By Karima Rhanem
Casablanca – On November 4th, Moroccan NGO Forum Anfa, launched its first awareness raising campaign called “I am Moroccan, I am African” dedicated to combat hate speech and racism against sub-Saharan Africans.
El Mehdi Ezzouate, president of the forum, told a press conference that “this initiative came as a response to a series of unpleasant incidents of racism and hate crimes perpetrated against our African brothers.” “We are united here, civil society actors, artists, journalists, students and academia to openly say we are against any type of racism or discrimination not only towards our brothers coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, but towards any type of hate speech that might touch the dignity of Moroccan citizens and migrants alike,” stressed Ezzouate.
The forum president, who enthusiastically seeks to exemplify the fraternal inter-African relations between Moroccan citizens and sub-Saharan Africans, emphasized that “these acts of racism are everywhere in the world and racism has no nationality, color, religion, race or borders.” He pointed out that Moroccans firmly condemn these irresponsible acts, which according to him are “isolated and not deeply rooted in the Moroccan culture.”
Rayhane El Habto Mawahibi, a member of the forum executive board, highlighted five key principles that guide the actions of the organization: tolerance, brotherhood, peace, solidarity and co-existence. Rayhane said that the “#African_Selfie is “just the beginning before the launch of a larger scale campaign to combat racism and hate speech in Morocco”. When asked about the selfie campaign, the forum president announced his organization’s intention to create a think tank committee made of Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans to brainstorm effective mechanisms to inclusively develop practical and measurable programs to integrate sub-Saharan Africans in Moroccan society and raise awareness regarding any form of discrimination.
Abiola Hamid, president of the Nigerian Forum for Youth Policy and Development and Adeola Austin Oyinlade, lawyer and human rights activist from Nigeria sent a recorded message of solidarity to Forum Anfa in support of their efforts to combat racism. “From Nigeria, we express our solidarity to you our Moroccan brothers and sisters on your “NO TO DISCRIMINATION” campaign. Africa must unite against all types of racism and hate speech and promote tolerance, coexistence and unity. We are all Africans.”
Migration policy & integration
Bilaly Dicko from Mali and president of the “Union Pour la Prise de Conscience” told Morocco World News that “Moroccans today are conscious that racism exists in Morocco and such initiatives like “I am Moroccan, I am African” demonstrate the level of awareness and engagement of civil society here to combat such practices.” Dicko added that “It will be unfair not to mention the efforts made by Moroccan authorities to ensure a better integration of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.” “These efforts go in line with the migration policy launched by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI,” he added.
In September of 2013, Morocco launched a new migration and asylum system that would adhere to international standards, examine cases individually and offer legal status to some undocumented migrants estimated at about 20,000.
Education & Awareness
“To make the migration policy work on the ground, civil society should work hand in hand with policy makers to raise awareness through education and behavior change communication campaigns,” Dicko said. Badiane Moustapha, a Senegalese cultural animator in private Moroccan schools where he teaches African culture to Moroccan students, said that a strategy needs to be developed to expand African cultural education to public schools. “Tolerance and cultural coexistence doesn’t come solely by campaigning, it starts with education at school and home,” explained Moustapha.
Role of Culture & Entertainment Education
Samba Soumbathe Soumbounou, another participant from Mauritania and a student on cultural mediation at the faculty of Mohammedia, called on the press conference attendees to be vigilant and aware of stereotypes, misconceptions and media influences on public perceptions of sub-Saharan Africans. He said that real integration is only possible through a mutual cultural rapprochement between Moroccans and sub-Saharan African migrants. “I myself make an effort to speak Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and understand the Moroccan culture; Moroccans also need to come to us and try to understand our culture, values, and way of thinking in order for us to find together a common ground for co-existence,” said Samba.
Commenting on the role of artists in combating racism, Moroccan singer Huda Saad told the audience that “the artist can play a crucial role in spreading messages of peace and tolerance through his/her work and can influence behavior since he/she is more close to the public.” For his part, Rachid Fekkak, a Moroccan actor and producer, highlighted the importance of entertainment education. He called for the promotion of African culture through arts and cinema, as well as including fusion works between Moroccan and African Musicians in major Moroccan festivals.
Inclusive representation and media diversity
Rachid El Idrissi, TV presenter and producer, stressed the importance of ensuring an inclusive representation of diversity in media. “Our Audiovisual media policy should also include migrants like other international channels who include Arabs, people of different faiths and color, etc. sub-Saharan Africans need to have a voice in the media; we need to get to know them better and not see them as a threat,” he said. El Idrissi called upon Africans living in Morocco “to stop grouping in isolated clans and try to integrate into our society and avoid falling in the same trap as some Moroccans who are living abroad who were unable to effectively integrate into their host societies.”
Kisito Ndour, a Senegalese journalist and editor in chief of AufaitMaroc.com, highlighted the importance of educating kids to reject stereotypical images about sub-Saharan Africans. Ndour recently published anarticle titled “You can call me black, Azzi, but don’t call me Ebola.” “Kids are the ones who will transmit tolerance values to the upcoming young generation. Parents need to explain to their kids that sub-Saharan Africans are also human beings and should not be seen as a threat as it is portrayed to them via biased media, especially after the outcry of the Ebola crisis,” emphasized Ndour.
Ndour believes “there are efforts made by the Moroccan media to raise awareness about racism in Morocco especially after the murder of a Senegalese migrant Charles Ndour, but more should be done to communicate the other image and success stories of sub-Saharan Africans who positively contribute to the Moroccan society.” On migration policy, Ndour “commended the efforts of offering legal status to migrants but acknowledged that Morocco could not host all those migrants, many whom are begging today in the streets of major capitals.” Ndour insists that “Morocco needs to control its incoming migration for the benefit of Moroccans and for the migrants themselves.”
In 2013 the Authenticity and Modernity Party (known as PAM) presented an anti-racism draft law to parliament following a series of incidents including violent crimes and discrimination related to renting houses to sub-Saharan Africans. The law, which has not yet been discussed or passed by parliament, is an important step towards protecting the rights of migrants in Morocco, but needs to be accompanied by other measures to change people’s behavior and attitudes towards sub-Saharan Africans. As stated by Global Opus Prize winner, Moroccan activist and founder of the Women’s Solidarity Association, Aicha Ech-Chenna “It is not enough to say I am Moroccan, I’m African. We have to accept Sub-Saharans as they are, with their religions, Christians or Muslims…We do not need to ask them to convert or change to accept them, we all have an African Identity”.
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