Round-table in Casablanca focuses on Morocco’s Jewish heritage


A conference organized by the Aladdin Project under the auspices of the Moroccan Ministry of Culture as part of the official program of the Book Fair brought together Moroccan and French intellectuals to discuss intercultural relations between Europe and North Africa in the current geopolitical context. 

In partnership with Moroccan publisher Croisée des Chemins, the Aladdin Project organized a conference on intercultural relations between Europe and North Africa, with a special emphasis on Jewish-Muslim ties, as part of the official program of the Casablanca International Book Fair on April 1.

In a message to the conference read by French Cultural Counsellor Laurence de Ganney, former President Jacques Chirac, one of the Aladdin Project’s Patrons, hailed Morocco and King Mohammed VI for their embrace of Jewish-Muslim relations; a tradition that, Mr. Chirac said, stretched back a long time in the country’s history. He also lauded the Aladdin Project for its efforts to bring peoples of different faiths and cultures together through translation and transfer of knowledge.

Professor Rachid Benmokhtar, President of the National Human Resources Observatory and former Education Minister and President of the Al-Akhawayn University, chaired the panel discussion that took place in the largest conference hall at the book fair. Benmokhtar drew attention to the phenomenon of cross-cultural pollination, noting that cultures and civilizations made considerable progress when this phenomenon took place, as Jewish and Muslim cultures once did in medieval Spain or more recently in France, where cultures of its former colonies contributed significantly to the enrichment of French culture. He warned of the dangers of the predominance of a monochromatic vision of culture and said that for a society to tap all its potentials, cultural diversity must be celebrated and not suppressed.

Anny Dayan-Rosenman, a professor of literature in Paris VII University and a member of Aladdin’s Board of Directors, spoke about her own memories of Jewish life in Casablanca and referred to the book, A Jewish Childhood in Muslim Mediterranean, which was launched at the book fair by Croisee des Chemins publishing house.

Professor Jamaa Baida, a noted historian and director of the National Archives of Morocco, focused on the importance of not only knowing the Other, but also knowing oneself. He said there were serious shortcomings in the teaching of history in Morocco, for example, and textbooks needed to be thoroughly revised in order to teach history and not memory. Professor Baida expressed alarm at the rise of intolerance in the attitude of certain people who believe they have a monopoly on truth. “Nothing could be more dangerous,” he said.

Jean Mouttapa, President of the Aladdin Project’s Book Committee, explained the reasons behind the choice of books that had been translated into Arabic and Persian by the Aladdin Project.

Author and psychoanalyst Jalil Bennani also addressed the meeting, referring to his latest book in which he has touched on aspects of Jewish-Muslim relations in Morocco.