Why Is Banning “Much Loved” The Best Thing Ayouch Could Have Hoped For?

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Amidst heated debate, the ministry of communication has decided to stand on the side of the critics of “Much Loved” and ban the screening of the movie in Moroccan theaters. Ayouch said he was “shocked” to receive the news, but he should probably be happy as the ministry did him a huge favor.

Apparently, universally acknowledged truths exceed a man’s want for a wife to a want for anything that is banned. Human history is rich in examples that illustrate this claim. For instance, the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. during the 1920’s did the country more harm than good. On the other hand, legalizing Marijuana in the Netherlands has been proved to be a healthier choice.

Therefore, banning the screening of “Much Loved” is the most powerful and effective advertising campaign Ayouch could have dreamt of. This ban will certainly generate unprecedented interest in the movie and widen the circle of debate to larger scales. It will also make people even more excited to watch “the movie that scared the ministry!” especially that the ban isn’t based on solid grounds and many people think it was just a response to the public outroar.

Furthermore, it is inevitable that people will find ways to watch the movie just the way they managed to watch banned movies and read censored books before. The highly-wired world we live in, and the accessibility to different media outlets make it really challenging for governments to conceal information, unless North Korea is a role model that we’re looking up to!

Worrying when you put that way, right? But what’s even more worrying is that the ministry decided to ban a movie that they had allowed to be made and filmed in Morocco and with a (mostly) Moroccan team! So, to think that all of these points have gone unnoticed by the ministry leaves much room for interpretation… and WORRY!

Thus, due to this “banertisement,” Ayouch has now become the most famous movie director in Morocco. The ministry has now given him something to brag about and present himself in the image of the liberating hero of Moroccan cinema. In fact, many Moroccans with libertarian mindsets think of him as a hero who should be celebrated. To these people’s joy, Ayouch’s film was invited to premiere at the acclaimed Cannes festival in France. This event didn’t go unnoticed as many of the movie’s supporters interpreted it as a triumph of art and freedom of speech over oppression.

So, Ayouch has now become a renowned director at an international level thanks to a) his gift as a director, and b) the ministry’s gift of baning his movie.

In short, if the ministry is afraid the movie would give a bad image about Moroccans, the ban isn’t going to help alter that image, either. So, instead of thinking of Morocco as a country with many prostitutes, foreigners would now think of Morocco as an oppressive country that doesn’t tolerate freedom of speech and arts. sounds better now? Naah, it’s a lost war!


Ranting About the Rants About “Much Loved”

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Even though I have been trying to keep my mouth shut on the topic, there was a time when I felt a need to have my say on Nabil Ayouch’s “Much Loved.” So, although I know that this post will probably get me more hatred and cynicism than respect and empathy, I just can’t resist the urge to voice my opinion on this matter.

If there’s anything my father taught me as a kid that I could never forget, it was the fact that we can’t judge a book by its cover. Now, what can be said about books can also be transferred to other areas where many people find it comforting to spit out their judgments before they even make informed opinions about those matters. Ask any university professor about the usefulness of making judgments and coming up with conclusions without carrying out any type of research, and you’d probably be asked to review your primary school materials!

With this in mind, I just can’t figure out why so many people are angry because of “Much Loved.” I find it very appalling that people from different walks of life are jumping to conclusions about a movie they haven’t even watched! Making judgments based on leaked out excerpts is the same as reading a few passages from a book and coming up with conclusions and judgments about the book and its writer. Just unbelievable!

In general terms, bashers of Nabil Ayouch’s movie base their opinions on many assumptions, the most recurrent of which are as follows:

  • The movie gives a bad image of Moroccan women
  • The movie encourages sex tourism
  • Nabil Ayouch is supporting and is supported by a foreigner agenda
  • The movie is a threat to our identity and religion
  • We should keep our problems to ourselves
  • etc.

None of these reasons are valid. If we’d find it odd that a movie that addresses education isn’t filmed within the confinements of educational settings, then why would we find it insulting that a movie about prostitution is filmed in casinos and whorehouses? The problem here is that most Moroccans are used to discourses where “la langue de bois” reigns. Thus, most people were shocked to see a film using the language that many Moroccans use on a daily basis. Oh, the irony!

Furthermore, what most critics fail to understand is that the movie is not representative of EVERY single Moroccan woman. The movie deals with prostitution and sex tourism, and it has, thus, limited itself to that particular context. However, people seem to forget that a movie, just like a novel, should be seen under the light of its context.

