Jihad against music on the way. “Morocco music festivals bring culture clash,” by Alfred de Montesquiou for the Associated Press, August 30
CASABLANCA, MOROCCO — This is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, but you wouldn’t know it from the music festivals.
The Casablanca Festival turns the commercial capital into an urban Woodstock, with masses of young people clogging the mosque-filled streets and partying to the pulse of hip-hop, rock, pop and Arab music. An estimated 2 million people attend free concerts at a dozen venues.[…]
Must be a real cacophony considering this story says the mosques’ calls to prayer are often “too loud.”
The promotion of culture and leisure by Morocco’s moderate government has a political undertone. The country’s increasingly powerful Islamist groups view it as a deliberate attempt to divert young people from traditional Islamic values. Even some government officials acknowledge that the aim is to promote the liberal values they’d like to see society embrace over radical Islam.[…]
The streets full of trendy teenagers dancing to the Tecktonik craze that has swept Europe stand in striking contrast to the near-medieval living conditions in Morocco’s countryside or the sprawling slums around Casablanca, which have become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism.
Such festivals would be unheard of in more rigorous Muslim states, where the mixing of boys and girls, free sale of alcohol or even dancing in public can be forbidden. But Morocco, a strong U.S. ally and a major tourist destination, prides itself on a cultural diversity that allows scantily clad girls to attend a concert side by side with women wearing Islamic head scarves.[…]
But many have qualms with all this revelry.[…]
The most vocal critics are usually affiliated with the Islamists, who hold growing sway in Morocco. The gap between the educated, wealthy and Westernized elite and the vast majority of the impoverished population has been widening.
Once more, the hackneyed notion that with wealth and prosperity goes secularism, and with poverty and misery goes Islamic “fundamentalism.” Guess that’s why Saudi Arabia, one of, if not the, richest Muslim nation, is also the most “radical”?
“We stand against the debauchery observed during these festivals,” Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of Morocco’s biggest authorized Islamist group, the Justice and Development Party, said on a state TV talk show.
“Have you seen the type of groups they invite? The suggestive, scantily clad women?” he was quoted as saying by the liberal-leaning TelQuel weekly magazine.
More hard-line Islamist groups, like the semi-clandestine Justice and Charity movement — viewed as the largest in Morocco — see more than bad morality in the partying.
“It’s not only dissolute, it’s cynical,” said Nadia Yassine, spokeswoman for the movement and the daughter of its founder, Sheik Yassine.
“It’s like ancient Rome: bread and circus to keep the masses happy,” she said.[…]
One high-ranking Interior Ministry official, who spoke anonymously because this is not a publicly avowed government policy, recalled how some Islamists began speaking out against public beaches. Groups walked the seafront to preach for better morals and fewer bikinis, or to set up segregated areas. “No one wants to be bothered on the beach, so people began shying away,” the official said.
The government’s reaction was to promote beach sports and leisure activities as well as song and dance contests, even though it bothers the Islamists, the official said.
Ammor, the festival organizer, said the government is on a mission to make Morocco a place where Arab and Western cultures can interplay, rather than dwell on the tensions of the last decade.
“People call it a clash of civilizations,” he said. “I think it’s a clash of ignorance.”
That it may be. But who is ignorant of who remains to be seen.