Morocco's Revolutionaries: The Crazy Kids Have Grown Up

"What if we offered a prayer for the soul of bin Laden?" The question was tossed into the meeting of the February 20 Movement like a hand grenade. But the young men and women gathered in the Moroccan Labor Union building in Rabat didn't duck for cover. Instead, they angrily challenged the questioner, a bearded, middle-aged man representing the Islamist prisoners who have joined from behind the bars with the secular youth movement calling for greater freedoms.

"Are you out of your mind?" asked one young man. "Just because we defend you people against torture, it doesn't mean we support terrorism. Don't you impose your creepy agenda on us."


The bearded man beat a hasty retreat. "No problem, let's just do a regular prayer," he said. "We're all Muslims, aren't we?"

The meeting had been held to discuss plans for protest outside the infamous Temara detention center, located in a cork-oak forest near Rabat, where terrorism suspects have been tortured, according to Amnesty International. The Islamist may have thought he could set the agenda: after all, his kind had for decades been the only antimonarchy group of any consequence. But as he discovered, change has come to Morocco.

It must annoy the Islamists that the shots are being called by these new kids on the block — and that their vibrant activism is shaking up the monarchy in ways the Islamists have consistently failed to for more than 30 years. The kids scored their first big success on Feb. 20, when tens of thousands of Moroccans hit the streets of more than 50 towns and cities, demanding change. The protests had been organized by young independent activists responding to calls made on Facebook.


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Comments (8)  

0 #1 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Morocco's Revolutionaries : The Crazy Kids Have Grown Up Rod 2011-06-03 09:28
The sad truth is that the February 20th movement is now controlled by extremist Islamists and far leftists of all shades and none of them is fit to lead Morocco to real democracy, actually they represent a real and present danger to any hope for real reforms.
Salim Bouzid
0 #2 ...Salim Bouzid 2011-06-03 14:58
There are many reasons why we should not worry:
1. A lot of people in Feb20 don't belong to any particular ideology or religious movement. What we see now is that the other components of feb 20 (leftists and islamists) are moving towards the center.

2. The Feb 20th has become more than just a group, it is now a movement that brings all the social mix together. The movement has gained the sympathy of the Moroccan associations, and political parties, and spread beyond the Moroccan territory.

3. The movement role is to pressure and make thing happen, but they are not going to rule the country, Morocco has the human resources to fulfill the need.

4. The Islamism in Morocco is a reality that would be naive to ignore, unless if you are suggesting to build more prisons to sustain the detentions and torture... however if we restore the dialog, the respect towards the others, and the diplomacy, we will get close to the Turkish model in the worst scenario. I don't see Morocco leaving under an Islamic state, because Moroccans are not very religious by nature. I don't see Morocco turning into "Cuba", no one would allow that to happen...I trust the Moroccans, what's I don't trust in the system and the king.

5. This is the time for Morocco to go beyond the old Monarchical system, we have tried it for centuries. M6 can keep all his wealth and his places, his retain his tittle etc, but let the Moroccans get dirty, build their country, and restore their dignity...
0 #3 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Morocco's Revolutionaries : The Crazy Kids Have Grown Up Morcelli 2011-06-03 22:56
Yes, we do have a choice. not to embrace the novice nor the salafist who want to take us back to jahiliya. The novices due to their lower number had no choice but to align themselves with the salafist. In Egypt, the muslim brothers stayed in the shadow while pushing the facebooker to the front, In Morocco Al adl wal islam beardoes are too impatient and started to show their true color. A big mistake and that's the reason the makhzen had no choice but to wield the stick.
Now let's just hope we beat Algeria and that will certainly pour cold water on the salafist and the novice.

0 #4 Not influent Abjai 2011-06-04 12:29
20 feb movement is not that strong element as mentioned. A bunch of kids barely educated, talking slogans with no profound knowledge in politics. Their ideology is they are libertarians in a traditional and conservative country. It doesn't sound cool for most Moroccans. Political parties have shown some support but for electoral reasons.
The constitution is ready for votes,if it passes , new elements will rise up to the surface and maybe the equation will change
0 #5 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Morocco's Revolutionaries : The Crazy Kids Have Grown Up Rod 2011-06-05 06:03
No...Moroccans are not going to let a bunch of Islamists torpedo our embryonic democracy, we have three choices in front of us:
1- Parliamentary monarchy like in Spain, Sweden, Danemark and Finland
2- Islamist republic like in Iran or the Taliban system
3- Communist type republic like in Cuba and Venezuela

Our choices are clear and no way in he'll we will let fringe groups derail our reforms and plunge our nation into disaster.
0 #6 SIMPLISTIC at bestm.Brahimi 2011-06-05 22:18
I have always perceived Mr. Benchemsi to be of weak mind whose thinking was shaped by his ultra secular mother; but in this piece he has also demonstrated to be a mediocre writer who tackles peripheral issues and see thinks as black and white. This simplistic polarizing way of looking at things is unbecoming of someone who is supposedly "a Stanford Scholar" or was that just a sweet heart deal where Benchemsi was being handsomely rewarded for being anti Arabic and a siligent Islam disparaging foot soldier?
Salim Bouzid
0 #7 Opinions and factsSalim Bouzid 2011-06-06 04:09
@ m.Brahimi
I have to admit, that I did not like the article either!
It lacks substance and the analytical components. True, The article merely touched the surface.
I have to say that this article just reflects the writing style of Mr.Benchemsi, who we supported through the years in his fight for justice.By the way, there is no thing wrong about being secular, the problem is when a particular ideology, philosophy or whatever you call it, affects your rational thinking and your judgment. Many writers straggle with this reality, their write pure opinions which don't necessarily reflect the real facts. Maybe we should advocate that modern writers should incorporate some elements used in technical and scientific writing, for example the use of data, logic, rational thinking, and opinions from expert.
0 #8 Rebel without a causem.Brahimi 2011-06-06 20:20
@Salim Bouzid
Agreed all around. No one should have a beef with Benchemsi's ideological leanings. The problem is that he talks a good game about inclusiveness and affording varying thoughts equal right to exit. Yet when it comes to Islamist leaning expression, Mr. Benchemsi makes no apologies about dismissing it as fringe and dangerous. This kind of intellectual hypocrisy is so clear in this article as he unsuccessfully tries to drive wedges and to make it rain on the Islamists and the leftists parade. The two groups are clearly doing some scrambling and focusing on what makes them similar and then working on a common goal. This clearly pains Mr. Benchemsi as he tries to raise leadership spats that only exist in Benchemsi's head. Mr. Benchemsi is truly a rebel without a cause. He is writing about a non issue and completely dodging the real issues like the indiscriminate massacring of peaceful demonstrators. The sticks and the tear gas can't tell the difference between who belongs to what group

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