Monday, June 14, 2010

Morocco in the News: June 7th - 13th

WB Grants Morocco $60m Loan to Support Implementation of 'Education Emergency Program 2009-12'.
Washington - The World Bank's Board of Directors has approved a US$60 million Development Policy Loan (DPL) to Morocco to support it in the implementation of the "Education Emergency Program 2009-12", the Bank said on Thursday.
   "Through this loan, the World Bank is committed to working with the Government (of Morocco) and other donors to support the implementation of an ambitious program that aims at increasing access further and raising the overall quality of services," a press release quoted Fran├žoise Clottes, Acting Country Director for the Maghreb countries, as saying.
    The press release added that improving the quality of outcomes in the education sector is a key priority for Morocco and that the Kingdom embarked on a comprehensive reform of the education and training system to overcome the challenges faced by the education sector.

    In this respect, it recalled the promulgation of the National Education and Training Charter (CNEF) in 1999, the declaration of 2000-2009 the decade for education and training, and the setting of education and training as a national priority.
    The document pointed out that Morocco has more recently drawn up a bold Education Emergency Program (EEP), spanning the period 2009-12 to accelerate the education reform process, drawing on lessons learned from the previous decade’s programs.
    The EEP places the student at the heart of the education and training system.
    The Education Development Policy Loan falls in line with the new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS 2010-2013) for Morocco which spells out the education sector reform as a key priority as part of its two strategic objectives of “Enhancing growth, competitiveness and employment”, and “Improving service delivery to citizens”, it concluded.

Prince Charles Invites World to Follow Islam's Way to Save the Environment.
London - Prince Charles invited Wednesday the world to follow Islam's steps to save the environment.
   "The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason - and that is, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us" said the Prince of Wales, who was speaking before an audience of distinguished guests, including  Morocco's Endowments and Islamic Affairs Minister, Ahmed Taoufiq, who attended  the conference upon High Instructions of HM King Mohammed VI,  Commander of the Faithful.
  “Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with creation”, insisted the Prince during the meeting initiated by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, of which he is Patron.
   The Prince of Wales deplored the lack of spiritual dimension in the contemporary economic model, founded on consumerism.
   Quoting the Islamic teachings that call for harmony between man and Nature, Prince Charles stressed that the Holy Qu'ran explicitly describes Nature as possessing an “intelligibility”.
   “My understanding of Islam is that it warns that to deny the reality of our  inner being leads to an inner darkness which can quickly extend outwards into  the world of Nature,”  he said, adding: “if we ignore the calling of the soul, then  we destroy Nature.”
     “From what I know of the Qu'ran, again and again it describes the natural world as the handiwork of a unitary benevolent power”, he noted, before stressing that The Qu'ran explicitly describes Nature as possessing an “intelligibility” and that there is no separation between Man and Nature,  precisely because there is no separation between the natural world and God.
     He argued that Islam “offers a completely integrated view of the Universe where religion and science, mind and matter are all part of one living, conscious whole”.
     The Heir of the Throne of England added that the “Golden Age of Islam” (Ninth and Tenth Centuries), “gave rise to a spectacular flowering of  scientific advancement, but all of it was underpinned by an age-old  philosophical understanding of reality and grounded in a profound spirituality,  which included a deep reverence for the Natural world”.
     Muslim Scholars had “an integrated vision of the world, reflecting the timeless truth that all life is rooted in the unity of the Creator”, he said,  adding: “this is the testimony of faith”.
   He stressed the importance of the notion of Tawhid, which implies “the  oneness of all things within the embrace of the Divine unity”.
   “Islamic writers express it so well”, he said quoting Ibn Khaldoun, who taught that “all creatures are subject to a regular and orderly system”.
   The Prince of Wales went on to say that the traditional way of life within Islam is very clear about the “centre” that holds the relationship together.
     “From what I know of its core teachings and commentaries, the important principle we must keep in mind is that there are limits to the abundance of Nature”.     
    “These are not arbitrary limits, they are the limits imposed by God and, as such”, he explained, observing the faithful are commanded not to transgress those limits.
   Moreover, the Prince stressed that the Islamic world “is the custodian of one of the greatest treasuries of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity”.        
    “It is both Islam's noble heritage and a priceless gift to the rest of the world”, he said, conceding that such wisdom is, so often, obscured by the dominant drive towards Western materialism.
     He said he was confident that the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies could help to establish a global forum on “Islam and the Environment” and many more very practical, traditional approaches like these could become more widely applied.

