A Muslim Santa

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One of the more unfortunate legacies of colonialism in Morocco is a certain obsession with, and mimicry of, all things French. If you walk into a fine store in the Racine neighborhood (I mean, look at the neighborhood’s name, for God’s sake) the clerk is likely to address you in French, even though you are not French, and neither is she. “Bonjour madame, est-ce que je peux vous aider?” she’ll ask. In the beginning, I would answer, somewhat irritatedly, in Moroccan Arabic (Darija) just to make a point. But then a strangely condescending look would appear on the salesperson’s face, intimating that perhaps I couldn’t afford to shop at the store, and the service would mysteriously drop to lower standards. So now I don’t even bother anymore, I just go with the flow.

There is still, fifty years after independence, a persistent association of anything French with “better.” People are driving themselves into the poorhouse trying to send their kids to French lycées. A few department stores and private schools here in Casa also throw Christmas celebrations, complete with trees, trimmings, and multicolored lights. It’s bizarre.

This morning, while I was reading the paper (a French-language one, I know, I know), I stumbled on this advertisement for LG Electronics. It shows an old man with a white beard, wearing a jellaba and a tarbouche, merrily riding a sheep-drawn carriage full of refrigerators, microwaves, and other assorted kitchen appliances. The message above says, “Aïd Moubarak Saïd.”

I suppose someone at the ad agency thought that the mix of the Eid El-Kebir, the Muslim commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice, with Santa Claus, a folkoric addition to the Christian holidays, might somehow be conducive to shopping sprees. Maybe it just means that consumerism is finally winning the battle of Muslim holidays–via Christian ones. Let’s shop, fellow Moroccans, just like the French do!

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