Michael J Totten visits Morocco, finds some positives to a monarchy despite his republican instincts, and talks to the mayor of Marrakech:
Morocco is still in many way a conservative Muslim society, but the traditions it is conserving aren’t the same as they are everywhere else in the region. The country has a strong moderate Sufi current, and the religion as practiced and understood there has long been influenced by ideas from Sub-Saharan Africa and from Europe, which is only eleven miles away. Plenty of uncovered women are out and about in the streets. I didn’t see a single woman with her face covered the entire time I was there. Female genital mutilation, with an incidence rate somewhere between 78-97 percent in Egypt, doesn’t even exist in Morocco.
And the city of Marrakech elected its first woman mayor four years ago. Fatima Zahra Mansouri from the Authenticity and Modernity Party is the first woman mayor in the country’s history. She speaks perfect French and wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the mayor’s office in Paris.
She does not wear a headscarf. Every time she meets with local Islamists they tell her she should cover herself, but she refuses. She has a standard—and I’m sorry to say, unprintable—response to that demand.
I asked her what’s the hardest thing about her job, and she knew the answer immediately. “The most difficult thing is making unpopular decisions that are necessary for the city’s future. Like making people pay for parking. People hate that, but it’s important! And I don’t like taxes, but the city needs money.”
That’s the kind of answer the mayor of a city in a peaceable and fully developed nation might have. The mayors of Benghazi and Baghdad have far bigger problems on their plate at the moment and likely will for a very long time. When public anger over parking meters become the biggest source of stress for the mayor of Baghdad, we’ll know Iraq has truly and finally changed.