Homeland Security News: Morocco changes offer US ‘very important opportunity’-Robert Holley

Homeland Security NewsWire (Washington, DC, Jan. 11, 2012) – Homeland Security NewsWire’s Executive Editor Eugene K. Chow recently had the opportunity to chat with Robert M. Holley, Moroccan American Center for Policy.

Homeland Security NewsWire: What does it mean to be a “moderate” Islamist political party in today’s Morocco, as the Justice and Development Party (PJD) has been described?

Robert M. Holley: PJD is often described as a “moderate” Islamist political party in large measure because their platform concentrates on issues related to economic and social development, justice, accountability, and transparency in government rather than what many in the West think of as more “Islamist” issues such as the imposition of Islamic law as the sole legitimate reference for the actions of government in society. Indeed, PJD does not describe itself as an “Islamist” party. Rather, they refer to themselves as a political party that has an “Islamic reference.” That distinction is less subtle than it sounds at face value. It is more helpful to think of the PJD as one would think of the Christian Democrats in the European political framework. Another helpful way to understand the PJD in Morocco is to look at the governing PJD party in Turkey, which has accepted the larger and deeply ingrained secular norms of Turkish society and not sought to impose its own religious preferences over the will of the majority…

HSNW: What are the implications for the United States? That is to say, will Morocco continue to maintain friendly relations with the United States or Europe, or will it shift to prioritize its Middle Eastern neighbors?

RH: The violence that has accompanied events in the region over the past year have been absent in Morocco largely as a result of efforts led by King Mohammed VI to respond progressively and positively to demands in Moroccan society for greater participation and more attention to issues of social inequality. This has made of Morocco not only an “exception” in the region, but also has cast the country as a model for others seeking to achieve the same results in their own societies. For the West, and especially for the United States, Morocco’s success thus far represents a very important opportunity, if the United States and its partners in Europe can muster the political will and develop new and innovative means to effectively address the issues, to demonstrate that the West can be a useful and supportive partner…

The need for Western engagement to protect its own critical interests in the Middle East at what will clearly become, for better or worse, a watershed moment in the region’s history is evident. But what is far from evident is whether the will exists to become seriously engaged in the project and whether the U.S. and its partners in Europe can learn quickly enough how to break with their own perhaps too well established patterns of “business as usual” in the region and adapt to the changing circumstances. On this, the jury is still out and early signs are not especially promising.  [Continue Reading... ]

Robert M. Holley is Senior Adviser at the Moroccan American Center for Policy

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