Africa Must Rethink Extremism and Radicalization

Published on 29th August 2016

The problems plaguing African peoples today, such as backwardness, poverty, migration, wars and conflicts, in addition to despair and succumbing to extremist and terrorist groups, is the result of the disastrous policy adopted for decades by colonial powers. The latter looted Africa’s resources, stifled the potential of its sons and daughters, mortgaged their future, impeded the continent’s development and sowed the seeds of discord and strife among African countries.

Despite the extensive damage caused by colonialism, I believe Africa has the means to ensure its development and to take its destiny into its own hands, thanks to the resolve of African peoples and to the continent’s human and natural resources.

Our decision that Morocco should take its natural place, once again, within the African institutional family clearly illustrates our commitment to continue supporting the causes of African peoples.  For Morocco, Africa means more than just being part of a geographical area, or having historical bonds with the continent. Africa also means sincere affection, appreciation, close human and spiritual relations as well as tangible solidarity. Furthermore, Africa is the natural extension of Morocco and the embodiment of the country’s strategic depth. 

This multi-dimensional relationship puts Morocco in the center of Africa; it also means Africa holds a special place in Moroccans’ hearts. For this reason, Africa has been given top priority in Morocco’s foreign policy. I believe what is good for Morocco is good for Africa – and vice versa. Theirs is one and the same destiny. I also believe there can be no progress without stability: either the two go together, or they do not exist. 

Morocco always gives to the peoples of its continent; it does not expect to take from them. Its commitment to African issues and concerns was never made with the intention of exploiting the continent’s assets and natural resources – unlike neocolonialist practices. 

While it is natural that Morocco should benefit from cooperation with African sister nations, my country always makes sure that our cooperation is mutually profitable. Morocco does not view Africa as a market for the sale and promotion of Moroccan products, or as a continent for making quick profit. We see Africa as a forum for joint action, for promoting development in the region, and for serving African citizens. 

In this respect, Morocco contributes, along with other African countries, to the implementation of human development projects and the provision of social services which have a direct bearing on the lives of people in the region. For instance, Morocco does not merely export medicines to Africa; it also makes sure to set up pharmaceutical companies and healthcare centers. 

It develops infrastructure, builds vocational and technical training centers and implements projects that offer steady jobs and income – such as fishermen’s villages – and that support smallholders and encourage the preservation of ecosystems. A case in point is the project for the protection and development of Cocody Bay, in Abidjan, within the framework of a unique model of cooperation between the relevant public institutions in Morocco and Cote d'Ivoire, with the effective involvement of private sector operators from both countries. 

This integrated, solidarity-based vision which underpins Morocco's relations with African sister nations requires all the stakeholders that we have invited to take part in this endeavor to shoulder their responsibility and to fulfill their obligations in order to maintain Morocco’s credibility. 

For us, Africa is not about goals and objectives; dealing with Africa involves a commitment towards the African citizen, wherever he or she may be. We attach as much importance to improving the livelihood of Africans in their countries as we do to African migrants in Morocco. As a result, they do not suffer the same hardships endured in many parts of the world.
Morocco was one of the first countries of the South to adopt a genuine solidarity-based policy regarding sub-Saharan migrants. This integrated policy, which is rooted in humanitarian values, is designed to make sure migrants’ rights and dignity are safeguarded.
As part of the implementation of this policy, my country has, without any arrogance, pomposity or discrimination, regularized the situation of migrants using fair and reasonable standards. It has provided the conditions needed for migrants to reside, work and lead a dignified life within our community. 

This is hardly surprising on the part of Moroccans, considering the way they always treat their guests. Generosity, hospitality and the warmth of their welcome have long been deep-rooted features of our identity and culture. Needless to say, our African brothers and sisters are facing some difficulties in Morocco. But these difficulties have nothing to do with the color of their skin, their nationality or their status as migrants. They enjoy the same rights. 

I am deeply satisfied to note that migrants are hardworking people, who are known for their good behavior, their commitment to the rule of law and their respect for Moroccan values and sanctities. Let me add, in this regard, that we are only fulfilling our duty towards these people, whose circumstances have led them to risk their lives and leave their families and homeland. This humanitarian policy has earned Morocco the honor of co-chairing, alongside Germany, the Global Forum on Migration and Development for 2017-2018. 

Morocco, which has long rejected the methods adopted by some to address migration issues and which have turned out to be a failure, is proud of what it is doing in terms of receiving and integrating migrants. It will keep up this practical, humanitarian approach. As for those who criticize Morocco, or dare to disparage my country, they have yet to provide migrants with something – if only a fraction of what we have offered.

I regret that a distorted approach to migration issues was adopted in the Mediterranean. As a result, there has been no real policy to integrate migrants. All that migrants have been offered are job opportunities, but with near to impossible requirements which very few of them can meet.

The entire world is talking about migration and the tragedies migrants have to endure.
The situation is further compounded by the spread of the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism, and by attempts to link it – rightly or wrongly – to migrants, especially in Europe.
In this respect, I wish to call on Moroccans living abroad to remain firmly committed to their religious values and to their time-honored traditions as they face up to this phenomenon which has nothing to do with their culture or background. I also urge them to maintain their good reputation, to show forbearance in these trying circumstances, to close ranks and to be, as always, staunch advocates of peace, concord and co-existence in their country of residence.

Naturally, I strongly condemn the killing of innocent people. Killing a priest is forbidden by religion; murdering him inside a church is unforgivable, for he is a human being and a religious man – even if he is not a Muslim. Those who engage in terrorism, in the name of Islam, are not Muslims. Is it conceivable that God – the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate – could order someone to blow himself up or kill innocent people? Islam, as a matter of fact, does not permit any kind of suicide – whatever the reasons or circumstances.

Terrorists take advantage of some young Muslims – particularly in Europe – and of their ignorance of the Arabic language and of true Islam, to spread their distorted messages and misleading promises. Terrorists and extremists use all means to convince young people to join them in order to attack societies profoundly committed to the ideals of freedom, openness and tolerance.

As ignorance spreads in the name of religion, Muslims, Christians and Jews have to close ranks in order to tackle all forms of extremism, hatred and reclusiveness. It is impossible to achieve progress in a society which is plagued by radicalism and hatred, for the latter are the main ingredients of insecurity and instability. There are countless examples, in human civilization, of success stories which show that religious interaction and coexistence produce open societies in which love, harmony and prosperity prevail. 

This was also illustrated by the Islamic civilization, especially in Baghdad and Andalusia, which were among the greatest, most open civilizations of mankind. Morocco’s national responses to many complex regional and international issues – such as development, migration and the fight against terrorism – are in line with a firm commitment to serve African peoples. That should not come as a surprise since Morocco has always been at the forefront of advocates calling for the liberation of our continent. In this regard, I am following in the footsteps of my pioneering ancestors who believed in Africa, and who worked earnestly for the unity, openness and progress of its peoples.

By HM King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

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