Sorry Mrs Benkirane, you are wanted in the catwalk!

Op-Ed by Karima Rhanem 


Benkirane and Obama

A photo, showing Morocco’s Government head Mr Abdelilah Benkirane and his Spouse Mrs Nabila Benkirane posing with the U.S. President Barack Obama & the First Lady Michelle Obama, sparked fierce comments and criticism in electronic media and social networking. The picture was taken during a White House reception organized on the sidelines of the US-Africa Summit currently being held in Washington DC.

This is the first ever official public appearance of Mrs Benkirane since her Husband’s election as Morocco’s Head of the Government in 2012.

The comments ranged from simple likes to harsh criticism focusing mainly on Mrs Benkirane’s way of dressing. Some think that the Jellaba (Typical Moroccan Dress) she was wearing is very ordinary and is the type of dress women wear to go to the Souk (local market). Others questioned if she couldn’t afford to buy herself a Kaftan (also traditional dress, a front-buttoned coat or overdress, usually reaching to the ankles, with long sleeves). In Conclusion, people think that Mrs Benkirane is simply not stylish and what she was wearing is not representing the Moroccan traditional dress!

Hello Moroccans, wake up, Mrs Benkirane was going to an official dinner and not to a fashion show! Other people went even far to question what she was doing there next to her husband in the White House, since according to them “we don’t have a function of the Spouse of the head of the government in the constitution”. So, she “can’t travel with the Government Head on State Budget expenses,” Moroccan social media users emphasized.

Well, let’s not forget that Mr Benkirane is representing HM the King in this summit and he is leading a high-profile Moroccan delegation to the U.S. This delegation has certainly been approved by the King and the White House has invited African Leaders with their Spouses. Even the US First Lady hosted a reception in honor of Leaders spouses.

Mrs Benkirane, though she has never appeared in public life or been involved in politics, she is an educated woman and speaks foreign languages. Not being involved in politics doesn’t mean that Mrs Benkirane doesn’t understand politics and could not communicate with other leaders’ spouses. While it is highly important to respect diplomatic protocol, it is also not the end of the world to make your first ever protocol mistake, one that is not harming neither the image of Morocco, nor that of its people, its leadership or institutions.

Apologies Mrs Benkirane for mocking on your Jellaba that is part of our traditions, apologies because you were not stylish, apologies because they didn’t excuse you for your ever first protocol mistake in your first public appearance, apologies because they forgot that several women leaders were wearing very normal clothes in many international high level meetings but nobody cared about their appearances as they were more interested in their performance, apologies because people forgot that several presidents like Francois Holland and many others even president Obama you took the picture with made a lot of protocol mistakes in several occasions, apologies but because your husband is Mr Benkirane, you have to get your share of  criticism, apologies because we didn’t prepare you well for the fashion show, we should have chosen for you the most stylish and expensive Kaftan so that you can be Miss Africa Spouse, just apologies because you were wearing descent clothes, apologies because those same people who campaigned against any foreign insult of Moroccan women are the same people who attacked your dignity!

I was hoping to see more constructive criticism and comments on the symbolism of this historic picture that shows that our institutions are functioning, a symbiosis between the Royal Palace and the government as an institution by appointing Mr. Benkirane to represent him. I was hoping to see comments on what Mr Benkirane and the delegation discussed there on behalf of Moroccans. Afterall, our head of the Government is said to be the only African elected leader from a moderate Islamist party to be officially welcomed at a reception in the White House among other African leaders on the side of the Summit.


Categories: Op-ED

4 replies »

  1. So glad to read this. I was totally appalled by the harsh and often hurtful criticism of Mrs Benkirane’s jellaba. I am afraid it demonstrates our identity crisis and low self-esteem when it comes to our culture and most common dress code. If only you knew how much some rich ladies from other Arab countries would pay to have a jellaba such as this one. P.S: I am not a pro PJD, I am simply speaking as a Moroccan who is proud of her heritage.

    • I fully agree with you. I am not pro-PJD as well and not in favor of Mr Benkirane’s policies but we need to respect him and provide constructive criticism instead of attacking people on their person. There is no harm in humour, but when it turns to mocking at people and attacking their dignity, this is called lack of respect

  2. Quand on n’a rien à dire sur le fond , on s’accroche à la forme –c’est connu
    L’article ci-dessus est utile ,fructueux et j’ose dire –formateur contrairement aux autres commentaires déjà émis
    A mon avis ,il n’y a rien à y ajouter en partant de de la politique et de l’esthétique vestimentaire –les 2 matiéres dont reléve l’événement – mais je pense qu’il faudrait s’étendre un peu sur l’éthique –matiére dont reléve les commentaires de cet événement
    Il existe un comportement qui –maheureusement – avoisine la régle et qui consiste à considérer que tout argument devient valide lorsqu’on affronte un point de vue indésirable
    Ce genre de tactique argumentative est bien connu et depuis longtemps sous le nom d’argument singulier ou « ad hominem » -notamment dans la polémique
    Et la question que je me pose est la suivante
    Le fait de s’intérêsser à l’aspect vestimentaire –dans un sujet qui ne l’est pas – reléve-t-il du vide intérieur de l’observateur , de son manque d’éducation ou de sa volonté de polémiquer ?
    Ma réponse est que les 3 mécanismes entrent en action et que pour avoir une interprétation plus précise ,il faudrait une analyse du contexte c’est-à-dire du commentaire
    Pour ma part , je suis un adversaire acharné de l’utilisation de la religion en politique
    Et c’est à ce titre – et à ce titre seulement- que je suis un adversaire du PJD
    Autrement dit , je n’ai pour les hommes et les femmes du pjd –dans la mesure ou ils respectent les autres –que du respect
    Et cela va de Mr Benkirane aux plus modestes des militants ou des militantes – parmi lesquels j’ai d’ailleurs des amis très chers
    Je remercie l’auteur pour cette remarquable leçon magistrale qui m’a rappelé avec force l’existence du Maroc de l’espoir agissant

    • Tout à fait d’accord, je pense qu’il y a plusieurs incidents de ce genre dont il faudra une vrai analyse de perception selon ce qu’on reçoit aujourd’hui des médias et selon les tendances politiques et les approches du populisme qui a caractérisé la scène politique depuis 2011

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