The Moroccan American Forum for Relief and Development (MAFRAD), an Alexandria humanitarian NGO doing development projects in Morocco, hosted the visit of Dr. Saadine El Othmani on February 2, 2014. Best know for being a prominent Fiqh and Jurisprudence scholar and for his position formerly as Foreign Affairs Minister of Morocco and now the current President of their Justice and Development Party - two community dialogues were held at the Arlington Hilton.
The first, a morning brunch, was attended by about 60 diverse members of American leadership both Muslim and of other faiths with an interest in Morocco representing the World Bank, several universities, NGOs, advocacy groups, media, masajid and the like. Dr. Othmani spoke on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring and its impact on North Africa and then opened the floor up for a rich and honest discussion that covered many topics including what Dr. Othmani prefers to call the “democratic spring” because it was not only Arabs that were involved or impacted.
Ray Martin, formally of USAID, found this rephrasing and the reminder that we need to be intelligent when we follow media and how they portray events and labels to be especially apt. When asked by the audience about the reason for his visit, Dr. Othmani expressed his interest in engaging with civil society and the ‘movers and shakers’ in the US Muslim leadership. The US and Morocco have had a long-standing relationship, since 1777 when Morocco was the first foreign country to recognize the newly independent United States.
Indeed, a year later Congress ratified a Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations which is still in force and constitutes the longest unbroken treaty relationship in United States history unbeknownst to many.
Since 2006 there has been a Free Trade Agreement. Dr. Othmani spoke about the fact that while Europe is their lead trading partner, and despite their economic woes, Morocco has continued to see their GDP grow slightly.
A participant, Thomas DiFilipo President of another Alexandria NGO, was surprised to hear about the phenomena of reverse migration with Europeans coming to Morocco seeking opportunities.
The second event, a longer afternoon program, was aimed to attract the expatriate community and families and had a similar presentation about the need for reform within stability and how the Moroccan situation, unlike what has happened around the region, has exemplified a different approach or what Dr. Othmani called the ‘Third Way” which is not maintaining status quo through force nor erupting in conflict, but trying to bring about meaningful change through consensus.
About 150 people attended and were also entertained by a local group, Assalam Voice, presenting Moroccan nasheed.