Taking these points into account, I don’t seem to agree with people who claim that the movie encourages sex tourism. It’s actually quite the opposite. “Much Loved” could be an eye-opener and a call for action so that we put an end to this phenomenon. Sweeping our problems under the rug and turning a blind eye doesn’t exempt us from our role in addressing these controversial issues.

As for those who claim that the movie represents a real threat to our religion and identity, I can’t but think that their identities and religious beliefs are weak already. If a movie succeeds to alter one’s beliefs, then the affected person didn’t really have any belief in the first place. Therefore, one has to be either ignorant or hypocritical to pretend that this can be regarded as an argument against the movie. Moreover, times change and it’s difficult for some people to embrace that change. For instance, in the recent past, men couldn’t accept the idea of women working outside. They saw that as a challenge to their status and presented arguments such as “a woman’s place is inside her house,” while others went to greater lengths by claiming that working women is the sign of the nearness of Doomsday! I think it’s all about NOVELTY. New things scare us, but shouldn’t we have learned from the past?

Finally, playing the “foreigner agenda” card has always bugged me. Most of us try to shift responsibility by putting the blame on other people and circumstances. Many of us justify failures by external factors that might, or might, not be responsible for those failures. On the other hand, very few of us face their problems and try to work them out the way they should.

To cut it short, prostitution, like many other social ills, is rampant in our country, and being in denial won’t do us any good because for a problem to be fixed, it, first, needs to be diagnosed and analyzed. If one has cancer but is in denial, the cancer doesn’t fade away, it just gets stronger and stronger.

PS: I know many will say that the cancer that needs to be eradicated is Ayouch and his likes. (Me included? I hope not! 🙂 )

Why The Teaching Profession Is Not For Low Achievers in Morocco.

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“Controversial” is the least I can say about the article my colleague Mr. Omar Bihmidine published on the website of Levant TV two days ago. The article in question claims that the teaching profession in Morocco is reserved for low achievers only, while higher achievers choose different paths such as medicine and engineering.

While some of the observations Mr. Bihmidine makes hold true, his analysis of why people choose to become teachers remains fallacious and very superficial. I think that the problem with the article is that Mr. Bihmidine is confused between what makes some university graduates opt for the teaching profession, and the shocking deplorable situation of the profession in Morocco. As a matter of fact, the article talks about many instances of injustice that teachers face in Morocco. However, linking that to academic achievement remains a vague claim that needs to be supported by real and empirical evidence. For instance, it is untrue to say that high achievers are aware that “their achievements, diligence, distinguishing grades, excellence, mastery of languages and production will never be credited, recognized, acclaimed and admitted inside the four walls of the classroom,” for the reasons discussed below.

I disagree with Mr. Bihmidine’s article for five reasons. First, most university students who opt for teaching do not realize how demanding the profession is before they actually start teaching. Second, most of these students come from underprivileged poor families, so they need to get a job as soon as possible to loosen the financial grip suffocating their families, and in many cases, to be able to financially support their families. Third, not everybody can afford to go to medical school or to study engineering in Morocco. Even if they are high achievers, they also need to be well-off to attend medical school. Fourth, the worrying lack of guidance and orientation in our schools contributes to the status quo. For example, in my own case, I never knew I had other options after I got my Baccalaureate, but to go to college. I didn’t know there were other institutes where one could study media or tourism, etc. Fifth, only students with the best marks (high achievers) can become teachers in Morocco. The selection process is very rigorous and meticulous. In fact, there are countless exams and teaching practicums that one has to undertake before he or she can become a teacher.

Another issue that seems to have escaped Mr. Bihmidine’s analysis is that of the different streams available at our universities. Mr. Bihmidine seems to make no distinction between literary and scientific streams. How is a student with a major in history supposed to become a doctor? And how is a student with a degree in Arabic supposed to become an engineer? Teaching is probably the only available path to employment in Morocco for certain degrees such as Arabic, history, Islamic Studies, etc.

In addition, Mr. Bihmidine seems to have disregarded the fact that there actually are people who go for teaching because they LOVE it, and because they feel that they make a difference in the lives of our offspring. The reasons are not always related to money, prestige, or grades!

Of course, other people can come up with other reasons, but the crux of the matter is that the erroneous view provided in Mr. Bihmidine’s article doesn’t reflect the reality of things. To put it simply, teachers have always been the elite of our universities, and they continue to be so.

It’s Possible If…

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The Moroccan Foreign Language Teaching experience cannot achieve its objectives in the absence of (i) a clear national policy as to the merits of such a teaching, (ii) an agreement of all stakeholders on the vision lying behind such a policy, and (iii) a teaching environment providing all the requirements for the success of such a policy.

