Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita expressed hope that the Tangier Dialogue would become an annual meeting where intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and thinkers get together to make a difference. He urged the participants to go beyond “brainstorming” and call for real and tangible change.
Dear Leah, Dear Miguel, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear guests,
It is a great honor and pleasure for me to address such a prestigious group of guests. Allow me to welcome you all to Morocco.
We could not have hoped for a better setting to host a dialogue of this scale. Where better than the country at the crossroads of cultures, continents and civilizations to host a debate rooted in history, resolutely turned towards the future and genuinely focused on sharing?
If Morocco is the ideal place for this, it is first and foremost because of the leadership and vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God assist him. The principles of openness and tolerance; the values of peace and living together are, so to speak, part of the Kingdom’s DNA. And where better to embody this spirit of openness and knowledge-sharing than Tangier – the beautiful Tangier, the cosmopolitan Tangier. Tangier which, under the impetus of His Majesty, has grown, has modernized and opened up even more to the world, without ever losing its soul.
It is not insignificant that it is Tangier that welcomes us. Straddling two continents, two shores and two seas; Tangier has always been the crossroads and the link. It has always kept its eyes on the horizon and its soul open to the other. It was from here that Ibn Battouta set out to discover the world. It was to Tangier that Matisse and Delacroix came to find the glow of light and the flash of genius.
There is no doubt we too could find the necessary inspiration for lucid and fruitful reflection. And this is one of Project Aladdin’s vocations. Project Aladdin has many strengths, one expression of which is the organization of this kind of meeting. But its actions go beyond that, and its impact can also be more profound.
Indeed, Dear Leah Pisar, Dear friends, Morocco’s commitment to Project Aladdin is a commitment rooted in its origins. At the launch of Project Aladdin, in 2009, His Majesty King Mohammed VI courageously named the unspeakable and vigorously rejected Holocaust denial in his message to the conference.
Since then, Morocco has continued to support Project Aladdin, including by remaining faithful to its spirit and active in its Board of Directors. In this regard, I salute the discreet but effective commitment of Mr. André Azoulay, Advisor to His Majesty the King.
Project Aladdin has come to crystallize a long-standing Moroccan commitment: the same commitment that was expressed through the protection of our fellow Jewish citizens by the late HM Mohammed V, against xenophobia and Nazism.
The same commitment that was expressed through the spirit of brotherhood and openness cultivated by HM Hassan II between Jews and Muslims throughout the world. The same commitment that is expressed today, and for more than two decades, through the commitment of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, to integrate the Hebrew tributary into the Moroccan Constitution and to enhance and safeguard the national Jewish heritage.
Like your late father, dear Leah, we, in Morocco, believe that “there are no hereditary enemies”. Like you, we in Morocco know that “education opens up the road to tolerance”. And like you, we, in Morocco, defend the common history, not in its partial or fragmented versions, but in its high memory, which belongs to all.
As His Majesty the King said in 2009: [and I quote] “We must set out together to reconquer the reason and values that underpin the legitimacy of a space of conviviality where the words dignity, justice and freedom will have to be expressed in the same way and combined with the same requirements, whatever our origins, cultures or spiritualities.”
This “space of conviviality” that His Majesty the King defends is also the very essence of the Alliance of Civilizations, whose committed and tireless leadership I particularly welcome in the person of its High Representative, my friend Miguel Ángel Moratinos.
Yes, the Alliance is necessary, today more than ever, at such a special moment in history, when certainties are shifting, when geopolitics is being rewritten, and when the causes at the very origin of the creation of the Alliance are experiencing an unprecedented resurgence. It is for this reason, in fact, that Morocco intends to host the 9th Forum of the Alliance this year, for the first time in Africa.
Exchanges, such as those that the Tangier Dialogue will host, are essential. The world still needs free, dispassionate, “out of the box” and “out of the block” thinking; it needs a relaxed approach to complex issues… The world needs intellectual tolerance, diversity of perspectives.
How can the Tangier Dialogue mark its specificity and make a difference? Perhaps first of all, by transcending brainstorming and taking active responsibility for the subjects under discussion. This is why the mix of intellectuals, journalists, politicians and thinkers can make a difference!
Secondly, by perpetuating and broadening the reflection. The Tangier Dialogue must become a tradition, a regular event. And finally, we must no longer allow current events to dictate the timing of our meetings. The Tangier Dialogue must also remain creative, never redundant; daring, never following.
The current context makes such an exercise relevant. The world is in turmoil, to say the least. It is a time of profound transformation, which invites us to examine the external world with one eye and to engage in an exercise of introspection with the other.
The pandemic has been a powerful indicator of the deep state of international society. Where it was supposed to crystallize an awareness of a shared destiny, the pandemic has been the face of ‘every man for himself’. It marked a collapse of international cooperation, in favor of a generalized national withdrawal: we saw masks that had barely been bought, already bought back on the tarmac. We have seen privileged and priority access to the vaccine, ignoring the boomerang effect of a two-tier vaccination.
