Monday, January 12, 2009

Moroccan Trinity: God, homeland, king

DRIVE into Morocco’s countryside and you are likely to come across neat piles of white stones stacked on hillsides, forming giant Arabic letters that spell out the country’s motto, “Allah, al-Watan, al-Malik” (God, the Nation, the King). These words are officially sacred: any challenge to what they represent is punishable by law. King Muhammad VI’s Morocco has made much progress towards freedom of speech, but his regime still enforces the three-word motto with alacrity.

McDonald’s, America’s fast-food giant, recently discovered the limits of that tolerance when it was forced to apologise after distributing a map of its restaurants in Morocco without including the disputed Western Sahara as part of the kingdom. Despite calls for a boycott in the nationalist press, the chain’s swift self-abasement sufficed to quell the row, perhaps because it had already proved its commitment to national integrity by marketing a “McSahara” hamburger. MORE HERE in the ECONOMIST.

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