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Young Moroccans Debate Morality

I’ve often wondered about the double standard among Moroccan young people, in which the men are free to have sexual adventures and indeed take pride in it, while at the same time showing the most lively disgust at the idea of marrying a woman who has done the same. As it happens, I just stumbled on a web forum called Jeunes du Maroc (Moroccan Youth) where this very question was brought up and handled with an amazing spirit of fair play.

Here is the original question, posted by “virgule67” on September 2, 2006 (I am translating from French):

    We often speak of equality between the two sexes, but the problem is that our culture still blocks the realization of this equality. In this forum I’ll take the following example, which I want to debate with you. A woman will accept that her husband has had relations with other women before their marriage. She might even demand it. A man tends to be proud of his former experiences with women. On the other hand, a man wants his wife to be clean, meaning without any relationship before him. Is this reasonable? Can we change these ideas? Must we always investigate the past history of our partners, or should we avoid judging them on their past?

This generated a lively debate, with responses all over the map, until a young man named “wonder” stepped in on September 12, 2006:

    We’re constantly hearing that we live in a hypocritical society with incoherent ideas, but our society isn’t a monster come out of nowhere to swallow us up. Our society is simply us, all of us!
    The great majority of us are Muslims, and Islam formally forbids sexual relations before marriage. It forbids this for both sexes, and that’s normal because a sexual relationship doesn’t happen without two people, a man and a woman, so if we forbade this only to women, who would the men go out with?
    In short, it’s stupid to tell yourself, “I want a woman with no experience, because I’m a man who respects himself, but if I have experiences before marriage it’s because I’m a man, and a man is always a man no matter what he does.” That’s brute hypocrisy, and we can imagine that men who choose women with no experience are just hiding from the truth, because they aren’t choosing women with no experience—no!—they’re choosing women who say they have no experience, women who know quite well how to hide what they’re up to. If they’ve decided to hide it, it’s because the man (or men) with whom they’ve had relations made them understand that a man never marries a woman he’s had sex with before marriage, and the result is both hilarious and sad, because the men exchange partners without even realizing it. One dumps his girlfriend so that another can pick her up, believing she has no past history, and the first one goes elsewhere to look for a woman with no past, who has herself just been dumped by another man and decides, because she has to, to play the Virgin Mary. It’s all a load of bull!
    The answer? It’s in us. Either we follow the instructions of our religion to the letter, and that’s the ideal, or at least we agree to be honest with ourselves and admit that if someone has a past before marriage, then the other party has the right to it too, a right we give to each other because we’ve chosen to forget the rights given to us by our religion….
    But it has to be said that there really are young men and young women who’ve chosen to save themselves for their future partners under the wings of marriage. They certainly exist, but they’re in the minority, and if they decide to marry, they won’t necessarily luck out and find a mate who has preserved herself or himself for marriage as they did. But that in no way means they’ve made a bad choice, because experiences before marriage can be an asset just as they can be a handicap, it depends on the point of view of each of us. What matters is to be honest with ourselves and with others, so we can make our choices in the light of reality, and seek the truth together.

This response drew a standing ovation from the other members of the forum, with three people giving it the highest possible score. After that the conversation went back to its earlier give and take, with opinions ranging from a woman who insisted on her right to sexual liberty, to a conservative who told her to take her words back right away if she didn’t want to be damned.

The most astute criticism was given by a couple of commenters who felt that “wonder” was making excuses for the majority, going with what is popular rather than what is right. However, his point is deeper than that. Society is “us” and we choose, together, either to be chaste until marriage, which he calls “the ideal,” or not. It is shameful to apply a standard to others that we don’t apply to ourselves. Honesty is a higher value in God’s eyes than “following the instructions of our religion to the letter.” He captures the essential spirit of choice and responsiblity in the Qur’an when he speaks of sexual freedom as “a right we give to each other because we’ve chosen to forget the rights given to us by our religion.” That is not an apology for loose morals, far from it. Indeed there is an edge of sadness to it. But above all it is a plea for honesty and tolerance, given the realities of the world we live in.


Comment from mike
Time: November 27, 2006, 19:16

An excellent posting for my first visit (via ‘a view from the medina’). It is refreshing to see such an intelligent discussion on the part of ‘wonder’, and that you are taking the time to bring it to a larger audience whose proficiency in French leaves something to be desired. I look forward to reading more.

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