As the world barely catches a glimpse of hope for a post-Covid recovery, other sources of division begin to leer. There is more emphasis on winning and less on convincing. Zero-sum games are being introduced as victory instructions, instead of mutual success as the rule of the game. There is a lot of talk about sovereignty, sacrificing collective security on the altar of individual sovereignty, as if the two were exclusive. Violence is revived as a mode of regulation: violence in language; violence in actions; violence to the point of war.
Whether it is the use of force or economic violence, the manifestations of conflict have become legion. The intensity of a conviction is confused with the brutality of an impulsiveness. And then we are surprised by the rise of terrorism, which is mixed with separatism. The one-track mindset thrives on the ground of false certainties. The extremes saturate the debate and fill the space.
I won’t hide the fact that I was anxious about what I, as a diplomat, could contribute to a reflection on the Enlightenment. It is certain that the Enlightenment is not only a precise historical period (1715-1789), confined to a particular geographical area (Europe); but as a state of mind, which must find its way into diplomacy as well.
Moreover, the Age of Enlightenment is also the era of the rise of modern diplomacy. Not only because they coincide historically, but because they are carried by the same impulse. MONTESQUIEU said: “We do not lack doctors, we lack medicine”. To paraphrase him, I would say that “we do not lack diplomats, we lack diplomacy”, and I would even add: diplomacy of the Enlightenment.
Allow me to share with you a few elements on this subject:
One: Diplomatic time must become “geopolitical” again, and not just “political”. It is a long time, a strategic time, which needs momentum to build over time, space to explain, and endurance to get people to adhere.
It is the complete opposite of tactical time, which is deployed in “small steps” and lives on polls and reactions. “Enlightenment diplomacy” is a “long-distance race”, through a “sprint of headlines”. The lights are often in the subtlety of the trajectory. This is the meaning of the patient but visionary diplomatic construction led by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in Africa, the Middle East and on multilateral and global issues.
Two: The best solution is not necessarily the one we have not yet found. It is, sometimes, right in front of us. In the Middle East, for example, salvation may lie in a return to the essentials, i.e. a solution that allows for cohabitation, respect for the legitimate rights of all parties, and the overcoming of resentments and grudges, expectations and disappointments. This is also valid in North Africa, to bring reason back into choices that too often defy rationality.
Three: The world wins by moving towards ‘co-knowledge’. As His Majesty the King said: “Radicalisms, whether religious or not, are based on non-knowledge of the other, ignorance of the other, ignorance altogether. Co- knowledge is a negation of all forms of radicalism. And it is this co-knowledge that will enable us to meet the challenges of our tormented present. But, to move towards this co-knowledge, we must stop essentializing religions, and in particular the Muslim religion and its believers.”
For Morocco, the country of the Commandery of believers, religion must be a bulwark against extremism and not its pretext. This is what His Majesty the King advocates through the Kingdom’s religious diplomacy in Africa. The Mohammed VI Foundation for Ulemas and the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Murshidins and Murshidates are there precisely to counter the radicalism that is rampant at the gates of Africa and to promote an Islam of moderation, of the Middle Way. As His Majesty the King said: “Religion is Light, Knowledge, Wisdom”. It finds its most eloquent expression in the Al Quds appeal, in which His Majesty the King and Pope Francis called for “the preservation of the Holy City of Jerusalem/Al Quds Al-Sharif as the common heritage of humanity and, above all for the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as a place of encounter and a symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue are cultivated.”
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
With a few exceptions, the relationship between the West and the Muslim world has not always been entirely harmonious. This may be a historical fact, but it is not inevitable. But, as in most interactions between civilizations, there are always positive dimensions, even in the most painful frictions.
Didn’t the Muslim University of Al-Qarawiyyin in Fes train a Sovereign Pontiff (Pope Sylvester II)? Didn’t Muslim Andalusia play a role in the West’s journey towards its Enlightenment? Wasn’t the same Muslim Andalusia the link in the chain of knowledge between modern science and the knowledge of ancient Greece?
Were not the Crusades, paradoxically, an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, as well as for conquest and trade? The same goes for medicine, music, philosophy, navigation and so on… Many innovations have crossed the barrier of civilizations, before crossing the barrier of space and time.
So, to use the title of one of the “jalsates” of the Tangier Dialogue, we need to “reset the relationship between the West and the Muslim countries.”
Under the leadership of His Majesty the King, Morocco is demonstrating that the Muslim world is not a burden on the West; on the contrary, it is a country that provides national responses to pressing global issues. A country that actively contributes to the debates and actions around these issues. It is a central ally in the fight against terrorism; a credible partner in the fight against climate change; a responsible actor in the management of migration. It is precisely our complementarities that allow us to understand a diplomacy of Enlightenment in action.
Dear Leah, Dear Miguel, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests,
The Enlightenment is special in that it has never ceased to inspire humanity. And if sometimes we cannot match it, we are content to borrow its lexicon. The challenge of the Tangier Dialogue is to put the Enlightenment back on the contemporary agenda.
May Tangier carry this ambition high: that of a better world, where the Enlightenment, wherever it comes from, leaves no one in the dark or in the shadow.