*Paper delivered in the Rabat Conference organized by l’Association Marocaine pour la Promotion de l’Histoire 3-5 December, 2014. In this paper I argue that citizenship is not only a culturally specific phenomenon, but an evolutionary process fraught with tensions, traumas and conflict. Citizenship becomes more efficient as a collective social value when it is coupled with awareness of the historical nature of the forces that shaped the society.
In the increasingly globalized world in which we live, it is often forgotten and rarely acknowledged that the cost of fast change from traditional socio-political order into modern market economy and liberal democracy can have fatal consequences for emerging states. The transition from dictatorship to pluralistic forms of government in the Arab World so far has been anything but a coherent or smooth process. Could these ongoing tragedies and heavy losses in human lives be simply the price of opposing views of the nature of the modern Arab state and the ultimate condition of citizenship? Is it possible to preserve established traditional cultures consolidated by socio-political structures sanctified by centuries of existence and at the same time accommodate universal values of democracy, gender equality, freedoms of expression, movement, and association, economic, legal, and political rights, rights of minorities and immigrants and many, many more? The shifts are perplexing and subversive and their traumas can remain indelible. I would like to supplement these introductory observations with a rather quick foray into a significant moment in the Moroccan colonial phase. My aim is to highlight different paradigms of citizenship and show how perceptions of citizenship were deeply influenced by the colonial experience. In the opening chapter of The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon describes the polarized worlds of the colonial space marked by ‘the principle of reciprocal exclusivity’. The settler’s stone and steel town and the native shanty town are respectively inhabited by two different species:
When you examine at close quarters the colonial context, it is evident that what parcels out the world is to begin with the fact of belonging to or not belonging to a given race, a given species. In the colonies the economic substructure is also a superstructure. The cause is the consequence; you are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich. (New York: Grove Weidenfiled, 1991, p. 39)
The first French Resident-General in Morocco Hubert Lyautey was keenly attached to this policy of divisions of colonial space. This is not only a re-enactment of the old dictum divide et imperia (divide and rule), but a part and parcel of a colonial program to create a dual urban identities – a modern French town co-existing (for lack of a better word) with the traditional Moroccan medina. In Fes, Meknes, Rabat, and Marrakech, le Quartier Arab and the French district lived in relative physical proximity. The boundaries were strictly policed so that the privileges of the settlers remained intact. But the social interaction was maintained as long as it served to consolidate the establishment. To administer the affairs of the native population, the colonial regime depended on the native administrative apparatuses, encouraged traditional trades and professions, and did not interfere with the existing modes of urban social organization even if they sounded unredeemably patriarchal and rested on fanatic doctrines. But Lyautey engineered a much broader split than the urban Manichean spaces described by Fanon above. For the colonial establishment to overcome popular resistance and reduce costs and losses, and impose its imperial will and prestige, it was important to cause further fissures in the territorial and social fabric of the colonized space. Thus the concepts of direct and indirect rule, le Maroc utile et le Maroc inutile. The paradox of the protectorate was not that it pretended to introduce necessary reforms that would preserve the central authority and maintain the pre-existing status quo, but that it created and manipulated rifts between the ethnic groups to the extent of creating two incongruous states under its aegis. The campaigns of so-called pacification were in fact acts of terrorization by which I mean not only the brutal violence meted to local tribes and the ensuing oppression of rural populations by scores of professional army units equipped with the most sophisticated weapons and assisted by hundreds of bureaucrats, but also and more importantly the systematic displacement of entire communities whose attachment to the land (terra) literally represented one existential form of national belonging—a form of citizenship. Historians have informed us how previous forms of coexistence among various ethnic communities in pre-colonial Morocco were secured through the annual bayaa, the pledge of allegiance declared to the ruling figure. Beyond tax-paying and vows not to oppose the regime, the bayaa as form of local social contract did not seem to impinge on or alter the fundamental mode of belonging which is attachment to an ethnic community located in a charted territory with recognized boundaries, rights, and social values. True this traditional formula of political entente between the center and the periphery was not always immune from the vagaries of time, and when central authority collapsed, there were always transitional periods of anarchy prior to the re-establishment of the institution of bayaa again. The colonial regime did not so much subvert this form of political and social organization as impose itself as a mediator and regulator of the relationship between the traditional native authority (the Makhzen if you want) and the vast tribal and rural communities.
The climax of this policy of re-shaping the political structure according to a Manichean logic of two opposed communities was the issuing of the Berber Dahir in 1930 which sought to complete the insulation of the Amazigh community from the nascent nationalist ideology. There were different types of jurisdiction, penal laws and courts. In other words, there were supposed to be two types of nationals, two different types of citizens with exclusive legal rights and obligations, and next to them if not above them there was of course the French settler who always maintained his/her superior status.
I do not want to dwell too much on this period, but if the Berber decree had triggered wide public indignation and refusal, and awakened nationalist sentiment among the educated urban elite, the rifts which the colonial experience created in the traditional social and political system have never been overcome by a nationalist agenda. In the post-colonial era in Morocco, the Manichean divisions continued to exist and even become sharper. They took various forms between village and the city, between the mountains and the plains, the Amazigh and the Arab, the poor and the rich, the illiterate and the educated, the ‘primitive’ and the modern, the conservative and the liberal. Political power was concentrated in the urban space so was the economic power. The city absorbed the resources of the village and increased its poverty and isolation. Rural immigrants flooded the city and when there were no opportunities, they crossed national borders to seek a livelihood in Europe. Within the city itself there were lingering signs of the old Janus-faced urban identity. Slums mushroomed quickly on the margins of industrial cities, they lacked basic utilities and their dwellers were not always recognized as full citizens.
All these vistas show strong similarity with the colonial scene. But there was one important factor that differed from the colonial moment. The world itself which had existed as self-contained and insulated islands had now shrunk into a global community. Political, cultural and economic influence was now exerted even more forcibly through a host of international organizations and governments. A new international culture of human rights and democracy came to compete and sometime clash with local concepts. Until the turn of this century the march towards democracy in Morocco was marred by the heavy legacy of colonial Manichaeism. Both Abdallah Laroui and Abdallah Hammoudi have examined the discursive forces generated by colonialism in independent Morocco, the chronic crises and internal constraints that impeded the nationalist project. The real opportunity to confront these contradictions despite their heavy toll in terms of human rights, economic development, social coherence etc. had begun only a decade ago. Moroccans are still coming to terms with these dichotomies and dualities. Official commitment to liberal democratic principles and the respect of human rights is not always easily accommodated with some cherished values associated with Islam and local traditions. At the heart of this dilemma is the changing status of the citizen. The culture of citizenship like democracy takes place in the public domain and is practiced as a collective exercise. For citizenship to become a public culture it has to be appropriated and localized by the community itself and not be superimposed by the authorities. The state and civil society organizations can help introduce the culture of citizenship through a host of actions such as education, improving social and economic conditions, reducing the immense disparities between cities and far-flung villages, insuring equality for all before the law, consolidating the culture of political participation, transparency, accountability etc. But it has to allow necessary time and show leniency to resolve more persistent contradictions and conflicts among the various ethnic, political, and social constituencies. The emphasis on uniformity to a global pattern of citizenship manifested through the annual ranking of countries according to a rigid checklist can only alienate nations and hardly contribute to reaching a plural and progressive experience of citizenship.