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MENA: Saudi Arabia Bans Moroccan Women From Traveling to Mecca

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Digital Activism, Media & Journalism, Politics, Women & Gender, Youth

The decision last month by Saudi Arabia to ban Moroccan women [1] [Ar] of a “young age” from traveling to Mecca [2], the holiest meeting site in Islam, to perform the Umrah [3], or minor pilgrimage, has stirred outrage in Morocco. Saudi authorities justified the ban on the suspicion that young female visa applicants (whether accompanied by their parents or not) “may have something else in mind” than strictly pious intentions, in clear reference to underground prostitution. Moroccan conservative members of the parliament have been vocal in condemning what they consider “a trial of intentions” and an “insult to all Moroccan women and to their families.” Bloggers are also reacting to the Saudi ban.


Tawaf of the Kaaba – a ritual of Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, by Omar Chatriwala on Flickr

Sudanese-born commentator Nesrine Malik who writes on the Guardian's Comment is Free considers that Saudi Arabia, by implementing this ban, is failing in its religious duties [5]toward fellow Muslims. She has a suggestion:

Saudi Arabia has a duty to facilitate pilgrimages to Mecca for all Muslims worldwide. I would therefore suggest, in order to mitigate the problem and in the spirit of slanderous generalisation, that Saudi men be banned from Morocco, lest they use their tourist visas for “other purposes”.

Moroccan blogger Sarah (Words for Change) [6] responds to the ban in a post she titles “I am a Prostitute, a Witch, a Drug Addict, a Zionist.” She explains her dislike of mounting stereotypes against Moroccans. She writes:

I tried to stay very diplomatic all this years while explaining how much Morocco is an amazing country and that what they talk about are cultural aspects of the Moroccan identity blablablabla. Today I decide not to be diplomatic anymore and to respond to what they accuse us of […]
Moroccan women are more honorable than many oriental manipulative little girls who practice superficial sex, anal sex to preserve their virginity and buy a Chinese spare virginity [7] in case they lose it, and still they will act like virgin Mary “Achraf mini Echaraf Mafiich” [as if they were more honorable than honor itself].

Lebanese blogger Mustapha from BeirutSprings.com is shocked [8] by the ban and says Moroccan authorities should have responded more vigorously. He writes:

But the blame sits not only with the Saudis. The Moroccans should have made a bigger stink out of this. They should have threatened to go all the way and if need-be ban their citizens from going to Saudi Arabia. Maybe this would generate the kind of publicity that forces the entire Arab world to debate this all-too-common stereotype.

Moroccan blogger Anas from Big Brother Maroc agrees [9] [Fr]. He writes:

[Q]ue faire ? Notre pays n'a ni le pétrole des Saoudiens, ni suffisamment de puissance économique pour refuser “l'aide” en millions de dollars que donne la Monarchie Saoudienne au Maroc.

Si cela ne dépendait que de moi, j'aurai décidé de ne plus partir à la Mecque, mon pays économisera les millions de dollars au lieu de les transférer vers l'Arabie saoudite à travers les pèlerinages de Marocains, j'imposerai le Visa aux Saoudiens et je commencerai à corriger ce qui est à corriger dans mon pays.

What can we do? Unlike Saudi Arabia, our country doesn't have oil, nor sufficient economic power to afford losing out on the millions of dollars of “aid” that Saudi royals offer Morocco.

If it were up to me, I would refuse to visit Mecca anymore, and help my country save millions of dollars instead of transferring them to Saudi Arabia through the pilgrimage. I would impose a visa on Saudis and start fixing the problems within my own country.

The issue also sparked a discussion on Twitter.

Miss Nabokov (Morocco) writes:

If this is how it's going to be, then Saudi men should be banned from Morocco as they're the ones that go over there looking for sex. [10]

What makes me angry is SA [Saudi Arabia] & the Gulf accuse Morocco of lax morals when THEIR men are the ones coming over and exploiting impoverished girls. [11]

Jillian C. York (USA) agrees:

Morocco is a pretty poor country. The blame is on Saudi Arabia for continuously exploiting that fact. [12]

@Medmouad (Morocco) responds:

@jilliancyork I prefer to say both Morocco & KSA (Gulf in general) are to blame. If Moroccan subjects are well defended, it would be better [13]

Afrinomad (Morocco) joins the discussion. He writes:

@jilliancyork it's revolting that from the perspective of Gulf Arabs, “Moroccan” is not seen a nationality but an occupation [14]

Tarek Amr @gr33ndata (Egypt) tweets:

عشان الناس إل زعلت لما قلت الحج و العمرة لازم تكون تحت إدارة دولية بعيدا عن خبل السعودية و عنصريتها [15] http://bit.ly/bfA9Nn

For those who were angered when I suggested that the Hajj [16]and the Umrah [3]should be put under an international administration and taken away from the madness and racism of Saudi Arabia, I suggest you follow think link [leading to Aljazeera's article about the ban] http://bit.ly/bfA9Nn

Jasmine Aladdin (Egypt) agrees. She tweets:

@gr33ndata da habbal weste3bat gamed awi we ta55aloofff begad we maloush ay 3elaqa bel deen!!! [17]

This is madness. It's a wicked affront. What a backwardness really. It has nothing to do with religion!!!

Ahmed Fouad (Egypt) disagrees. He tweets:

@gr33ndata لا اعتقد ان سبب المنع هو العنصرية ولكن اكيد هوا المحافظة علي قدسية هذا البلد وطهارتة [18]

I don't think this has anything to do with racism. It's definitely an attempt to maintain the sanctity of this country and its purity.

This isn't the only time controversy was raised around this issue. More recently, the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan had to issue an apology after a popular cartoon it produces created a stir [19]when it depicted Moroccan women as greedy witches scheming to lure wealthy Kuwaiti males into marriage.

The Egyptian Ministry of Information's website was reportedly attacked by a Moroccan hacker who broke into its server causing it to collapse. According to Hespress.com [20] [Ar], a Moroccan online news website, the attack was meant to express anger at the way Moroccan women were depicted in an Egyptian TV series aired this summer called al-Aar (The Shame).

Photo by omar_chatriwala [21] available on Flickr and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic [22] license.