One of the most notable characteristics of the Islamic world, and the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa especially, is that hospitality is not just an abstract tradition; it is one of the most fundamental pillars of the culture. When guests show up at your home, you welcome, honor, and respect them and then you share food with them no matter how little or how much you have.
In Morocco, foreign tourists are viewed as guests of the homeland, and, as such, the vast majority of Moroccans go out of their way to assist and protect them.
In Morocco, foreign tourists are viewed as guests of the homeland, and, as such, the vast majority of Moroccans go out of their way to assist and protect them. Many Western tourists I know visited Morocco for a few days and ended up staying a few months, entirely as guests of the inhabitants they met. This is why so many Moroccans are devastated by the December 14 murder of two young Scandinavian women in Imlil, a small village in the High Atlas Mountains.
The horrifying double murder by extremists is shocking to most Moroccans: their reactions have been steeped in sadness, but also in revulsion and outrage. Moroccans responded en masse on social media and on the streets of a few cities in Morocco, and in Denmark, apologizing on handwritten signs, publicly mourning, holding moments of silence and vigils with flowers and candles—and denouncing extremism.
Tahar Ben Jelloun, famous novelist and poet, expresses the national feeling when he writes: “Neither the shame nor the rage felt by all Moroccans can make us forget what those monsters have done to the two young women in Imlil. Not words, nor declarations, condolences, or deep grief can express the sentiment of horror we have all endured.”*
Ben Jelloun went on to exhort Moroccan officials to seek the highest punishment for any group preaching a racist ideology based on hate, barbarity, and inhumanity in direct contradiction to the benign and highly spiritual Islam Moroccans know and practice. The authorities responded by arresting not only the alleged perpetrators but also several of their henchmen, and the investigation is still ongoing.
Morocco, known for its moderate Islam, remains one of the safest and friendliest countries for tourists to visit, and Moroccans are doing everything they can to keep it that way.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Inside Arabia.