Mediterranean: Ben Jelloun,dialogue between two shores vital

Moroccan writer chastises Europe, less prudence, more courage

16 January, 14:05

(ANSAmed) - CAGLIARI, JANUARY 16 - An appeal was made for unity between the two shores of the Mediterranean, in order to overcome the economic and social crisis and to look to the future with hope. This solution cannot come through a second Marshall plan to aid Africa. Penetrating, farsighted and disillusioned, Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jalloun, one of the most important voices in North Africa, and a Goncourt award-winning author in 1987, stated: "In our times, society in the third millennium is no longer willing to carry out gestures of altruism. The global crisis has hit everywhere and everyone, and everyone is concerned with saving themselves. And yet in order to overcome the crisis, it is necessary for the richer north, which is in constant demographic decline, and the poor overpopulated south to work together, setting aside prejudice and racism. Maybe learning a lesson in democracy from North Africa and looking at Sweden as a model for immigration policy." The writer, born in 1944, currently living in France and author of bestsellers such as "The Jasmine Revolution" and "Racism Explained to My Daughter", visited Sardinia for the first time as a guest in Cagliari at the conference entitled "Le Radici come Futuro", coordinated by university professor Mauro Pala and organised at the Teatro Massimo by Cedac and Prohairesis. The discussion focussed on identity, immigration, racism and the most critical issue last year, the Arab Spring, the uprisings that decreed the end of three regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and which shook the entire Arab world. "Europe forgot about the Mediterranean and the south shore. And yet immigration is a necessity," said Ben Jelloun, "for the people arriving who are looking for work, and for employers in need of labour. Instead we create confusion and everyone ends up in the same pot, legal immigrants, undocumented immigrants waiting to be made legal and petty criminals. This generates fear, the mother of racism." "Until now the heads of state in France, Italy and Spain have brokered deals with dictators who have stood as an obstacle to Islamism," Ben Jelloun criticised. "In exchange the West closed its eyes to the cries of pain from the humanitarian organisations. Relations with Libya were limited to a visit to Italy by Gaddafi, another to France, and the vacations to the west by the daughter of the Libyan dictator." Then something that no one had expected happened. "Europe, faced with the discontent resulting from the Arab Spring," explained Ben Jelloun, "stood by and watched and is still on the outside with a "prudent" stance. The recipe to overcome the crisis, according to the Arab scholar, is through cooperation, this is the only way to create a democratic future. "Racism and prejudice go hand in hand and intensify with the economic crisis," he explained. "It's no wonder that a 'pied noir' like Zinedine Zidane, a symbol of multicultural France, is more popular than President Sarkozy. This is an important sign. Many others will arrive on your doorstep in Italy, and it will be possible to write new and better pages regarding the future of society. Because," said Tahar Ben Jelloun, "a dual identity means multiculturalism." (ANSAmed).

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