I interviewed my host sister, Fatma Zohra, a 23-year-old woman currently studying Midwifery at a private institute in Rabat. I sat down with her one day after Iftar to discuss the issue of citizenship in Morocco and about her participation in the public sphere.
Like many Moroccan citizens, she was very critical about the state of politics in Morocco. As a result, she refuses to participate in political life, whether it is through political parties, running for office, or even voting. “Those who run for office never care about the people,” she said. She believes that politics are very important in Moroccan society and has a huge influence but she doesn’t want to be involved because of those who are corrupt and who often only care about their personal interests.
Despite her inactiveness in political life, she is very active in the community dimension. Fatma believes that religion plays a very important role in the community and is a very important factor in citizenship. She used to volunteer at orphanages and with senior citizens for several years. She believes that when it comes to volunteering, people should help others because they are able to contribute, and also because it is encouraged by religion and is rewarded by God. According to her, the mosque is very important in a community and in encouraging Moroccans to be better people and better citizens. Mosques offer lessons for children to go and learn the Qur’an. Mosques also have Khutbahs delivered by the Khatib. These sermons encourage Muslims to help others and to improve their community.
Fatma told me that Mosques in Morocco are important for the development of the community. Just like it is the place for prayer, the mosque also functions as an office for welfare management where the old, the widowed, and the poor receive assistance from the donations made by Muslims. Muslims who do donate do so because zakat, or almsgiving, is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a religious obligation. Most mosques are open 24/7 and they are often the place the poor and homeless go to for help.
One of the most important question I asked Fatma was what is the ideal Moroccan citizen. She stated that a good citizen must be a good person and must be educated. When I asked her to elaborate on what she meant by a good person, she explained that they should not do drugs or steal or harm others. Anyone who does anything to make Morocco a worse place is a bad citizen. A good citizen should also be educated because being educated means you can contribute to making the country a better place for everyone.
For Fatma, just like a citizen has a responsibility towards their country, the government has a responsibility towards its citizens. The Moroccan government according to her has neglected the education and health sectors in Morocco. These two factors are important precedents in order for an individual to become active in society and be able to contribute. However, it is these two sectors that the Moroccan government has neglected and she blames the lack of engagement of many people with their society on the state. In her opinion, the state has a huge role towards the Moroccan citizen that is yet to be fulfilled. The state must meet the demands of the people first if someone is to become an active citizen.