Morocco schools, firms earn World No Tobacco Day honours
By Siham Ali 2010-06-07
To celebrate the WHO's annual day devoted to fighting tobacco use, Princess Lalla Salma recognised Moroccan institutions that are making headway in the fight against smoking.

Moroccan officials on Monday (May 31st) marked World No Tobacco Day by honouring schools, hospitals and businesses for participating in a national anti-smoking campaign.
Princess Lalla Salma, who heads the Lalla Salma Campaign to Combat Cancer (ALSC), presided over the awards ceremony in Skhirat.
The ALSC launched the anti-smoking campaign jointly with the Health Department in March 2007. Smoking in schools has dropped by 1.5% in Fes, Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat thanks to efforts being made under the national anti-smoking campaign, Health Minister Yasmina Baddou said at the May 31st event.
Smoking among teachers also dropped 3% in the same period, said the minister.
Amira Lalla Salma High School in Rissani and the Jamal Eddine Afghani secondary school were recognised for being smoke-free as part of the national campaign, which has signed up a third of Morocco's schools.
Maroc Telecom, BMCE Bank and Morocco's state railway board were also honoured for their anti-tobacco efforts. Over 80% of hospitals as well as 15 companies, three national offices and two public authorities have signed up for the national campaign.
The World Health Organisation started World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to encourage 24 hours of abstinence from all tobacco consumption. The day is further intended to draw world attention to the prevalence of tobacco use and its negative effects on public health.
Bouchra El Aassimi, a student at Jamel Eddine El Afghani, said that having more after-school activities has made a difference.
"Teaching clubs have been set up in the school and activities have been introduced to interest and occupy pupils, which have stopped them from spending a lot of time outside," she said. "This has really cut down on the level of smoking taking place."
"A lot of my classmates smoke because they think this will make them more grown-up, and it's a way of rebelling against their parents," Temara high school student Hamid S. told Magharebia.
"They also smoke because it's a way of keeping themselves busy outside of school. Any awareness campaign has to cover these two points. In addition, if they fill up our time with out-of-school activities such as drama workshops, a lot of pupils won't get sucked into smoking," he said.
The no-smoking campaign in schools is important, said Jamal Eddine El Afghani headmaster Mustapha Asbane. "The programme consists not only of making pupils aware of the harm caused by smoking, but also of running themed workshops and various out-of-school activities."
All of Morocco's regional education authorities are involved in the national "non-smoking schools, colleges and businesses" programme, which involves pupils, teachers and others in combating tobacco use, said Secretary of State for School Education Latifa Abida. The ALSC provides technical assistance for educational activities.
Casablanca's 20 August Hospital also received a prize for its efforts to stamp out smoking through an awareness campaign aimed at employees and patients.
"Prevention is the best way of fighting diseases linked to smoking," said Mohamed Ammor, a member of the hospital's smoke-free committee. Patients visiting the hospital are offered medical advice on how to stop smoking, he added.
The Health Ministry plans to roll out medical consultations in all health centres to reduce smoking, and train 600 doctors and 500 paramedics about how to tackle the problem.

