, le PJD (party of justice and development), a legal party that has a seat in the parliament, and the association Al-adl-wal-ihssane, not recognised politically because it does not want to form itself into a party, however is very influential, adhere to the reform project. They have considerably changed their discourse since the May 16 attacks. Today, they sustain that they were never against the spirit of the reform and that their crusade was simply political and set them against the left wing forces. All in all , they don’t want to leave the benefit of the reform to the laic and progressive forces.
Today, the opposition to the reform is conveyed mainly by diffuse and obscurantist forces, especially by rumour. In Morocco, the society remains deeply conservative and patriarchal. There is no doubt that the state will find many difficulties in applying the reforms, however timid they are. As an accompanying measure to the reforms, the state envisages to bring into general use the family courts and to form specialised judges. After the enthusiasm of the first few days, the democratic forces have started to raise questions on the possibilities of putting the new code into practice. The judges trained at the school of the makhzen, besides being corrupt, are very conservative and tend to perpetuate the old customs.
Le Journal hebdomadaire, n° 129, du 11 au 17 octobre 2003, p. 8-13. Dossier: «Et le roi créa la femme».
Le journal hebdomadaire, n° 130, du 18 au 24 octobre 2003, p. 8-13. Dossier: «Femmes, les islamistes ont-ils évolué?»
«Le feed-back islamiste», par Aboubakr Jamaï, p. 8.
«De la contestation à l’adaptation», par Nadia Hachimi Alaoui, p. 9-11.
«Mohamed Tozy: Les questions qui auraient pu poser problème n’ont pas été posées», propos recueillis par Nadia Hachimi Alaoui, p. 9.
«La vision d’Al Adl Wal Ihsane», par Mouna Khalifi, p. 13.
«Au nom de toutes les femmes…», par Oumama Draoui, p. 28.
Le journal hebdomadaire, n° 131, du 25 au 31 octobre 2003, p. 17. Code de la famille: Yasmina Baddou: «La réussite du code dépend surtout des tribunaux de famille créés à cet effet», propos recueillis par M.R. et N.H.A..
Le Journal hebdomadaire, n° 135, du 22 au 28 novembre 2003, p. 18. Moudawana: La nouvelle condition de la femme en débat, par Oumama Draoui.
Le Journal hebdomadaire, n° 135, du 22 au 28 novembre 2003, p. 19. Le projet de code renferme des insuffisances et des contradictions, entretien avec Malika Benradi, propos recueillis par Oumama Draoui.
Survival as a Moroccan
They form a part of the Moroccan landscape that one wants to hide at all costs, especially when brochures and tourist clips claim that it is the most beautiful country in the world. They are everywhere in the cities: they approach you when you move by foot or by car, when you visit the markets, the shopping centres, the commercial streets, the administrations, they are the first to offer you their services.
They are among the hundreds of thousands that make up what the economists call, without going to much into detail, the informal economy; informal because it brings together a conglomerate of trades and activities that are exempt from their categorizations, but above all because they are ‘outside the law’. They are not subject to a work legislation, they don’t have a licence, they do not have a shop and therefore do not pay taxes. They are perceived as parasites, spoilsports, a social curse.
The elites of the city, and also the more honest citizens among what is called the lower middle class, succumb sometimes to a discharging mentality and convey ideas that suggest the prohibition of this activity or eradication. In fact they have never know poverty and it is difficult to visualize themselves in the position of all those people that struggle to survive. But who are these citizens who are at times more rejected than the beggars?
They belong to all age groups and come from all horizons: young and not so young people, driven from the country by the dryness and poverty, old men without resources, women abandoned with children to feed, unemployed graduates without a job, etc. Their point in common is their refusal to lower their arms, to stretch out their hand to beg. Generally, they have a family or dependant children, a schooling to ensure and they strive to set up a small capital for themselves in order to have a little income.
Of these people that sell their services or objects of any nature, few manage to rise out of poverty and earn enough money to live. Some trades are reserved for the women, old men and the unqualified young: shoe shiner, car washer, retail cigarettes salesman, ferrachas (stall sellers), hirer out of telephone cards, porters, etc. Thy earn on average just enough to live, hardly 50 dirhams a day. Others manage better, because they are further advanced in their studies or they are even unemployed graduates: they ease the administration processes (in a country where 45%of the population is still illiterate and where neither the administration nor the people worry about explaining to the population their rights and the necessary steps to take, it is a service that appears to be very useful), they sell copied products (clothes, sunglasses, mobile telephones, VCD, etc). These people manage sometimes to earn a good living and can make from 500 to 1000 dirhams a day. But they always run the risk of being imprisoned or finding their goods confiscated. They learn to avoid the regular police raids or else to buy their leniency with fees.
In fact the state has an ambiguous attitude towards the informal economy. Sometimes it acts against the sellers (raids, confiscation of goods, imprisonment, harassments, etc.) sometimes it tolerates them and limits itself to carrying out public awareness campaigns on the risk of buying smuggled or counterfeited goods. In fact there are divided opinions, even amongst the economists who reflect on the phenomenon: there are those who are supporters of the eradication in the name of ‘legality’ and who recommend the creation of jobs to absorb the free labour. Faced with the Utopia of this issue, some propose a more realistic approach that would consist in simply recognising these activities and to integrate them into the formal economy.
It seems that currently, the State has decided to act against those who sell ‘Islamic’ products: sellers of video and audio cassettes and other gadgets at the exit of the mosques and around the markets.
Telquel, n° 101, du 15 au 21 novembre 2003, p. 20-27. Ces Marocains qui se débouillent, par Maria Daïf et Chadwane Bensalmia.
SAWA :An American radio to charm the Arabs
Since September 2003, Moroccans can pick up at Rabat and Casablanca a new radio frequency: SAWA. In Arabic the word means ‘together’, ‘similar’. It is an enterprise of American charm that aims to launch a well tarnished image into the Arab world. Since several decades engaged to assist their strategic interests in the area, the Americans were not very concerned with the customs and cared little about the peoples sensitivities. Among the Arabs, the anti-Americanism was nurtured as much by the alliance with theocratic o military authoritative regimes as by the unconditional support to the State of Israel.
The new radio emits all over the Arab world. It will be replaced in 2004 by a satellite channel. A very ambitious programme that hopes to distract somewhat the citizens of the regions covered by Arab satellite channels who often distil a openly hostile speech in regard to the Americans and racist towards the Jews.
In Morocco, there is a certain craze for SAWA, especially among young people, a category particularly targeted by its promoters. It should be said that it is an novelty because up until now, the Moroccans picked up only national radio from FM (RTM, radio 2M and Médi 1). SAWA copies somewhat the concept of Médi 1. The Mediterranean radio project aims in time to lay a bridge between Maghreb and the other bank. The promoters of SAWA have come in perhaps a little late but nurture an all too ambitious plan. This new ‘voice of America’ broadcasts in alternation western and Arab music, with brief bulletins of information on a neutral tone, far from the impassioned and ideological speech to which Arabic ears are accustomed.
There are mixed opinions on the effectiveness of such a enterprise. Some think that the Americans are quite naïve to want to repair all the harm they have done by distributing the word of God. It would be easier to gain the heart of the Arabs by revising their policy in the Middle East. Others think that SAWA will end up by imposing itself in the Arab world, creating the need to be listened to (especially thanks to the quality of the programmes) and implying its difference amongst the chorus of the so foreseeable songs of the Arab radio.
Telquel, n°101, 15th to 21st November 2003, p.30-31. Radio SAWA: Good morning, Arabs! by Driss Bennani.
Radio site: www.radiosawa.com