Of mosques and men

A protestor in Tahrir carries Egyptian flag (Jonathan Rashad).

Two North African governments are building palatial mosques at a time when international media is decrying the rise of theocracy in post-revolutionary Arab states. Only the administrations funneling money into construction are not post-revolutionary Tunis or Cairo.

It is in nations where democracy movements have stalemated that leaders are devoting funds – public or private – to grandiose monuments to faith, in a faltering global economic climate.

The best and worst of times for Moroccan money 

Forty-day-old Habiba Amelou died in Morocco's Atlas Mountains late last month of health complications resulting from the cold, in what French and Arabic media reported was the fifth in a string of similar infant fatalities in the region this winter.

Local authorities had dismissed the deaths as hearsay, according to a report from AFP, amid promises from Health Minister Hossein El Ouardi that a medical aid campaign would be launched in the affected areas.

Amelou's death, which prompted the hashtag #NousSommesTousHabiba – We are all Habiba – in the Moroccan Twittersphere, came less than six months after the inauguration of a 10,000-square meter mosque in southwestern France, named for Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The monarch contributed close to US$7 million to the mosque's construction across the Mediterranean, at a time when the North African kingdom's own poor grapple with the effects of a recent economic downturn and a chronic dearth of public services. 

The Mohammed VI Mosque was built, reports say, for France's Moroccan expatriate community. The imam at the mosque is of Moroccan origin. 

We must not forget that expatriates are a great source of income for the Moroccan economy, and it's important that they keep a good opinion of Morocco,” said the Vice President of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, Belgium Chapter, Sihem Abbas, on the condition that it be stated her interview does not represent the views of her organization.

I am Muslim myself and certainly not against building a mosque, but there are people in Morocco who need that money more than people living in rich countries,” she added.

Reflecting the effects of a hard-hitting global economic crisis on Morocco's economy, the kingdom was downgraded 16 places in the the United Nation's Human Development Initiative from 2010 to 2011, the organization's most recent report. That same year, Forbes dubbed Morocco's monarch one of “The World's Richest Royals,” with assets estimated at $2.5 billion, largely due to his vast holdings in the global phosphate industry.

Prayer is an Islamic obligation, but it doesn't require a golden palace,” Abbas said of the new Moroccan-French mosque, built at a time when many Moroccans like Amelou's parents are in mourning.

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The problem with Western

The problem with Western Pundits including the Author of this article is their complete ignorance of Islam and Islamic Culture. There are two type of Moslems the first one is the traditional Moslem, this type includes Ben Laden and his group, the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt and all jihadists and terrorist group, although this type is a minority but it very active in action and voice and we hear about them in the West very frequently (who does not know Bin Laden in the Western World). The second type which is the silent majority of Moslem are the Moslems by Heritage, they were born from a Moslem Parents however the majority never read the Quran nor they bother to educate themselves about their  (supposed) own religion. All the non Arabic Moslems are in this group, Iran Indonesia Pakistan, etc. They never read or understand their religion and depend on ignorant Imams and Sheikhs to interpret the Islam. Even the Majority of the Arab population they belong to this group. The first group is power hungry we have seen examples in Algeria and recently the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt. The second group the Moslem by heritage has some writers that they always say that they are Moslems however their actions are far from it. For example: Taha Hussein, Mostapha Amin, and most recently Mohamed Hassanein Heikal.  Their opinions and their writings are diametrically opposed to Islam.

Until the Western Pundits understand that Islam is not homogeneous and contains groups that have opposing principals and ideas they will be in dark and errors when it come to analyzing the Moslem Worlds

Great article, insulting comment

Think it's important to point out that this man's comment does not represent Islam or any Muslims (not moslems). The problem with the Muslim World is men like Yosri Diab, whomever he is, trying to speak for anyone else than himself, and even then... God help us.

Great article by the way -- hope the revolutions carry on, despite the naysaying.


  Our expats send back 6.8


Our expats send back 6.8 billion dollars in remittances, and they simply don't have to. In this economic climate it's exactly the kind of thing that we have to do to keep the Moroccan diaspora engaged and interested. Seven millions is nothing compared to the disaster that a dip in remittances would spell for us in this troubled times. It's a statement, a gift, and as a statement, it has to be loud and palatial.

It does work too as a vitrine for Morocco's architecture, decoration, art de vivre and artisan goods, another big earner for our exports and tourism industry. What has been achieved in building Morocco's image and selling our products and tourism did not come about by accident nor has it been cheap. Again, a (Moroccan) mosque is big asset. All the interior and exterior decorations has been done by Moroccan artisans.

You also say that Morocco might reap a political capital from it in dealing with France, and seem to imply that it would be a bad thing. How is that? From where I stand that's an excellent bonus for Morocco.

In all of these, I don't see anything that a responsible head of state shouldn't actively seek. Cultivating multiple revenue streams in a troubled economic environment, doing a service to expatiates and upping our political clout.

In fact, it's a brilliant investment, and exactly the right thing to do. And to be blunt, without the remittances, tourists and aid, journalists wouldn't have to go to remote mountainous areas to find sad stories of kids dying, there would be enough of those on their hotels' doorsteps. We import all our energy and most of our staples, and that's something you already know. That's why I find this article somewhat hypocritical.