By Dakota Carl
Beginning my research on Morocco, I wasn’t quite sure to expect. When you select the region “Middle East/North Africa”, you come to expect an area divided by poverty, conflict, and war. However, I found that Morocco really challenges your preconceived notions about the Middle East.
To give a little background information, Morocco is located in North Africa. To the east lies Algeria, to the south Western Sahara. And separated only by the Gibraltar Strait, Spain to the north. To give perspective, Morocco is slightly larger than California and is host to just under 33 million citizens. They are a predominantly Islamic state and are ruled under a Constitutional Monarchy.
As I said earlier, knowing very little about Morocco coming into this, I expected that the violence and political unrest of the Middle East had spread like a poison to Morocco, as it has with much of the region. Though when I first typed in “Morocco” the first few news stories I found were about a small earthquake hitting Northern Morocco and the second claiming that Morocco was recently ranked as the second safest country in Africa for investors. And the unexpectedly drab news didn’t stop there; many articles were claiming that Morocco had become one of the top ten trendiest tourist destinations. What I really wanted to understand was how they remained so stable and peaceful in an area crushed by foreign and domestic turmoil. I read a PBS article titled Morocco Avoids Arab Spring Violence, but Progress Is Mixed on Reforms stating that the approval rating for the King of Morocco was at about 90 percent. To put that into perspective, the average United States presidential approval rating is about 54 percent. However, this poll had been taken directly after the 2011 protest. In which the citizens demanded a constitutional reform and King Mohammed the VI had delivered this a short time later. So from an outsider prospective to this point, it seems like keeping the nation away from violence is the ultimate goal of King Mohammed VI. Though some citizens question whether the country is making any progress or if its just smoke and mirrors from the king, it is tough to deny that Morocco has been a peaceful, smooth regime under Mohammed the VI.
The next article I read, How Morocco Became a World Leader in Combatting Terrorism, discusses that keeping Morocco safe from terrorism is one of their top priorities. They do this in three major ways, the first being making every effort to eliminate poverty. They believe that keeping as many Moroccans above the poverty level keeps their people peaceful. According to the article, in 2005 the Moroccan King implemented the “National Initiative for Human Development”. This act took aim at Moroccan poverty and from 2000-2010, brought 1.7 million out of poverty, decreasing their poverty rate by more than 40%.
The second way is by monitoring how Morocco’s religious sector. They pay attention to how their mosques promote Islamic values. If they get a sense that radicalism or violence is being encouraged in any way, Ministry of Islamic Affairs can intervene.
The final way they keep their country from falling under religious radicalisms or terror is by having increased, organized national security. For example, according to this article, “Moroccan intelligence services broke-up 132 terrorist cells between 2002 and March 2015. During the same period, 276 terrorist plots were foiled and 2,720 suspected terrorists were arrested. In addition, 27 terrorist cells were broken-up between 2013 and June 2015.”
Just from research in my first blog post, I have learned so many things about Morocco. From the way their monarchy functions, to their commitment to keep Morocco safe, they break the mold and inspire what some Middle Eastern/North African countries can aspire to be. I look forward to finding out more about this fascinating country.
Picture: “Morocco – Lonely Planet.” Lonely Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.”
“How Morocco Became a World Leader in Combatting Terrorism.” Morocco World News RSS. N.p., 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.
“Morocco Avoids Arab Spring Violence, but Progress Is Mixed on Reforms.”PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.
“Morocco Information and Facts.” Africacom. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.
“Presidential Approval Ratings — Gallup Historical Statistics and Trends.”Gallup.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.