I wanted to entitle this post “Life Boat Drills” because that sounds fun. But there is nothing fun about safety and travel right now. So I will get straight to the point.
Is it safe to travel to Morocco? Well, is it safe to travel anywhere right now? More importantly, is it necessary to travel right now?
Of course. Yes. Hell yes. Wholeheartedly. Pack your bag, book your flight, get out there and spread the word. Travel is the life blood of intelligence. It is the heartbeat of tolerance. Travel is how we conduct ourselves in this modern world. So do it. And do it as you always do – with a heap of common sense, a keen awareness of your surroundings, a sense of adventure and deep desire to experience this gorgeous big world of ours.
But should you travel to Morocco specifically? Because it IS in North Africa you know. There are extremists there, aren’t there? It’s a ……sssshhhhh “Muslim country.” And therefore it must be dangerous? Yah, no. I don’t paint all Americans with the same broad Tea Party brush so it would be good to take that lesson here. Morocco is a very different country from “the others”. I will explain.
Let me tell you what I understand about how Morocco is fighting this unholy war that is going on in the world. Then you can decide. Because ultimately we all make our own decisions based on the information we have. I, for example, chose to continue packing up and selling off my life as I watched the attacks in Paris unfold last November. It never crossed my mind that changing my plans to move to a “Muslim country” might be wrong. Because Morocco preaches the messages of freedom and tolerance. Something that maybe our friends in the southern United States could catch up to one of these centuries.
Since 2003, Morocco has implemented, very successfully, (In’shallah) a stringent anti-jihadist strategy. One that could easily be modelled by other countries. I think I have mentioned parts of this before and I apologize if I repeat myself. But this all bears repeating.
According to a report on France 24 recently, Morocco has found and broken up over 20 terror cells since last March. There are approximately 2,000 known Moroccan jihadists currently abroad and so far (Inshallah) none have evaded the authorities on return. There are a few key strategies that have been employed to quell the rise of extremism in a country that is ripe for the picking of young men, living in poverty and undereducated. Let’s look shall we?
First, there is a “take no shit” policy. If you leave the country to go and be a jihadist, when you return you are not politely monitored and quietly questioned….nope. Go directly to jail Sir. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dh. You want to play with the big boys? Here are the consequences.
The penalty in Morocco for bringing firearms into the country or for possessing? Thirty years to life. Yup. No selling assault rifles on Walmart.com here boys. (Because please – how stupid do you hafta be? Oh but you digress (into a ridiculous state of ignorance.)
The government has formed an agency that specifically works with Imams to craft appropriate messages at the mosque. In Morocco, Friday is the Holy Day and on Friday a large portion of the population attends the Friday noon prayers. Probably a heck of a lot more than attend church on Sunday mornings these days. So the Imam offers a sermon of sorts. He talks. And prior to service on Friday, Imams are given instruction on their messaging. The key message is tolerance. Because tolerance is the key to advancing civilization. Let’s face it. They are instructed to hold the King, who holds the title of Commander of the Faithful, as the supreme leader. They talk about the fundamentals of tolerance and how to respond when presented with the beliefs of others. (Think Nancy Reagan “just say no”).
Morocco is on high alert and always has been. I have seen personally what it takes for some of my Moroccan friends to get VISAs to leave the country for travel. It’s not easy. And if you think they don’t check your details, follow up, confirm the information, you are wrong. These guys are on it. The police check the records of hotels at night. They have cameras in all public places including restaurants and hotel lobbies and meeting places. All meetings over 10 people must be reported to the authorities and attended by a government witness. All groups are questioned immediately. There is really not a lot of opportunity to get together as a group and spread a message of indoctrination.
In villages and towns, the authorities talk to the people. They circulate. They are visible and they are approachable. “Report suspicious activity” is taken very seriously here. As with most places now I am sure, no one who isn’t ticketed can be in an airport. If you are dropping off or picking up, you can do it from the curb. No standing here.
So I’ve been living here. Do I see this with my own eyes? Am I making a connection between the message and the method. Hell ya. I am. I feel secure. I feel safe. Could something happen tomorrow? Yes it could. Here or Toronto. Marrakech or Madrid. Casablanca or San Francisco. These are the times we live in. But is it safe to travel to Morocco? Please do. I encourage you heartily to visit Morocco. Come and enjoy. See the beauty of this strange and wonderful land. Don’t deny yourself out of fear.
We will be happy to help you make arrangements. Come, sit, have tea. Share some couscous. Be happy.