Out Of Touch? (Chastity Day in Morocco)

I was reading an article today that I thought was interesting in the context of this class: http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/28/197533.html

First, to provide a little background- While Egypt and Tunisia were undergoing massive revolutions last spring, Morocco had its own “Arab Spring” in the form of a popular protest called The February 2oth Movement. On that day there were marches across the country in protest of the King’s nearly absolute power, among other things. Instead of attempting to shut down the protest with violence, King Mohammed VI decided to listen to the movements demands, creating a constitutional referendum in which he began to chip away at some of his own powers, at least appearing to move towards a Great Britain style constitutional monarchy. The referendum was passed in July, and the first elections under this new constitution were held this past November 2011. There was a lot of question whether this move by King Mohammed VI would make Morocco the Arab Spring’s greatest success, or greatest failure (click on that link for more information, or click here). However, the November elections were deemed “free and fair”, and the result was a parliamentary majority from the Justice and Development Party (PJD), the countries moderate Islamist party. That is where this article comes into play.  Apparently, Sheikh al-Idrisi Abu Zeid, a Quran reciter and leading member of the PJD, is proposing a national day of chastity, aimed at combatting the “unchaste phenomena” that is “invading” Moroccan society.

What I thought was particularly interesting was how media was cited in both sides of the argument. On the one hand it is seen as important in spreading the “unchaste phenomena”. Proponents of chastity claim that there are certain “‘indecent’ films, TV serials, festivals, and different artistic expressions that aim at ‘sexual arousal'”. But on the other hand, one editorial about the proposal , suggests, with a touch of scorn, that “given the power of television, the internet, mass media and the social networks, Idrisi probably has as much chance of winning this fight as he does of closing down the new Casablanca Mall”. Further, they attack Idrisi and his supporters for “starting to interfere in the cultural and artistic scene in Morocco”, that is, media.

In both cases, the language used points to a conception of media as integral in defining the cultural landscape of Morocco. Even those who see current media as being a negative influence refer specifically to only the “indecent” films etc, and do not once suggest that media as a whole is problematic (though they do say that any chastity movement should include more traditional aspects of society, like food and clothes, as well). And for those who are against this movement, their main call to arms seems to be in protection of the freedom of media.

I thought this was an interesting example of a current struggle over media in the Arab world, worth noting if only because it further draws our attention to media as battle ground for cultural production.

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