My Moroccan heritage has always meant so much to me. Thanks to my family’s heritage I have been grown to know the rich tapestry that is our past. From colorful, sometimes helpful proverbs, to authentic Moroccan recipes, I am proud to claim this part of my heritage. The values of the Moroccan culture have been instilled in me; I am proud of all that I am and all that my people have become. However, sometimes my heritage and the lessons or cultural values that are taught within it appear to inhibit on certain aspects of life. I have recently become aware of societal and institutional barriers that may impact any desire I may have to gain leadership. It is my job, as a proud member of the Moroccan community, to identify ways to overcome these barriers and become a successful representation of my people.
One of the primary societal barriers that may potentially stop me or anybody from my culture from taking a place of culturally relevant leadership lies within the cultural diversity within the Moroccan community. The community is very religiously diverse. Moroccan culture also accommodates many different races. Unfortunately this stops many people from recognizing Moroccans as their own people. Many times I have been confronted with stereotypes when I have explained my cultures. Individuals will hear that Moroccan culture consists of individuals who are of Christian, Jewish, or Islamic faith. Depending on the individual’s predisposition to any of these religions, they will begin to make assumptions of the Moroccan community as a whole. After hearing that many Moroccan’s practice Islam, a popular misconception is that many of us are terrorists or people who hate Christians. This, however, could not be farther from the truth. The history of my people was built around diversity. My ancestors had always known diversity; it was a part of their daily lives. They grew up befriending individuals of different races and religions, accepting of all people. It is ironic to me that I am from an accepting culture and now live in one that seems to be born on a foundation of predicating everybody around them.
I understand that the misconception about some facets of my people and their religion are not without reason. The attacks performed on September 11, 2001 are something that still haunt many around the globe, and will continue to do so for decades to come. It is reasonable that some hear “Arabic”, “Islamic”, or “Quran” and assume the worst. It is not fair but it is fathomable. Mansoor Moaddell and Hamid Latif outline in their article, “Events and Value Chance: The Impact of September 11, 2001, on the Worldview of Egyptians and Moroccans”, published in Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion that after the attacks, the worldview of Moroccans and other Islamic states went down significantly (2006). Prior to the attacks, opinions on Morocco and other relatively low-profile Islamic states were unnoted; people did not notice them much, if at all. The attacks, understandable, sent everybody into a panic, forcing them to feel as though they were always facing a constant threat (2006). Unfortunately, due to Al-Qaeda’s in Morocco, public opinion diminished over the next year and continued to drop significantly. If I were to claim any relevant cultural leadership, my Moroccan heritage would be a focal point and though there are many aspects to my heritage, this would be the societal barrier I would need to overcome.
Adapt and Overcome
When making an attempt to lead the masses, trust is the most important element. If a leader does not have the trust of his or her followers, he or she has nothing to build a foundation upon. Marc J. Hetherington and Jason A. Husser discuss how important trust can be and how it can be regained in their article, “How Trust Matters: The Changing Political Relevance and Political Trust”, published in American Journal of Political Science (2012). In the article, Hetherington and Husser explain that regaining the trust of the masses, especially in political arenas is simultaneously easy and difficult. It is easy because voters can be bought and won through different techniques and methods. Cultural leadership in America revolves around specific values based primarily on the Republican and Democratic demographics; voters can be persuaded if leaders lend themselves to specific values that they know voters want to hear about (2012). However, winning the trust of followers is also difficult as a leader if you are part of a demographic that is not easily accepted. Someone of Moroccan descent is a good example. A person from a background that puts them a disadvantage for a leadership position can utilize the same techniques to win trust and become a leader but it does not always work; other methods may need to be applied.
In order to overcome the barriers of common misconception and stereotyping, I will primarily need to be forthright in my views if I wish to be a leader. I am not a terrorist. I do not know any terrorists. I also have nothing to hide. Under these circumstances public scrutiny would be inevitable; how I handled it would be an opportunity to win trust and prove I was a viable leader. Hiding my background, my family, and my life would make me seem suspicious. Without allowing the press to completely invade my privacy I would allow them to prove that myself and my family are free from any criminal records and, regardless of our religious backgrounds or the religious backgrounds of those we associate with, we are upstanding members of the community. Hetherington and Husser cite in their article that being open and honest about one’s life, even if one has done something wrong, can often connect form a connection or bond with others (2012). Sometimes leaders feel inaccessible and a level of openness makes followers feel less like the leader is acting as a dictator and more like the leader is trying to do what is best (2012). Connecting with people and allowing them to see that Moroccan is my heritage, while I am an individual not bound by my origin country’s temporarily tarnished reputation, will allow me not only to overcome the barrier put in place by Al-Qaeda but to also repair the misconceptions that have developed.
Plan of Action
Every potential leader must enter the arena with a plan of action. I have already established that if I hoped to become a culturally relevant leader, I would not attempt to hide anything about my cultural background. I believe that this would gain the trust of those around me and help to quell misconceptions. As this began I would attempt to correct stereotypes that have been forming since the 9/11 attacks. This would begin by educating and attempting to stop the spread of misinformation. In his book, “Guilt: Hollywood’s Verdict of Arabs after 9/11”, Jack Shaheen outlines how the media has used the tragic attacks to not only capitalize on the idea that Arabs are terrorists but to perpetuate the stereotype that all Arabs are terrorists (2012). This is an erroneous claim; the constant bombardment by the media of this idea only leads to the spread of ignorance in the general public. As a cultural leader I would commission for several things: I would either want a halt put on media that perpetuated the stereotype that all Arabs were terrorists on a mission to kill infidels or I would want more representation in the media of Arabs from all walks of life. Many are not terrorists; they live peaceful lives just like those who practice any other religions. They do not wish to harm anybody or commit any atrocities. Stories of these Arabs also need to be told. Lastly I would try to educate the public on the rich tapestry that is Morocco. It is not just a culture of Arabs or practicing Islams. It is also a culture of Africans, Christians, and Jews. Many people of all different races and colors come together to make Morocco what it is. I would be sensitive to the misconceptions left in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks but in order to be an effective leader it would be my duty to educate the public and turn their attention to more important matters instead of allowing them to focus their attention on fallacies.
In conclusion, though there would not be several barriers for me to overcome if I wished to be a culturally relevant leader, the one I would face would be prominent. Gaining trust in the face of prejudice and racism is a difficult task no matter how small the matter is. The task would be made more difficult because the hatred was born out of such a traumatic experience. The terrorists attacks of September 11 were a tragedy but I believe I continue to prove that I am a culturally relevant leader by remaining understanding to of the fact that there will be fallout from such an experience. It is fallout that I, as a leader, would be willing to handle with the utmost sensitivity. I understand that it would not be easy. However, I believe that with openness, honesty, and education, I would be able to begin establishing myself as a cultural leader while correcting misinformation people have been given. It would be difficult, but it would not be impossible. Just like my Moroccan ancestors, I am strong and capable.
Hetherington, M. J., & Husser, J. A. (2012). How Trust Matters: The Changing Political Relevance of Political Trust. American Journal of Political Science, 312-325.
Moaddel, M., & Latif, H. (2006). Events and Value Change: The Impact of September 11, 2001, on the Worldviews of Egyptians and Moroccans. Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, 1-48.
Shaheen, J. (2012). Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11. Chicago: Interlink Publishing.