The statement above highlights three focal points that must be satisfied before one can talk about a teaching experience that is capable of reaching its objectives. Hereafter are the reasons why I support this statement.

When the Finnish decided they wanted an effective and fulfilling educational system, they opted for CLEAR policies. These policies emphasized the role of the teacher as a guide and a role model, and the role of the student as an active participant in the teaching and learning processes. The results now speak for themselves; Finland’s experience is currently regarded as the world’s leading and most effective educational system.

Primary school kids in a Finnish classroom

If we are to gain any insights from the Finnish model, we should work on a general consensus over a policy that generates the dedication of all active actors towards the achievement of its goals. Depending on serendipity and the personal efforts of some teachers and schools would not yield the positive results we are longing for. Hence, the necessity for such a policy.

However, a general policy does not necessarily mean a unique and unified vision of how education should be, how teachers should teach, or how learners should learn. In fact, A general policy might be even more fruitful if teachers are given the chance to practice teaching according to their own teaching philosophies rather than following a set of fixed criteria and guidelines. This would give teachers more room for innovation and would eventually lead to a more independent and engaging teaching and learning experiences.

Understandably, such a shared vision requires the agreement of all stakeholders. Therefore, all our decision makers, teachers, parents and students alike must agree to take an active role in the implementation of such a policy. A “national policy” is not national unless all categories of stakeholders are involved in its drafting and, later on, implementation. We have been trying top-down policies for decades, and there is no doubt left for their uselessness.

The most problematic point however, is the third one. Providing a teaching environment that satisfies the needs of the students and their teachers is a real challenge. Nevertheless, it remains  a compulsory condition for the success of such a policy. No success whatsoever will see the light unless the state is willing to invest in education. It has actually been proven that we do not lack ideas, nor do we lack the necessary human resources, but that the real shortage is in providing a positive and stimulating teaching and learning environment. Moreover, we must make sure that the policy encompasses the values of fairness, justice and equity to all stakeholders, and that it does not favor a single category over the others.

Primary school kids in a Moroccan Classroom

To cut a long story short, the road to a better educational system in Morocco is a bumpy one. However, if there is a real willingness to solve this problem, and if the ministry stops sweeping our problems under the rug, things will advance.

You don’t simply go from this: (Education in Morocco)

To this: (Education in Finland)

كفاءة مع وقف التنفيذ

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عين العقل هو ما تراه وزارة التربية الوطنية كحل لمشكل السلم التاسع بالمنظومة التعليمية. فالمباراة الشفهية هي الفيصل في من يحظى بالترقية و من يبقى دونها. هذا هو الإدعاء الذي تروجه الوزارة و منابرها لمغالطة الرأي العام المغربي، و لتوشيح الأستاذ(ة) بوسام “الطمَّاع” من درجة فارس.

إن الوزارة لحريصة كل الحرص على الظهور بمظهر الرجل المسكين والوقور الذي لا حول و لا قوة له أمام انعدام ضمير 6000 أستاذة و أستاذ. حيث مافتئت تبدي استغرابها من مطالب هاته الفئة من الشغيلة التعليمية التي تطالب ـ و يا لهول ما تطالب به ـ بالترقية إلى السلم العاشر بالنسبة لحاملي الإجازة و الحادي عشر بالنسبة لحملة الماستر أسوة بالأفواج السابقة و اللاحقة.

إن كان لابد لأحد الطرفين من أن يكون ضميره قد انعدم فهو وزارة بلمختار، فبأي حق تتم ترقية جميع الأساتذة الذين سبقوا فوجي 2012 و 2013 و جميع الأساتذة الذين التحقوا بالميدان بعد 2013، و يتم غض الطرف عن هذين الفوجين فقط و كأنهم من سكان زُحل، أو كأنهم أساتذة من الدرجة الثانية؟!

فليعلم الرأي العام أن هؤلاء الأساتذة ذاقوا ويلات الجامعات المغربية، و حصلوا على أعلى الدرجات، و اجتازوا مرحلة الإنتقاء القبلي، ثم اجتازوا الإمتحان الكتابي لولوج مراكز التكوين، و بعد ذلك، اجتازوا الإمتحان الشفهي لهاته المراكز قبل أن يلتحقوا بها من أجل عام من التدريب و التحصيل، ليتم امتحانهم كتابيا و شفويا للمرة المليون، قبل أن تقدم لهم مفاتيح أقسامهم! فكيف للوزارة أن تشكك في كفاءة هؤلاء؟

