This very title is a challenge in itself, since it contains a country, Morocco, a gender, women and, a philosophical notion, modernity. I will start with the philosophical notion of modernity then I will speak of the role of my gender in my country and in the world.
- What do we mean by Modernity?
If we consider that Modernity is not a linear progression in technology through history, but a critical thinking process, we can then say that the Arab-Muslim world was one of the most important promoters of modernity through its Middle Age universal thinkers like Ibnu Rochd (pronounced in Spanish Averroes). In Arab-Moorish Andalusia, Arabs reread, added comments to, and transmitted the Greek philosophy to Europe, which was then suffering from a closed and fanatic view of religion. This threat of an open-minded, multi-religious community inside Europe helped Europeans question their own religious laws and import science in many fields.
Arabs however, functioned afterwards in a reverse process, they gradually stopped their scientific progress, fell in the trap of division and internal civil wars, which weakened their civilization and ended their presence in Europe. They’ve remained many centuries in that state of slumber, sleep and, lethargy and have been living in their past. It is vital that in Morocco and elsewhere in the Arab world, we be able to admit that we stopped being modern when we stopped looking elsewhere for science and inside us for self criticism. Having the latest computer, the latest mobile, the latest car does not make of you a modern person or a democrat.
However this necessary recognition of our flaws south of the Mediterranean cannot become positive and productive unless there is an honest recognition by the West of the contribution to the world by the Arab and Muslim Civilization of Andalusia in philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, music, translation and, transmission, and above all tolerance, etc.
- What Position, What Challenge for Moroccan Women today in the Information Age.
The Moroccan woman is one woman in one country on one planet. So again let’s travel in time and space as regards the position of women in times of crisis .One the best icon for this role is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess who brought her husband and brother Osiris back to life after he was cut into pieces. So what have women always done when a member of their family is sick or when their entire family, their tribe, their country, their planet is endangered? They HEAL every one, men, women and children. And today, the whole world needs healing!
One can wonder why we speak so much about women these days. What progress, what exploitation of women throughout the various ages of humanity? What fluctuation among key events in the history of humanity? One wave of civilization succeeds to another but men and women are still here with the same basic needs and basic feelings. A brief looking back at history shows us that whenever there are tremendous changes which deeply influence society, women are at stake. In a book entitled the Alphabet versus the Goddess Professor Leonard Schlain, an American brain surgery in California, shows that on the whole planet and in all civilizations throughout history, whenever men discover an alphabet, they degrade women. Now what Alphabet have we discovered today which is jeopardizing our lives and bringing back (in the Western World) the use of women as a mere sexual object to enhance people to buy anything and everything one hand, and in some Arab-Muslim countries the urge to bury their women in any imprisoning traditions. What alphabet or alphabets make people North, South, East, and West of the planet imprison women either in their nudity or under obscure veils? A possible answer is FEAR.
- How do we produce Fear?
Fear can breed hatred, a “we versus them” attitude, terror, murder and, war. Fear is also a good incentive for business. The more we are afraid the more we buy: more keys to lock ourselves in, more food, more arms? More, more, more! What frightens us and how to avoid fear?
A. What frightens us?
We are (some more than others) in a period of transition and our traditional milestones are mixed up. The new alphabet of our era is the absolute revolution of the technologies of communication:
- Time has been accelerated and space reduced by computers and cell phones, among other modern communication devices.
- Within the same country (and more so in poor countries) there are light speed differences between people in literacy, health, education, housing, social level, etc. The rate of poverty has increase throughout the world and tremendous wealth is in the hand of a smaller number of people.
- The planet climate is reacting to our abuses, reminding us that we live on one planet.
So these are some of the factors that bring forth fear and insecurity in us.
B. How do we react?
With the world disparity in wealth, education, health and, social welfare, the reactions differ:
- Ruthless wealth breeds, despise of poorer people along with power abuse and cheap exploitation underlined by the fear of the people you exploit.
- Poverty breeds envy, envy breeds a love/hate attitude, interiorized despise breeds hatred, fanaticism and suicidal terror.
Can we afford to stagnate in this vicious circle? How are we to get out of it and, what role could women play worldwide? Finding decent answers to these crucial questions is what brings us together in your beautiful country. The real challenge before us is to think of solutions other than greed, hatred and, any form of terror. If women, North, South, East, West, are to bring something to this world, it’s their great sense of Healing. Women are conceived to bear and protect life, and isn’t life the most universal thing we share regardless of the variety of cultures, geography and, history. Can culture, civilization, the love of God, serve other purposes than the growth of the Market, excessive wealth, wars or the feeding of bloodthirsty gods?
- How are we to weave Peace?
As a Moroccan, I have always been fascinated by the art of mosaics so prolific in my country. All those tiny tiles which are insignificant when separated in scattered colors and shapes and so beautiful and so beautiful when artfully unified in their harmonious variety. Another type of art so specific to the women of my country and region also fascinates me: The cultural message of their lives and culture which they have been weaving for centuries on rugs on which we walk without realizing what tremendous libraries they are! And who is walking on those rugs? Us modern, literate women! The day I realized this, I never looked at a hand woven rung in the same way. Suddenly the rug symbolized for me a double burden:
- The university graduate in me is also ignorant of the universe of knowledge of my female ancestors where art and dexterity needn’t be academic.
- The universe of my mother, grandmother and, even some young unschooled girls today, is cut from the world as it is growing today, because of their illiteracy.
Two gaps to fill! And that is exactly the most important challenge to fill for Moroccan women today. We, the women who had the luck to study and enter universities should, in helping our more vulnerable mothers, sisters and daughters, fully realize that we do not represent the majority. There is a lot of work of awareness for their rights, literacy, education to bring to other women for the development of the whole country, the whole region. This is the price to pay if we are to help spread dignity and freedom through direct action, self evaluation, self criticism and fight against corruption. And I can proudly say that I certainly am not the only learned Moroccan woman to think in this way. For the past twenty five years, more than 100 women associations throughout the country, in urban and in rural areas, have been created in every field. Women as lawyers, engineers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, medical doctors, psychiatrists, writers, journalists, architects, athletes, actresses and, musicians have been very active in creating and working in associations for women, men and, children. This steady organized, very modern work of women has been gradually changing mentalities.
The access of 35 women to the parliament (10.8% -35 women out of 325 men) in October 2002, made of Morocco one of the top countries in the Arab world as regards women quota in parliament, the average participation in the region being 6.8%. As of January of this year, the whole group of women parliament members is meeting as a caucus, regardless of their political colors, to find cross sections for common work for the benefit of the country. This is a good sign for Moroccan women in particular and for Moroccans in general.
These are some of the answers we Moroccan women are trying to bring to the challenge of modernity. If this era of communication is to bring us something positive other than intelligent weapons that are not so intelligent after all when we see the messy results of any pre-modern or post modern war, something less horrible than destroying terror, it is to bring us fluidity in our relations so that we can heal our sick planet and sick peoples. The challenge of modernity is the ability to make rapid links at the right time and not to fight the wrong enemies and today, our enemies spell:
– Hunger, diseases, decaying environment, illiteracy, any form of terrorism, disrespect of Human Rights, violence and abuses against women and children.
OR DO WE NEED TSUNAMIS FOR SOLIDARITY?
Hafsa Bekri Lamrani
Amsterdam, Jan 27, 2005