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Hicham Rahil, is a young but dynamic Moroccan politician elected to the National Bureau for the Popular Movement. New Europe’s Dan Alexe sat down with him to discuss terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks, and how his country’s ties to Europe are developing.

Dan Alexe: After the Paris terror attacks, a lot of attention has been given to the supposed failure of the integration of the immigrants in France and Belgium. How do you comment the fact that so many terrorists and jihadists are of Moroccan origin? In order to understand more,

Hicham Rahil: You know, we don’t really feel that those jihadists and extremists are Moroccans. Technically, even juridically, these are people born in Belgium and in France. Ultimately, they are citizens of those countries.

They are not a product of our system of education. Their ties with Morocco are extremely thin. One can argue, of course, that they have lost their roots in Europe and have a shaky identity. Ultimately, any negligence, indifference or lack of understanding of cultural aspirations inevitably leads to rising movements of fear and hatred between the different cultures and religions, if not within the same religion.

Some suggest extreme radicalisation of many young people of North African extraction is due to a lack of socio-cultural identity. This would explain why, for instance, young Turks are not so radicalised as people of north-African extraction. Young Turks tend to live clustered in the same neighbourhoods and to speak only Turkish among themselves in tightly-knit communities. The lack of integration has no effect on them, because their identity is very strong. The young Moroccans, on the other hand, whose Arabic language skills are at times rather shaky, and who are often subjected to police or job discrimination, feel neither from here, nor from there. Their identity is thus blurred an easily replaceable by the message of radical Islam. How would you comment on that?

That it is a general phenomenon. Extremism has become, unfortunately, a culture that prevails in countries where people do not have much room for freedoms. This phenomenon that caused so much fear, hatred and terrorism thrives in areas where there are no real economic, cultural and political development plans. It is the oppressed who constitute a recruitment and regimentation reservoir for terrorists.

How does Morocco cooperate with Europe in combatting extremism?

The security of Europe has an umbilical relation with Morocco. Nobody can deny that my country, the kingdom of Morocco, makes a good model of tolerance and diversity. We have given advice and provided assistance to Europe whenever possible.

Would you accept the reproach that a country like Morocco has accepted for too long that mosques in Europe, and especially in a country such as Belgium, be financed, administered and run by Saudi preachers, or preachers from other countries in the Middle East, rather than from the Maghreb region, preachers who brought with them the sometimes intolerant Salafist doctrine that is the very basis of the ideology of Dash, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq?

I disagree. On the contrary, that Morocco gives the example of a tolerant and open country by developing training programs for ulama (jurists and preachers of mosques) in Europe.

Do you also feel directly concerned by the threat of terrorism?

Yes, we are also confronted with terrorism. History teaches us that the regional conflict of low intensity, such as the one in the Moroccan Sahara, may convert into open wars if they are not effectively resolved. In this regard, Europe must take its responsibility. The Saharan conflict could expand and cause expenses and serious security issues, knowing that the Sahel and the sub-Saharan region is known for bandits, smuggling of weapons and people, and terrorism. Security is not the responsibility of a single state, it is the commitment of mutual work of all states, all political parties, the media and every citizen. I would say: it is time to carry out a multilateral pact against terrorism.

Tag(s) : #Maghreb

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