Lately, some of you have asked about me, whether I’m safe or mentioned that you’re worried, so I wanted to address this directly. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, update yourself here.
Peace Corps forwarded an “unclassified” security update regarding recent events surrounding a film that blasphemed the Prophet Mohammed (insinuating he was an adulterer and child molester and glutton and all sorts of hogwash). If you’ve followed the news, you may know that even images of the Prophet are blasphemous, and this film not only made an idol of the Prophet but went on to make a mockery of him too. What followed was violence spreading across North Africa, particularly in Egypt. The Libyan situation appears to be somewhat different, in that it was more planned and may have coincided with the anniversary of 9/11, rather than having to do with the film. It also appears that the Libyan attacks on the mission there were likely related to AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb). AQIM does not operate in Morocco; although a State Department release from a day or two ago does now suggest that AQIM has moved into Algeria.
Here in Morocco, things are far calmer, though the Moroccan police have heavily beefed up security at just about any American location, including those not affiliated with the government. My town’s police chief made sure Jonathan and I had his personal cell phone number, which is pretty funny, considering it’s a town of nearly 20,000 people.
There have been protests in Morocco at some American locations, but compared with the tens of thousands of protesters who showed up over the Arab Spring, only around 200-300 people were protesting in Rabat and Casablanca. There may more at the next protest or two, but I’m doubting it. Honestly, I bet you could find more Tea Party members in America willing to shout “Death to Obama” than you could Moroccans.
So, there you have it. I’m safe. I have a bag packed just in case we consolidate or evacuate. I highly, highly doubt that would happen. But we’ve been asked to be prepared, and hey, I was an Eagle Scout.
[Sidenote, Peace Corps just called me doing a quick test of their whereabouts policy to make sure I was in my village (I am) and that they could get a hold of me if necessary.]
I should say, this in no way tests my faith in the Moroccan people or my respect for Islam or the Arab world. I just got back from a lovely couscous lunch with Allal and his family, and he was pulling out old money and showing it to me and asking me how much I thought it was worth. He even has this sixty year-old coin from Queen Elizabeth II’s crowning. I was all like, “Allal, let me tell you all about something called… Ebay.”
I think it can be tempting in times like these to figure out who is to blame. The makers of this film perhaps? I won’t provide you a link to the incendiary film, because I’ve watched a little of it, and I think it’s extremely offensive. When you watch it, it makes you feel a little bit like someone just walked into your Church and took a crap on the altar and then smeared it all over the Cross…while laughing. I hope you’re a little offended by that comparison, honestly, because if that comparison offends anyone, it should help you gain a tiny bit of perspective as to why this has exploded into the ugly, violence it has. Understanding the causes of violence doesn’t justify it, but understanding its origins should help us reflect carefully on how to appropriately respond in its wake. Understanding the origins of violence should be a reminder that if we answer violence with more violence, we enter ourselves into an endless cycle that can only be broken by those willing to take the higher ground and make peace. Even if it makes you look weaker, it’s the stronger moral claim.
In an effort to pass off some of the blame, I’m sure there will be plenty of folks who will point to Freedom of Speech and say, “Well, it’s unfortunate that someone made that video, but it was their American right to make it.” That’s true. Freedom of Speech does afford these filmmakers the right to be bigots, but they are crossing a fine line when they make speech that is intended to incite violence. These people knew what they were doing, and they’ve caused a global crisis for no other reason than the fact that they have shown little respect for others’ beliefs.
But it doesn’t matter who carries the majority of the blame – the instigators or the perpetrators. It’s the manipulators, members of the Arab and American media, who worry me most. I had the thought a few weeks ago that, because this culture is so homogeneous, it can be difficult for the average Moroccan to imagine a culture that’s as heterogeneous as America. It’s like when Moroccans see Jonathan who, with his tan and dark hair, is occasionally confused as another Moroccan. He breaks the stereotype of white, shaggy hair dudes – you know, me.
Now. Apply that concept to what you (or Arabs) hear via the media about worlds far away. You hear about terrorism or about flag-burnings or about other nonsense that doesn’t characterize the average Muslim fairly. They hear about West Boro Baptist Church or Terry Jones hating Muslims and burning Qur’ans. They think you hate them the same way you’ve been told that they hate you. And it’s all this big, ugly lie crafted by the media and used to fuel the hate so there’s always a story, always something to keep you glued to the T.V. worried that the Muslims (or the Americans) are coming.
You wanna know what people here are really like? They’re family people. Probably just like you. They just want to make it in this world, and most of them aren’t concerned about these big ole world events that are fueling so much hate. Most of them just want to drink their tea.
In fact, Allal is here. He wants me to make him tea, but I’ve offered American Kool-Aid instead. So, I better close this up and go have tea and kool-aid and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish with my Moroccan friends while the media continues worrying everyone to death (quite literally). Wherever you are, sit down and have yourself some tea. And stop worrying.