Identity suppression and the complex diversity of Moroccan society

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

This is the 3rd installment of my Womxn of My World Interview Series with LTP — a Moroccan immigrant living in London. Catch up on Part 1, and Part 2.

Me: So what are the consequences if people would come out as gay, queer or trans?

LTP: Jail. Well transexual is different in Morocco because LGBQ is considered deviance whereas transexuals are considered “more natural” as they do believe scientifically or medically that you can be born with different genitalia. But then you have to make a choice and get surgeries which are 100% legal. People [in Morocco] tend to understand transgender a little bit better somehow. On the other hand if you’re a gay man or lesbian woman it’s like, “what’s wrong with you?”

Me: you’re “mentally ill”? Is that the premise?

LTP: I don’t think that it’s being mentally ill, I think it’s that you’re “deviant, evil, gross.”

Me: It is more a “disgust” thing. And if you are openly gay, is that punishable by law?

LTP: Of course, I don’t know anybody that is openly gay.

You can tell some people if you trust them that you’re gay but you don’t go to work being gay. You don’t go to school being gay. You don’t go to weddings or festivals, game days being gay. You’re going to get beaten to death. And if you make it out alive you’re going to jail, and then after that they think you’re going to hell because God is going to punish you. So yeah you don’t do that.

Me: Hmm that’s a tough life for people.

LTP: It is, I think in Morocco everybody has a tough life which is the paradox. Poor people have a tough life. Women have a tough life. LGBTQI identifying people have a tough life. Non-muslims have a tough life. Jewish people have a tough life. The very conservative Muslims have a tough life.

How are we all suffering and all having tough lives and still we are all judgmental of each other and punishing each other?

Me: When you say the conservative Muslims have a tough life, what do you mean by that?

LTP: Well we have a monarchy that doesn’t like them first of all. In the previous regime that we lived under he was a fucked up dictator and he completely suppressed them and erased them. If you had a beard, if you had a burqa, you were going to jail. Those people disappeared.

Religious power is very controlled. Even the imams in the mosques have a script coming from the government of exactly what points they can discuss. Every Friday all the mosques of Morocco have the exact same topics, the exact same script.

Me: So there is even control over the way that people practice Islam?

LTP: Yes, definitely.

Me: I feel like the western world is lacks awareness of these details about the suppression of various identities in Morocco and other Muslim countries. I also think it’s a travesty that people have all these false perceptions about Islam, Muslim people and brown people, especially considering they cannot practice their religion the way that they would like in Morocco.

LTP: Morocco has always claimed this idea of moderate Muslims. So they were always scared of radicalism and people appearing a certain way. The monarchy always wanted to modernize and be as Western as possible. With the goal of being closer to Europe.

You know they requested membership to the European Union and so there is this move to educate people, but not really educate people because they do not invest any money in education. So I am not sure what the plan is because they [the government] don’t want to educate people in a way that will cause them to rise up against the government.

Especially after 9/11 you couldn’t get a job at a lot of places if you were a veiled woman. You were supposed to take off your scarf.

Me: In Morocco?

LTP: Yeah, when you entered your workplace. You could wear it in the street but not at work, but not at work, especially for desk jobs or relationship or customer service where you had to deal with people. Until now in embassies and in many places you couldn’t wear a veil.

Me: Do you think the veil becoming more prevalent now correlates with what you mentioned before about Morocco becoming more conservative?

LTP: Yes, it is. So we have all those contradictions happening at the same time. From one side, they don’t want the country to be radicalized and they have written scripts for imams. Before this King, all the people with radical views would go to jail.

During the Arab Spring Revolution there were radical Islamic groups fighting next to feminists, next to the LGBT people, next to all those groups fighting in the streets because they were oppressed and they were losing. It’s a very, very diverse complicated society.

Stay tuned for Part 4 where we discuss the realities of inter-racial/inter-cultural relationships. Special thanks to LTP for her candor and for getting vulnerable with me. All the love in the world to this very special, and very intelligent womxn.

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