حتى إذا افترضنا جدلاً أن هؤلاء الأساتذة المطالِبين بحقهم غر مؤهلين و لا يستحقون شهاداتهم، فهذا ضرب للجامعة المغربية و لمراكز التكوين، وللأطر التي تسهر على تدريب الأساتذة الجدد، و للسادة المفتشين التربويين للوزارة الذين اعترفوا لهم بالكفاءة، فهؤلاء الأساتذة ماكان لهم أن يكونوا لولا مرورهم بنجاح عبر كل هؤلاء الفاعلين. بل هو ضرب للوزارة عينها التي تأتمن أناساً غير أكفاءِِ على فلذات أكباد المغاربة. أم أن المبدئ هنا هو أنك كفئ ما دمت خانعاً راضياً بالذل و الهوان، لتنتفي عنك صفة الكفاءة بمجرد مطالبتك بأبسط الحقوق وأكثرها بديهية؟

ثم أي وقاحة تتحدث بها الوزارة عن حق التلميذ في التمدرس؟ من المسؤول عن هذا الإضراب؟ هل كُنَّا لنعوض القسم بالشارع لو تم تمكيننا من حقوقنا؟ هل كنا لنترك أقسامنا لو صانت الوزارة كرامتنا و حفظت ماء وجهها؟ إننا لنخوض هذا الإضراب بشعار “مجبر أخوك لا بطل”، فتحية للمناضلين و الخزي و العار لمغالطي الرأي العام.

Reading Several Books At Once.

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“Stuck” is the word to use when all you can do to face your inability to cope with your several readings is goggle your eyes. Books of different shapes and languages are scattered around you, and they only accentuate your dilemmas about what to resume reading first. Is it this book in French by that very prominent sociologist, or is it this one in Arabic by this great Egyptian novelist, or maybe you should continue reading either one of those three English novels you started last week…

A Stuck Reader

Finally, you make up your mind and grab either one of those books. However, somehow, the words get blurry and the characters start jumping from one book into the other as if they were circus artists doing amazing confusing stunts! 

You might still want to focus. You’d probably start pondering about the merits of every book and author at hand for some minutes to make a final decision. But if you’re like me, you’d most probably just grab the remote and watch Mr. Bean, instead.

Is this really your idea of enjoying reading? If your answer is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing, and stop reading this post right now… NOW, I said. If your answer is no, then what follows might be helpful.

Hereafter are some pieces of advice you might want to consider:

                • Do not read several books at once:

Yes. I think that for people like myself, we just cannot commit to this kind of relationships. So my advice to you is to take it slow. One book at a time shall do you good.

What we need to understand is that we’re different, and so are our abilities. Reading several books at the same time is not a healthy practice for some people. Some others can do this but some others can’t. This doesn’t imply that my breed are stupid, or that people who can read many books at once are smarter, it just means that we have different skills and intelligences. So, don’t feel bad about it.

(What?… I heard that! And no, I’m not just comforting myself?)

After all, the only good thing about being able to read different books at once is that you can switch books if you get tired or bored. However, the cons of this practice outweigh this single advantage.

  • Do not mix languages:

If you’re going to read many books. Like, if you really really have to, make sure that they’re in the same language. Reading books in different languages at the same time is confusing, especially if you’re a fast reader in some language(s) but a slow reader in other language(s). You’ll make much more progress reading in the language(s) your fluent in, while you’d be lagging behind in the other language(s), which might stir some dissatisfaction and might, in some cases, lead to low self-esteem, depression and then, suicide. Just kidding, but you got the point!

  • Get time to read but don’t force yourself into it:

Make a schedule and try to stick to it. Choose the time of the day that fits you best and plan your readings accordingly. Some people prefer to read at nights, other people prefer to read upon waking up. Don’t forget to make use of your free time and weekends, too.

  • Prioritize:

Some things in life are more important than others, so are books. Start with the book which you have a strong and fresh desire to read, when you get tired of it, try the next book you’re looking forward to read. You should always have interest in what’s between your hands, otherwise, the reading experience would be ruined.

  •  “Prioritize” doesn’t mean ignore:

 If you leave a book for too long, you’d probably forget everything about it. Picking it up again would be kind of meaningless. Hence, if you feel that one of the books your reading isn’t as interesting as the others, leave it for another reading set, or just drop it altogether, but don’t feel compelled to finish it. This will only increase your anxiousness, and we don’t want that, do we? DO WE?

  • Use a timeline:

A notepad and a pencil would be very helpful. Track down the ideas, characters and events of the book. You can add your feelings, expectations and questions about the book. It’s also important to make sure to read your notes every time you want to resume reading, it’ll freshen up your memory and put you in the right mood for that particular reading.

