Anouar Majid, Ph.D., vice president for Global Affairs and director of the Center for Global Humanities, coauthored an op-ed, titled “The Moroccan Exception in the Arab World,” that was published in the New York Times on April 9.
Along with coauthor Yaëlle Azagury, Majiden enlightens readers not only about the “rich history of Jewish-Muslim cohabitation” in the country of Morocco but also about the relatively recent efforts of Morocco’s leader, King Mohammed VI, to recognize and celebrate the country’s Jewish heritage.
The authors point to language in Morocco’s 2011 Constitution that acknowledges that the country’s “identity has been ‘nourished and enriched’ in part by ‘Hebraic’ components,” and they highlight the king’s rehabilitation project, which has resulted in the restoration of more than 160 Jewish cemeteries, Jewish schools, and original Jewish neighborhood names. In fact, under Mohammed VI, the authors report, many synagogues have been reopened, some as museums; and Holocaust studies have become a mandated component of the high school curriculum in Morocco.
Majid and Azagury acknowledge that with only about 2,500 Jews left in the kingdom (compared with approximately 240,000 in the 1940s), the king’s efforts will not result in a large number of Moroccan Jews flocking back to their homeland. They do, however, view Mohammed VI’s attempts at restoration to be reflective of “the kingdom’s embrace of Jewish heritage … [as] a strong reminder of the Jews’ rightful place in Morocco’s history.”
The authors argue that while the “global media … and the spread of Islamic fundamentalism on the internet” has created a young generation of people in Morocco who are largely unaware of their country’s Jewish heritage, “Morocco’s gestures of openness help remind its citizens, and the world, that the country’s Jewish history matters and is worth honoring.”