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MUHAMMAD: Moroccans Just Don't Get It

Askia Muhammad | 1/22/2014, 3 p.m.
Askia Muhammad

On a recent trip to Morocco, I saw and learned much which helped me connect emotionally, fraternally, culturally, religiously, and patriotically with that beautiful, ancient land.

I recalled “As Time Goes By” with fondness outside Rick’s Café American, the scene of much of the action in the classic, Humphrey Bogart movie, “Casablanca.”

Everywhere I felt the bonds of brotherhood. Moroccans relate well to Blacks from America. “I am African. I am Moroccan,” the citizens would say to me, even those with fair complexions. That is a rare declaration among North Africans – Arabs – many of whom I’ve met in other countries there, who seem to view themselves as superior to the rest of the inhabitants of their continent.

Moroccans are also proud of their Jazz heritage – they have annual Jazz festivals in Fez and in Marrakech – and they embrace the beloved American pianist and Smithsonian Jazz Master, Randy Weston who lived there for a time and recorded several important albums featuring Moroccan musicians playing their indigenous instruments.

Moroccans in the main, are Muslims, and like my religious teacher and guide – the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad – they insist on the importance of teaching women and girls. The mother is the child’s first teacher. The value of intelligent women, mothers cannot be exaggerated, and unlike some ultra-zealous Muslim societies which would keep women “barefoot and pregnant,” I met Moroccan female members of Parliament, government ministers, some with terminal degrees. And of course, all Muslims who are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, owe a debt to Noble Drew Ali, a Black man in this country who declared in the 1920s that he and his followers were Muslims – Moors, Moorish Americans.

So I am one with Moroccans. Blacks in America even share a patriotic bond with Morocco. Moroccans proudly declare that they were the first country to diplomatically recognize the United States of America when this country broke from the British Crown. And while they still have a monarchy, whose sovereign traces his lineage directly to Islam’s Holy Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah of Mecca, Arabia 1,400 years ago, they are proud to point out that they are “America’s Oldest Ally.” Stop!

On that point, however, I beg to differ. America’s truly oldest ally is the Black nation-within-this-nation, the Black descendants of slaves stolen from Africa and brought here in chains, who nevertheless have fought and died in every conflict to protect American independence. Indeed, the very first person to die for the independence of America from England was a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks, in the Boston Massacre in 1770. In fact, Lemuel Haynes, Peter Salem, “Brazilian Lew,” and Prince Estabrook – are four Black patriots who were among the Minutemen, who answered Paul Revere’s alarm to face the British Grenadiers at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775.

But what the Moroccans don’t “get” as far as Blacks in America and many others around the world is the characterization of the people of Algeria as The Devil incarnate, and the instigators of all the problems in the disputed Western Sahara region. The Moroccans claim the territory is and has always been a province of their country and that it was severed off when colonists from Spain occupied the land. After they shed their colonial shackles in 1959, the Moroccans wanted their Saharan region too, they say.