  •  Read (a) whole chapter(s) every time:

Don’t stop in the middle of a chapter. If you do, you’d probably be lost when you resume reading. Think of this as watching a series, what would you rather do, stop watching at the end of the episode and wait for the new one, or stop in the middle of the current one?…There you go!

  • Real readers love challenges:

Eat you broccoli, finish your dish! If you start several books and don’t manage to complete anyone of them, the effect will be very counterproductive. So, go on and finish your books, at least some of them. The feeling is really satisfying, believe me. Remember that if you don’t, you’ll probably have a very low self-esteem, depression and might commit suicide. Just kidding again, but you got the point!

  • Join

Goodreads is a great reading carrefour. People write reviews and send updates about their readings. You can set up an annual goal and work on achieving it. A little competition would never hurt.

This, dear bookworms, is what I can think of for the moment. I’m sure you can have many other ideas on how to accomplish this task. So, please feel free to share them in the comment section. 

Happy reading, everyone!

Book Review: “The Gift” by Cecelia Ahern

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While telling my friend Rosana about this book earlier today, and while I was informally and redundantly trying to explain the essence of “The Gift”, she wittily managed to summarize the whole book in no more than one John Lennon quote: “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

The Gift Cover

Welcome to the hectic life of Lou Suffern, a workaholic white-collar manager who can never tolerate the trifles of everyday life to keep him away from his beloved 14th floor. Lou is a busy man, he always has to be in two places at the same time. He’s a devoted man, a friendly co-worker and a “fierce” negotiator. He can do anything for his company, and anything against his competitors. On the other hand, Lou is a lousy husband, father and son. His work comes first. There is no room for quality-time with his family. Actually, there is no room for any kind of time with his family.

Enter Gabe. Gabe is the homeless guy whom was offered a job by Lou. The new mail-person turns Lou’s life upside down. He always appears when and where you expect him the least. His questions are odd, his comments are uneasy to swallow, and he always hits a nerve to the point that Lou started to regret having offered him the job in the first place. But it was too late, now. Gabe got to know everyone in the building and became very popular among everyone there including Mr. Patterson, Lou’s boss.

As the story unravels, Lou goes in and out of many difficult situations because of his extreme devotion to his work. His relationship with his family worsens and Pud, his one-year-old baby boy, almost doesn’t recognize him, anymore.  The good news, though, is that he gets a promotion. An achievement to which his wife explodes in the following passage:

“And what was it all for? For a promotion? A pay rise that you didn’t even need? More work hours in a day that just aren’t humanly possibly to achieve? When will you stop? When will it all be enough for you? How high do you want to climb, Lou? you know what, last week you said that only a job can fire you, but a family can’t. But I think you’re about to realize that the latter is possible, after all.”

By the end of the story, Lou discovers what he’s been missing out. He understands that skating with his five-year-old daughter is more important than making unneeded extra money. He understands that holding his baby boy is worth the world. He understands that holding his wife’s hand is what it’s all about. Yet, it was too late to make it up for the family. While this stream of consciousness struck him, he drove back over-speeding and tragically lost his soul trapped inside his Porsche.

 Cecelia Ahern

Contrary to what one might expect, this book is not an average “Chick-Lit” book. The theme of love exists, indeed. However, it’s not an “I’m longing for your kiss, sweetheart” kind of book. It’s a serious book that tackles one of our major concerns in today’s modern life.

In “The Gift,” Cecelia Ahern discusses one of the major challenges 21st century citizens face; time, and how to deal with it. the message is clear. Ahern insists that time is the greatest gift we have. It is what life is made of and we have to do all it takes to reconcile work duties and family matters.

“The Gift” is a relatively easy to read book, but it’s full of unexpected twists. I had to re-read some pages when I felt I was lost. The writing style switches from funny to sarcastic, to emotional, but sometimes it becomes boring, just a bit boring! Nevertheless, the plot is intriguing, so the reader must be attentive to the details as twists change unexpectedly.

The important detail that still confuses me, is why did Ahern choose to tell a story within a story? “The Turkey Boy” story within this book was unnecessary and of very little value to the book. It felt like Ahern was  looking for a carrier to pass her message to the reader and chose Sergeant Raphael O’Reilly to do the storytelling, but I think this was unnecessary.

Also, the final page where she spoke directly to the reader, made her sound like a teacher lecturing about the importance of time. That, too, is an insult to the readers’ intelligence. Anyone can understand the reasons why the book was written without the writer screaming them at us.

Me holding my copy of "The Gift"

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I recommend reading it to anyone who still thinks family should come after career.  After all, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.