Morocco: Stressing the "Arab identity"

Most Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands are Berber, and their "Arab identity" is a problematic issue.

The Moroccan government wants to strengthen its ties with Moroccans abroad. It wants the Arabic language and Moroccan culture to be propagated more among Moroccans who have moved elsewhere. Mohammed Ameur, minister for the Moroccan community abroad, said this this week.

This signals a new direction for the Moroccan government. Rabat now wants to create stronger ties with emigrants by stressing their "Arab identity," the Volkskrant reports.

The Hague has responded with concern. "We have difficulty getting Moroccan youth that have gone adrift to take part in society," says Madeleine van Toorenburg, CDA MP. "I'm not happy about Morocco exercising pressure in the opposite direction."

The CDA has had doubts for some time about Rabat's policy of making it impossible for emigrants to distance themselves from Moroccan nationality and to require parents to give their baby an 'approved' name.

VVD MP Henk Kamp also finds this tendency "extremely worrying." "This addresses people who should be concentrating fully on the Netherlands." In the past there was a Parliament-wide call on the cabinet to urge the Moroccan and Turkish authorities to allow emigrants to chose whether to focus on their own culture or not.

Ameur presented the policy for Moroccan emigrants for the 2008-2012 period in Casablanca. 'The Moroccan community abroad must be regarded as our country's 17th province," he said in the newspaper Aujourd'hui Le Maroc.

The government is aiming to double the number of emigrant children learning Arabic and becoming familiar with Moroccan culture. About 60,000 ethnically Moroccan children currently follow Arabic classes abroad, the aim is to increase this to 150,000 by 2012. "Cultural centres" should also be set up in countries with many Moroccan immigrants in order to promote dialogue.

Just over 1.5 million Moroccans were living outside Morocco in 1992. By 2006 this number had increased to more than 3 million, about 10 percent of the country's population. More than 85 percent of these emigrants live in Western Europe.

Since his ascension to the throne, King Mohammed VI has maintained that Moroccan emigrants are welcome to return to their homeland. An Advisory Council on the Moroccan Community Abroad was recently set up.

'Foreign' Moroccans are called MRE (Marocains résidants à l'étranger) in Morocco. Their money transfers to home are one of the largest sources of income for the country, along with tourism and the sale of phosphate.

Source: Expatica (English)

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