Morocco rights improved, but can do better: Amnesty.
Tue Jun 8, 2010
RABAT (AFP) - The human rights situation in Morocco has improved for the last 10 years, Amnesty International said Tuesday but warned that the country still does not tolerate free speech.
"The authorities remained intolerant of views expressed or information published deemed offensive to the monarchy," said the London-based rights group in its latest international report.
"They seized or suppressed editions of national and international publications containing opinion polls, articles or cartoons about the royal family, and closed down publications.
"They also prosecuted journalists under various provisions of the Penal Code and Press Code, both of which can be used to punish peaceful expression with imprisonment."
Moroccan authorities "also tightened restrictions on expression in favour of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
"Sahrawi human rights defenders, activists and others faced continuing harassment, including close surveillance, threats and assault at the hands of security officials, and prosecution on politically motivated charges, apparently to deter or punish them for expressing their views and documenting human rights."
"The authorities restricted the movement of Sahrawi activists and human rights defenders, preventing them from observing trials, documenting violations and meeting foreigners," said the report.
"Some were banned from travelling abroad and had their identification and travel documents confiscated."
Mohamed Sektaoui, head of Amnesty International's Moroccan branch, asked Algeria to cooperate in an Amnesty probe into rights abuses by Algerian-backed Polisario guerrillas from the Western Sahara in the 1970s and 80s.
Sektaoui said the overall human rights situation in Morocco had evolved over the past decade, in contrast to Middle Eastern and other north African countries.
Testimony by victims of past abuses were made public in 2004 by an equity and reconciliation panel (IER) that was created by King Mohammed VI and headed by Driss Benzekri, a former political prisoner.
After the dissolution of the IER Mohammed VI asked the official Consultative Human Rights Council to implement IER recommendations and manage its archives.
But the report said that the list of missing people whose disappearance had been investigated by the IER has not been published.
On August 20, the king demanded a reform of the legal system according to IER recommendations but no initiative had been taken by the end of last year, said the Amnesty report.
Where Maths Grows On Trees
A school in Morocco uses a grove of olive trees to teach maths. Find out how one school in Morocco is using a grove of olive trees planted in their school playground to teach students about maths. The students care for the trees, harvest the oil, visit the camel-driven olive press and sell the resulting oil in their local market, all using maths. The teachers at Sidi Bouskri School believe the project helps pupils to understand the link between their lives and the work they do in the classroom. It also helps them develop positive relationships with the school and its natural environment. The project is part of a broader push supported by the British Council in Morocco to encourage schools to become more involved in their local community and to make use of local resources in their teaching.

Washington / Morocco Board News Service -     “The Casablanca Institute”, an action-oriented think tank, with the objective of making permanent the interfaith dialogue that has occurred between leaders in Morocco and the US since 2004, was established the same week that Morocco celebrated its first-ever “Morocco Earth Day”.

“We believe that the founding of The Casablanca Institute is testimony to the good will and friendship that exists between the two nations, and also to the need to create permanent institutions to foster ‘religious engagement’ that will address the twin-Armageddons of climate change and nuclear war,” said Richard Cizik, co-chairman of The Casablanca Institute and President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
 "In a World where many dangers threaten the human species, reaching out to each other and working together among people from different faiths is absolutely vital. The Casablanca Institute, initiated by people of good faith and strong will from the USA and Morocco, is in position to contribute enormously to this outreach," said Institute co-chairman Driss Alaoui-Mdaghri.

Among those officials who spoke at the founding meeting of the Casablanca Institute was Rachel Bronson, Vice-President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.   Under Ms. Bronson’s leadership the Council recently released a landmark document entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.”

Founding board members of the Casablanca Institute include Driss Alaoui-Mdaghri, four-time Cabinet Minister and civil society leader, and co-chair of the Institute with Richard Cizik, who also served over the past two years as a co-chair of the Chicago Council document on religious engagement.  Other board members, include Driss Ouaouicha, President of Al-Akhwayn University; H.E. Nourredine Sefiani, former Moroccan Ambassador to Russia and other nations; and Michael Kirtley, President, The Friendship Caravan, which was responsible for initiating the dialogue between Evangelicals and Muslims back in 2004.

The Casablanca Institute founders believe that leaders of faith and their communities can play a constructive role in building “common ground” in social, political and economic developments.  During the Institute’s first meetings in Casablanca, Morocco the founding board held extensive discussions on the recently released document of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad.”  In the near future the Moroccan leaders of the Institute will report on their reactions to this document.

The document states that “Apart from the activism of [these] religiously inspired peace-builders on the one hand and religious inspired terrorists on the other – each operating at opposite ends of the spectrum of religious violence – there is a vast and complicated ‘middle’ of religious presences in global affairs." To take one positive example, the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good has engaged in a sustained dialogue with Moroccan Muslim leaders on religiously inspired care for the environment that offers ways to engage religious communities in addressing climate change and other environmental challenges.  
The founders of the Casablanca Institute are aware that recent actions by the Kingdom of Morocco to expel some missionaries for proselytizing necessitate ongoing dialogue over differences of opinion on religious freedom.  During their visit to Morocco, Messrs. Cizik and Kirtley held lengthy discussions with top-level officials on this topic.  “We believe that The Casablanca Institute creates a forum for honest reflection about the differences that exist on these matters,” Cizik said.

