Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moroccan Extraordinary Renditions

The British high court has Friday, given David Miliband, the foreign secretary, a week to disclose documents related to the detention in 2004 (abduction shall we say) of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed currently detained at Guantánamo Bay.

As reported by the and according to Mohamed's team of defense, the man "was detained in Pakistan in 2002 and secretly rendered to Morocco, where he claims he was tortured by having his penis cut with a razor blade. He was also detained and interrogated in Afghanistan before being taken to Guantánamo Bay in 2004, where he is awaiting trial."

The anti-torture organization Reprieve, deplored the British government's reluctance to communicate documents which may prove Binyam's innocence and/or maltreatment. The head of the Organization declared that “The British government effectively says that a British resident’s right to a fair trial is less important than avoiding embarrassing the Bush Administration, and we’ll just gloss over the fact that he was tortured. But British national security cannot ever be enhanced by torture. To borrow from President Bill Clinton’s speech two days ago – the world is more impressed by the power of our example, than the example of America abusing its power. To suggest otherwise is, surely, Britain going back to the role of poodle.”

And how on earth shall I describe the despicable attitude of my own government? I'm speechless and abhorred by the Moroccan authorities' attitude, abasing themselves into a vulgar executor of America's dirty business. How is that for democracy and human rights which the regime is glossing over ad-nauseum?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Viva La Vida* (Slightly Modified)

Especially dedicated to Arab dictators.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand

I hear [ ] bells [of change] are ringing
[Revolution] choirs are singing
[No more] mirrors [no] sword and shield
[No] missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
Once you know there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People could not believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

(*) I'm absolutely positively addicted to that song at the moment. I guess I shouldn't have modified its beautifully poetic lyrics, but the image it inspires me is so powerfully associated with the fate of some lonely autocrat looking back at his past glory with a hint of regret, and also the idea that what goes around, comes back around.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

By traveling freely across cultures

those in search of the human essence

may find a space for all to sit...

Here a margin advances. Or a centre

retreats. Where East is not strictly east,

and West is not strictly west,

where identity is open onto plurality,

not a fort or a trench

Mahmud Darwish
1941 - 2008

Agnostic What?

I've been touring Morocco this summer and I spent quite a pleasant time rediscovering my own country. I thought I would embark into an intellectual as well as physical journey, setting about to enquire into how much change has occurred since I've been away. I was interested in the subtlest forms of change, shifts in attitudes, the trends, amongst the youngsters of course and in details of everyday life's interactions. I'm not pretending to have neither the knowledge nor the ambition of a professional sociologist, but I had a keen desire in keeping up to date with the environment in which I grew up, and with the people I consider most close to me. That's a feeling I wouldn't have imagined experiencing: the sheer anxiety of loosing track with home.

Life standards have undeniably improved in Morocco compared to some not very long time ago. Great disparity in the distribution of wealth of course with ridiculously wealthy people, affording levels of luxury and opulence seldom seen in western countries. Centralized power based on the archaic (but not un-sophisticated) system of governance called
the Makhzen... etc. etc. Thinks we (Moroccan bloggers and many friends of this blog) have extensively talked about and tried humbly to analyse. Not much really has changed from this view point unsurprisingly. But that's not what I was interested in probing into anyway.

The interesting thing I detected was a new and interesting way of imagining one's identity in a country like Morocco, torn between tradition and modernity, the west and the east, the north and the south, Arabhood and Berberhood, staying and leaving, accepting and revolting, obedience and dissent, Arabic and French.

Not once, not twice but numerous times I found myself agreeing with fellow countrymen who refused to be considered neither as traditionalists nor as ultra-liberals. And the question of how to put a name, a label on this 'middle group' of Arab/Berber/Muslim/secularists kept haunting me.

"I'm an Agnostic... Muslim" said one of my interlocutors. Agnostic what? How on earth one can on the one hand doubt the existence of a Superior Being and on the other, keep a title of belief? It's like saying that the Pope is planning for a wedding or that Mr Bush has got a brain. Not that I have a problem with people believing or not believing. That's none of my business. But I first thought, unless one adheres to the Orwellian principle of Doublethink, reconciling both things was simply unworkable. Unless... unless... Unless one doesn't consider Islam as a mere system of belief but rather as a cultural matrix. In other words, I can be a Muslim if I choose to keep up to Islam as a culture, a civilization, an identity, regardless of whether I believe in God or not, or whether I'm a practicing Muslim or not. Of course! That is brilliant!

But then I thought: that's quite a controversial topic in a region of the world where freedom of thought is not common place.

The impression I have today is that Muslims (in the agnostic sense of the term), like European Christians before them, have seen the horrors resulting from religion meddling into politics and into their lives and freedoms, and from religious fanaticism and subsequent violence, and have started a very slow, very patient semi-conscious process of obliterating this slippery way leading inexorably to fascism and totalitarianism. On the other hand, many have also well understood that unless one clings to his or her own culture and identity and avoids
self-loathing, individuals and the whole social structure runs the risk of permanent apathy and unproductiveness.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ragged Trousered Blogger Calling

He - Ibrahim ferrer & compay segundo

Hot summer night down here. I'd like to share this elegant and refreshing song of the late Ibrahim Ferrer with anyone who's passing by. Anyway I'm not sure if the adjective 'blogger' applies any longer since I haven't been blogging for quite a substential amount of time now. I've turned to some kind of a lazy bohemian. I've been away for longer than I expected, contemplating the world around me, reading and absorbing as much blogger's writings as I can, discovering new literature and touring a Morocco as hospitable and sunny as ever. Or maybe I'm just becoming a bit sluggish?

Keep it up everybody! ...