The Casablanca Institute was created as a non-profit think tank having a legal presence both in Morocco and in the United States. It will be open to people of all faiths, focusing especially on relations between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. It will be seeking support from foundations, institutions, and private individuals, and its scope of activity will later extend to other nations of North Africa and the Middle East. The next joint meeting of American and Moroccan leaders will occur in Fall 2010, with the naming of additional board members and an agreed upon agenda to discuss the threats of terrorism that exist for both nations.

Washington / Morocco Board News Service - Moroccan American professionals in the Washington DC area gathered on Saturday May 22, 2010, in Arlington, Virginia, to network, exchange ideas, and plan future activities. Youssef Sentissi, regional volunteer coordinator for the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America (AMPA), planned the meeting and hosted the gathering.
Over a working lunch, the group debated the goals of the association and sought to find concrete steps to advance the interest of its members while helping the Moroccan American community at large. After a few ideas were exchanged it transpired that there was a need to use the wealth of backgrounds, experiences, and ideas and make them available for new Moroccan professionals and students who are seeking to enter the workforce.
Moreover, the Moroccan American professional community boasts among its members financial professionals, economic advisors, tourism consultants, physicists, and gourmet chefs, all of whom can be an asset to their home country’s development aims. It was stressed, therefore, that the ministry of Moroccans living broad should pay particular attention to this group as they have the willingness and the skills to contribute to Morocco’s growth. Some members also urged the Moroccan professional community to be more vocal with concerns and suggestions, which can be made directly to the proper Moroccan authorities.

In line with this discussion, a draft program for Moroccan-American Bridges, the annual gathering of Moroccan professionals in Casablanca, which is organized by AMPA, was circulated for comments and suggestions. This year’s theme is Green Energy:  Technology and Opportunities. It will feature highly-regarded speakers such as Sebastien Raoux, a member of the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Association of Moroccan Professionals in American (AMPA) is a non-profit organization established to promote networking among experienced, successful, and active Moroccan professionals in the United States. The goal of the association is provide members with a comprehensive platform in which they can easily share their knowledge and contacts to advance their social and professional

By Abdelghani Aouifia    Wednesday, 09 June 2010

London - Drama and documentary feature: "Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta" was screened in London, during a spectacular reception chaired by Morocco's Ambassador to the UK Chrifa Lalla Joumala Alaoui.

The reception, which took place within the framework of the 12th Mosaiques Festival of World Culture, was notably attended by H E Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee, the UAE Ambassador to the UK and Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohamed Ben Nawaf in addition to eminent political, artistic and diplomatic figures.

Speaking on this occasion, Journey to Mecca's producer and CEO of Cosmic Picture Taran Davies said that Morocco is not only a land of tolerance and coexistence, but also a privileged destination where several world cinema masterpieces were shot.
Journey to Mecca details the epic journey of Ibn Battuta, the famed 14th century Moroccan explorer, who started his adventure in 1325 from Tangier to Islam's holy city of Mecca. By the time he returned 29 years later, he had traveled the world from West Africa, Spain and India to China and the Maldives, covering some 120.000 kilometers, three times further than Marco Polo.

The film, which was shot in Morocco and Saudi Arabia in English, French, Arabic, and Amazigh, depicts Ibn Battuta's perilous journey to perform his first Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) between 1325 and 1326. It presents a colourful picture of Islamic civilisation during the 14th century.

The story is book-ended by a close-up look at the contemporary Hajj, which annually draws three million Muslims from around the world to perform rituals that have taken place for over 1,400 years.

Journey to Mecca features breathtaking aerial views of the Hajj from a helicopter hovering 60 meters above Mecca, and an unprecedented access to the sacred Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Co-producer Dominic Cunningham-Reid told MAP that the film's shooting team found the needed infrastructure in Morocco, adding that Moroccans knew how to develop an "extraordinary" know-how in cinema.

He said the movie sends a message of dialogue between cultures and civilizations which is required notably after September 11, 2001.

Islam is a religion of peace and coexistence, he underlined, noting that Ibn Battuta's experience highlights the importance of dialogue, one of Islam's distinctive features.

Journey to Mecca also aims to tell the story of Ibn Battuta's journey to the west with a view of building bridges between the Muslims and westerners and promoting a better understanding of the the Hajj.

The reception, which was marked by posthumous tribute paid to the Moroccan actor Chemsdine Zinoun, was held by Morocco's Ambassy to the UK in partnership with the British Film Institute, SK films, Cosmic Pictures and Morocco's tourism office (ONMT).(MAP)

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